While I was speaking with a CEO friend of mine the other day, I mentioned that I was writing an article on managing millennials.
“What are you going to write about?” he asked. “You can’t manage millennials.”
Although I disagree with my friend, his reaction illustrated a common disconnect; millennials have a vastly different set of expectations than employees from previous generations. This new generation can be a headache and a handful, but also innovative and engaged. How do you get these employees on your side? Here are my tips for guiding your team of millennials.
I Want It All, and I Want It Now!
Millennials have been called entitled by many who’ve had to deal with them. This is true to some extent, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, what some call entitlement, others call ambition.
One way this manifests is that millennials tend to expect salary increases and promotions each year, or otherwise they consider themselves failures. For anyone who has spent significant time in the workforce this sounds a bit absurd; this kind of ‘progression’ becomes meaningless if everyone gets promoted every 12 months. Not to mention the fact that organizational design simply can’t sustain so much movement. But we’re talking about a generation that was told from day one that ‘everyone’s a winner’.
How should you handle this advancement fixation? First, you need to get them down to earth. Make it clear that this type of expectation is unrealistic, just be nice about it. But more importantly, always keep your employees engaged with challenging work.
1. A New Way of Thinking About Work
Previous generations had the luxury of a stable workplace. Millennials on the other hand entered the workplace during a severe economic recession.
Job security is a thing of the past, and as such the current generation of employees have learned to adapt. While past generations could trade off job advancement for stability, this is no longer the case. Out of necessity and peer pressure millennials see the career arc instead as a series of platforms. Job hopping, skill building, and salary leveraging are key to thrive in the volatile contemporary job marketplace.
2. A Shift in Expectations
Growing up, millennials had their heads stuffed with the idea that they can do exactly what they want to do, if they just put their mind to it. Although I love the optimism, this notion creates the expectation that the working world needs to be perfect–that every task you do at your desk furthers your beautiful and delicate career goals just a bit more.
Everyone has parts of their job that they like and don’t like, that’s just the way it is. It’s difficult to convince this new generation to take ‘busy work’ seriously. For better or for worse, every serious operation contains menial work, at EVERY level of the ladder. The sooner your millennials accept it, the sooner they will learn to value the projects that do push their career forward.
3. The New Office
Nowadays people are connected and reachable all the time. This means that work hours have shifted as well.
With previous generations, work stayed in the office, and life took place outside of it. With millennials work and personal life blend leading to a dilution of productivity in the office, but to an increase of overall productivity.
With the dissipation of the job/personal life separation, socializing, personal relationships and friendships become much more common in the office. This means that the work environment has to cater to these activities and relationships. Millennials expect their company to provide food, trips, happy hours and fun activities. To stay competitive for high-value candidates, a company must take a holistic approach when designing the work experience.
5. The Importance of Transparency
The technology wave has also changed the way companies are exposed to the outside world. With sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn, it’s easy for prospective employees to get information on prospective employers. Word of mouth is faster than ever, and as such companies are measured on a variety of factors beyond revenues and salaries.
Parameters such as charitable activities and contributions, office environment, and creative perks play an important part in the job search. With a high amount of exposure, honesty becomes much more important to the image of a company.
6. Challenges and Opportunities
There have been numerous studies trying to quantify the impact millennials are going to have on the workplace, what their expectations are and how they’re going to integrate in the work environment. Considering that millennials look for more than a paycheck, business has to distance itself from the Wall Street image and seek an image that is more organic.
Around 70% of corporate recruiters have said that their companies have difficulties in managing millennials. However, on the flipside, 75% of non-millennials find that millennials add value to the workplace thanks to their different work styles and skills. These numbers show that every challenge brings new opportunity, and that the workplace is still transitioning to management styles that fit the new generation.
If companies want to thrive, they must learn to work with the millennial generation. Unfortunately, some companies find it difficult to manage a cohort with more holistic expectations of what work should be–meaningful, friendly, and accommodating. In this sense I think they’re right–they deserve an environment that works for them as well. They just need to get their hands dirty.
What’s your advice for managing millennials?