OMG – Managing millenials.

27 10 2009


Millenials. They are the children of babyboomers. They have birth dates that range in and around 1980-2000. Politely stated, they have developed work characteristics and tendencies from doting parents, structured lives, and contact with diverse people. Directly stated, they are called the “Trophy Generation”, or “Trophy Kids,” a term that reflects the trend in competitive sports, as well as many other aspects of life, where “no one loses” and everyone gets a “Thanks for Participating” trophy – which symbolizes a perceived sense of entitlement. In reality, they are new breed of the American worker that is ready to attack everything you hold sacred: from giving orders, to your starched white shirt and tie.

Sounds like exactly your next line-up of new hires right? Yes, you are right – and this is a good thing.

I’ve read multiple articles that all use the following bullet points by Susan M. Heathfield, HR expert for, to describe this so called new breed:

  • Have developed work characteristics and tendencies from doting parents, structured lives, and contact with diverse people.
  • Are used to working in teams and want to make friends with people at work.
  • Have a “can-do” attitude about tasks at work and look for feedback about their performance frequently-even daily.
  • Want a variety of tasks and expect that they will accomplish every one of them.
  • Are positive and confident, and ready to take on the world.
  • Seek leadership, and even structure, from their older and managerial co-workers, but expect that you will draw out and respect their ideas.
  • Seek a challenge and do not want to experience boredom.
  • Are used to balancing many activities such as teams, friends, and philanthropic activities.
  • Want flexibility in scheduling and a life away from work.
  • Need to see where their career is going and exactly what they need to do to get there.
  • Are waiting for their next challenge (and there had better be a next challenge).
  • Are connected all over the world by e-mail, instant messages, text messages, and the Internet (and thus can network right out of their current workplace if their needs are not met).

Now, do you feel like you need a sudden jolt of energy? Apparently you’re not alone because there are companies that are hiring consultants to teach them how to deal with this generation. Every gadget imaginable is practically an extension of their bodies. They multitask, talk, walk, listen, type, and text – all at the same time. And their priorities are simple: they come first. Positive and confident, millennials are ready to take on the world.

Management. Read the eleven management tips below, also outlined by Susan M. Heathfield. But also know this, being a boss now days means that you also need to be a coach. The deal is “you” have to change.

  1. Provide structure.
  2. Provide leadership and guidance.
  3. Encourage the millenial’s self-assuredness, “can-do” attitude, and positive personal self image.
  4. Take advantage of the millenial’s comfort level with teams. Encourage them to join.
  5. Listen to the millenial employee.
  6. Millenial employees are up for a challenge and change.
  7. Millenial employees are multi-taskers on a scale you’ve never seen before.
  8. Take advantage of your millenial employee’s computer, cell phone, and electronic literacy.
  9. Capitalize on the millenial’s affinity for networking.
  10. Provide a life-work balanced workplace.
  11. Provide a fun employee centered workplace.

Here’s what’s interesting, not one of the tips above is a radically new management concept. Provided that you already have a goal to engage your employees and provide a positive and fulfilling work-place environment, a lot of these points are a no brainer. “Employee engagement” (a previous blog post) is not about the employees, it’s about the management. These are all management concepts.

And as a business owner, a manager, a collegue, and a friend, you have to decide which concepts work best for motivating your employees to succeed, take pride in your company, commit to its success, and become persuasive brand advocates. Current trends indicate that the majority of millenials job hop about every eighteen months, which is a phenomenon blamed on restlessness. So why not think about engagement, incentives, communication, and embracing the company’s brand to extend employee retention and interest?

Sure, not every “millenial” fits the descriptions listed above, and not every manager fits the description of Mr. Lumbergh in “Office Space.” But millenials do inspire adaptability and change – and you know, sometimes change really is good. Embrace this opportunity whole-heartedly and you might just learn something about the millenials, and about yourself. (Que the music, give the hug, and cut.)

Photo courtesy of Mass Mutual Financial Group.




One response

28 10 2009
Sharalyn Hartwell, National Gen Y Examiner

Thank you so much for this great post. As a Gen Y’r, I get frustrated with all the negative portrayals, especially a Gen Y’r who has been very successful in corporate America. These are entirely accurate generalizations. I’ve done a lot of observing and networking, and even the Gen Y’rs with the negative stereotype tendencies pull away from that when in environments you have described. And, I can confidently say when Gen Y’rs are thriving in the workplace, management could not be happier.

Thank you again for your post.

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