By Tom Gimbel
The baby boomers are retiring and according to experts, Millennials offer a wealth of much-needed talent to fill the void. The National Association for Colleges and Employers predicts that college hiring will increase 19.2% this year over 2006 figures. As companies begin ushering in Millennials en masse, they will be forced to rethink how they do business, particularly how they manage their new tech savvy, plugged in batch of new employees.
Who Are the Millennials?
Millennials are people born between 1980 and 2000. They share a generational personality that is highly misunderstood by preceding generations who often misinterpret their motivation as impatience and their enthusiasm as narcissism. To manage Millennials in a way that will add value to a company, employers need to understand their generational footprint.
- Confident: Millennials were raised by doting parents and a culture that emphasized their “specialness.” Parents told them they could be whatever they wanted to be, and the culture catered to them with customized services like Baby Gap, Nickelodeon, and Sports Illustrated for Kids. They’ve always been told they can succeed, and they expect to.
- Connected: Millennials are more connected than any previous generation. They grew up with mobile, easily accessible information that is available 24/7.
- Short-sighted: Paychecks are the dividing factor between Millennials and baby boomers. Millennials fail to see the benefit in saving for retirement if they spend 30 years in a boring job. They prefer to find a job that provides fulfillment, happiness, and a little extra cash for the weekends.
- Civic-Minded: They were taught to value the greater good and have an innate need to contribute.
- Inclusive: Millennials value teamwork and their teammates. They’re a no-person-left-behind generation, and they’re willing to fight for fairness.
- Goal-Oriented: Millennials were brought up in a fast-paced, hectic environment. Their parents hustled them from soccer practice to dance class, so they’re used to finishing one project and moving directly on to the next.
- Believers in Work/Life Balance: Unlike their parents, they view life and work as two separate entities—and life comes before work. Millennials don’t view it as work/life balance, but rather life/work balance.
Learning to manage Millennials is comparable to learning to drive a new car. At first, it can be kind of tricky. The brakes may be sensitive, the steering a bit stiff, and you’re not sure how it’ll handle a sharp turn. But once you break it in and find out what makes it tick, you’ll be amazed by its performance.
Millennials are brimming with potential; they just need a little guidance and the right management style, which involves meeting their innate needs in an environment that fosters growth. So how do you accomplish that?
- Give Them a Mentor: Millennials want attention in the form of guidance, advice, and genuine interest. A mentor gives Millennials someone they can connect with on a personal and professional platform who will provide them one-on-one attention that will help them gain experience and knowledge. Millennials value the genuine interest mentors take in them, and they will work harder for someone whom they appreciate and respect than for someone who is a disconnected manager. Companies such as Proctor and Gamble and Siemens have even established reverse mentoring programs that combine new hires with middle-aged executives. These programs allow the older mentor to advise on business knowledge and the younger mentor to advise on the newest technologies.
- Challenge Them: Millennials know they have a lot to offer and they are eager to share it. They’ll tolerate mundane tasks if given the opportunity to voice ideas. Let them sample more challenging work so that they know they’ll have an opportunity to grow. Keep them excited about what’s to come.
- Encourage Collaboration: There is a stereotype that Millennials are demanding. In reality, their insistence stems from the urge to contribute. Encourage them to be collaborative in the workplace. Peer groups push Millennials to succeed and allow for more creativity.
- Make Work Fun: Millennials are extremely enthusiastic and optimistic, and they crave a work environment that fosters their outgoing attitude. They are more willing to do hard work when it’s in a fun environment.
- Show Respect and Appreciation: It’s true that Millennials respond well to respect and appreciation, but who doesn’t? Millennials are smart and hardworking; they know it and they want to know that you know it. It doesn’t take much to show a little appreciation. Bring in free bagels on Fridays or try a simple thank-you. A small gesture can go a long way.
The most important thing to remember about managing Millennials is that just like buying a new pair of jeans, the perfect fit is hard to find. But with a little time and wear and tear, they become comfortable, and eventually, irreplaceable. Always keep in mind that eventually, change leads to comfort.
About the Author(s)
Tom Gimbel is the founder and CEO of The LaSalle Network, which offers staffing and employment solutions to Chicago-area businesses. For more information, visit www.thelasallenetwork.com