Blog: Managing Your Millennials: A User’s Guide

The next generation of workers will work very differently, writes Simon Allison.

Millennial: born between 1982 and 1995, millennial is the term used to describe the next generation of workers.

What are millennials?

Millennials are the new breed of worker. They think differently from any other type of worker. They are well educated, highly skilled in technology, very self-confident and have plenty of energy. They have grown up in a time of mobile phones, internet chat, multiculturalism and where the focus is on an individual’s rights rather than an individual’s responsibilities. There are over 80 million of them, which is larger than any other generation. By 2025, millennials will form 75% of our workforce.

Why should I care about millennials?

Employers can no longer expect to retain their workers for 10 to 20 years. Instead research suggests that millennials will not stay in the same job for longer than three years. Therefore if you do wish to cultivate and retain your existing millennials, it will be important to encourage and motivate them in an attempt to continue to utilise their unique skillset and viewpoints within your organisation.

Tips to manage millennials

Give them your gadgets: Millennials are not social media savvy – they’re social media sophisticated! They have grown up in a time when communication with peers comes through the forum of social media. They are the masters of digital communication and employers should utilise these talents whenever possible. Rather than giving your senior managers the latest forms of workplace gadget, give them to your millennials. They are much more likely to be able to find the benefit in new technology much quicker than your senior managers and, if asked, will likely educate the rest of your workforce as to the pros and cons of the latest gadgets.

Encourage creativity: Millennials have grown up in a time where information is readily available at the touch of a button. They are accustomed to being able to get instant answers to difficult questions from google or Wikipedia. For this reason, they don’t get the same satisfaction from cross-referencing hundreds of authorities, eliminating secondary arguments and identifying the ultimate answer. Instead they find a greater satisfaction from creativity and they should be encouraged to use their creative skills to problem-solve real-life issues. This is more likely to stimulate their interest and therefore harness their potential.

Form a team, as opposed to an army: Unlike previous generations before them, millennials are not accustomed to the workplace chain of command or company hierarchy. Millennials don’t care about ranking, nor do they have an automatic respect for their senior colleagues. Most millennials will dislike workplace conflict so instead of drilling respect into a hierarchical army, try strengthening a team. If you can encourage your millennials to play a role in the team, they are more likely to be fulfilled in the workplace and work harder, better, faster, stronger.

Regular reviews: Annual reviews are not effective with millennials. They need more regular feedback. They dislike fake compliments like “perfect” or “good job”. Instead they want direct criticism on why they are wrong and where they can improve. Indeed millennials have a strong desire to please and, if any shortfalls are addressed in a direct manner, this can only prove worthwhile for your company.

Harness your inner Harvey Specter: Millennials are very, very stubborn and when something displeases them, they find it difficult to tell anyone other than their trusted few. Normally their concerns are valid and, for this reason, a trusted relationship with their manager is essential if you want to hear these concerns. Frequently the best managers of millennials are the ones who hold the same values and viewpoints as them. If millennials are placed with managers who they trust, their loyalty should never be doubted. As Harvey Specter famously stated, “Loyalty is a two-way street. If I’m asking for it from you, then you’re getting it from me.”

Millennial translations

And remember that millennials will often speak a different language to you. When they say, “That’s interesting, Si”, they mean, “Stop talking, Simon, this conversation is boring me and I want it to stop right now.” And when they say, “You’re right, Si”, they mean, “Stop lecturing, Simon, this conversation is boring me and I want it to stop right now.” And when they say, “Stop stirring, Si”, they mean, “Stop winding me up, Simon, this conversation is boring me and …” (you get the picture)

Commentators suggest that millennials are often entitled, impatient and have a limited ability to take criticism. I would disagree. In my experience, millennials are adaptable, contemplative and offer a new, exciting perspective to the workplace. Millennials are our future leaders.

So if you want to manage your millennials effectively, re-think the way in which you deal with them and accept that a different work ethic is not necessarily the wrong work ethic. Oh and, if you haven’t already done so, learn to speak emoji. It is, after all, the fastest growing language of the millennials!

Blog: Managing Your Millennials: A User’s Guide

  • Simon Allison is head of employment law at Blackadders Solicitors (@EmpLawyerSimon).
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