Managing Millennials: 4 Things We Want

Inc. Magazine produces some interesting content, whether in their print version or on their website. In the past few years, they’ve made a splash in the discussion on millennials, specifically helping baby boomers and Gen Y figure out how millennials need and want to be managed.

Michael A. Olguin offers five tips for managing millennial employees (published back in 2012). He had this to say about twenty-something employees:

Before we get too far down the road, it’s important to clearly define the term millennial. By most definitions, millennials were born between 1982 and 1996. These individuals’ personalities were shaped by the personal technology era combined with parental guidance that was nurturing to a fault (i.e., an “everyone gets a trophy” mentality). These two influences created a sometimes confounding workforce that is at best difficult to understand and at worst entitled.

His five tips are:

  1. Reinforce the positives.
  2. Recognize that each person is different and must be managed differently.
  3. Be flexible.
  4. Allow as much ownership as possible.
  5. Don’t be vague.

I would probably put “Don’t be vague” on the top of the list. I think millennials are generally skeptical, so they often worry about the inner-workings of an organization. Being vague only reinforces those negative feelings.

Those tips reminded me of another article I read, 5 Ways Your Boss is Killing Your Morale.

The five ways highlighted are: Scheduling mandatory fun, requiring employees to punch the clock, not showing gratitude, making a big deal out of a small mistake and not listening.

That gives us ten suggestions for managing millennials, and here are four more from my perspective:

Tip #1: Meet regularly (but not too much) and update the entire team on how things are going.

We want to hear from you. We want to know what you’re working on, how we can help you, and what you think of the work we’re currently doing. We also want to hear about overarching strategy and we like to make our work line up with that strategy. It makes us feel useful. We understand that you can’t tell us everything, and we don’t expect you to, but we like to feel valued.

Tip #2: Make your expectations as clear as possible.

If you want us to be at work at 9:00 am every day on the dot, but tell us we can be flexible in the mornings, then we think you don’t care about what time we get to work. If the time needs to be 9:00 am, make that abundantly clear. If you want us to be the first person to answer the phone when it rings, but tell us whoever can answer it answers it, tell us that on day one and you’ll never have to pick up that phone again. We don’t speak your language, although we’re trying to. We like clear expectations, and we like to exceed them. Vague expectations leave too much room for you to get frustrated at us for something that we can easily fix.

Tip #3: Help us define our career path.

We are thankful that you decided to give us a job. You took a chance on us, and we are blessed to work for you. Still, we are constantly thinking about what’s next (and that doesn’t mean we want to move to your competitor). We’ve got families to raise, houses to buy and differences to make – and we want to move up in your company as soon as you think we’re ready to do so. Help us get there. Nothing is set in stone, but we are looking for a clear path forward. If there isn’t room for growth, help us learn as much as we can so that when our skills and experience outweigh our current position, we can move on and benefit you in other ways. It’s not all about the money and promotions, it’s about feeling grounded.

Tip #4: Seriously, nix the mandatory fun.

We love you. We really do. But we see you for forty+ hours a week, far more than we see our wives/husbands in the daylight. If there isn’t work to do, we want to be with our friends and family. Please. We don’t want to bowl with you, eat with you, or see a movie with you. Because even when you tell us something is optional, we assume that you expect us to be there and we change our personal plans to make it happen. Don’t make us do that. Please note that we are perfectly willing to meet after work for professional outings, just don’t act like it’s all fun and games. If we’re with our bosses and co-workers, it feels like work and it is work.

A lot of companies have figured this stuff out and are actively managing millennials in a way that will likely retain them for many years. Others aren’t quite getting it yet, but they’ll be forced to get there soon.

Am I being too harsh? What am I wrong about? Agree with me? Let me know!

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