Get A Handle On Your Millennial Employees

Today, I welcome back Nathan Magnuson and another one of his insightful guest posts.

Nathan Magnuson

2015 is a big year for Millennials in the workforce. Earlier this year they became the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, according to Pew Research Center. By now, most folks have had the chance to share the office with this group. But managing Millennial subordinates – not to mention maximizing their contribution – continues to test (and in some cases flummox) many the otherwise competent supervisor.

Millennials are uniquely different from any other generation in the workforce, based on their birth years (between 1980 – 2000), world events during their formative years and a wide variety of other factors.

If you’re managing Millennials, here are a few things to keep in mind.

They are Optimistic
Millennials grew up during a period of rapid change: the Cold War ended, the Internet went mainstream – changing the way we connect with the world and each other – and the world became a truly global market. Surges in technology made virtually anything seem possibly if we just give it enough time and effort.

For Millennial employees, this optimism conflicts with organizational mindsets regarding limitations, waiting or a “we’ve always done it this way” approach. They are sure there is a better way if we just try to figure it out (and aren’t bothered by the fact they don’t know where to start). Instead of fighting it with realism, managers should look for ways to channel this optimism for productive use.

They Have the Information
More information has been created during the Millennials’ lifespan than in the history of the world – many times over! And with the introduction of smart technology, this information is only one click or thumb-tap away. Imagine the classroom paradox where students can now immediately challenge the teacher’s statements with facts (instead of only opinions). That is today’s reality.

Translate this dynamic to the workplace. Millennials are accustomed to having instant access to information – so when they encounter organizational barriers to information they perceive as relevant, a red flag immediately goes up. What is there to hide, they wonder (or challenge). Managers should be aware of the push back that accompanies limited access to company information – and be willing to reassess the limits in some cases, or simply talk about it in others.

They Need Constant Contact
One observable characteristics of Millennials is their need for attention. Yes, perhaps they did get a participation trophy growing up. Yes, they need to earn their stripes in the workplace. But waiting until the annual review process to provide feedback just won’t cut it for this group. They turned in a project assignment this morning and they want feedback this afternoon – and for God’s sake start with something positive! The speed of feedback is directly related to their engagement.

Remember, this is a group who (thinks they) can do anything. It’s your job to provide them the direction (and re-direction) they need to stay on course.

They Have a Different View of Loyalty
Your grandparent may have worked a single job for an entire career – and been simultaneously grateful and unsatisfied. Today, the average length of a job in America is 2.2 years. For a worker in his or her twenties, that length is just 13 months. Translation: your Millennial employees won’t stick around long if there is greener grass available. Not only that, but with the availability of work options (contract work, short-term “gigs,” etc.), Millennials don’t feel the need to sign on for the long-haul. What a Baby Boomer might put up with will send a Millennial packing.

The point here is that loyalty goes both ways. Millennials want interesting work, the chance to develop skills and a positive work experience. They’ll get it somewhere. Why not get it with you?

And one final note. If you think Millennials are tough, start preparing to meet Generation Z. In just a couple years they will be applying for internships and then joining the workforce. This generation has no conscious memory of 9/11 or life before the smartphone. Things are about to change… again. You can be ahead of the management curve – but don’t wait till they arrive. Champion your Millennial employees here and now. You can do it!

Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, trainer and thought leader. Receive his new ebookTrusted Leadership Advisor by subscribing to his website or follow him on Twitter.


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