Technology and communication have made great strides since the ‘80s, and millennials have grown up in a different world than the generations before them. This can create a culture gap as millennials enter the workforce. We’ve put together the five most important tips steps to managing millennials in the workplace to maximize productivity and team cohesiveness.
If you want to have a millennial friendly work atmosphere, you need to use tools that make those employees feel comfortable. Don’t use the tools that you grew up on, but instead use ones like G Suite for office email and docs. They’re the most affordable email option, and G Suite integrates better on mobile than the competition. You can get 30 free days to try it out today.
What Makes Millennials Different?
People born between the early 1980s and early 2000s are generally considered millennials. Raised during a period of great social and economic change, millennials enter a new small business environment than generations before them. Today, the internet had made it easier for a small business to make connections with clients and partners across the globe instantaneously.
Experience with speedy communication has helped millennials value quick results and embrace a more social and teamwork oriented working environment. They often have an easier time adjusting to new technology than past generations, and are more likely to be digital media savvy, or at least quick studies in the field.
The Great Recession made it difficult for many millennials to find employment. As a result many millennials are likely to be found working multiple jobs or jumping between very different occupations and career paths, resulting in a range experience and skills. The desire for financial stability is a key motivator for many millennials, but it’s not the only one. Millennials also prefer an environment with an opportunity for progression and a sense that they’re making a positive difference.
It’s important to realize that millennials, like any demographic, can be as different from each other as they are from anyone else. Expecting them all to share the same strengths and tendencies is a recipe for disaster. But that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from considering some of the traits many millennials have in common while managing your small business.
5 Steps for Managing Millennials in the Workplace
Drawing on the advice of experts as well as my own experience as a millennial I’ve compiled a list of a few good ways to get the most out of working with millennials.
Here’s the 5 steps to managing millennials in the workplace:
Communication is the foundation of all good leadership, small business or otherwise. Make sure millennial workers know what’s expected of them and are familiar with the paths they can take to get there. Don’t be afraid to check in or ask questions.
Business and Executive Coach Dave Schoenbeck brings this advice to the table. “Millennial workers need and want balanced and frequent performance feedback – both constructive and positive. According to a survey by Gallup, 40% of workers are “actively disengaged” when they receive little or no feedback. To lead millennial workers, you must communicate with them regularly as well as help them identify their strengths and the areas where they need to make improvements.”
Schoenbeck’s analysis is spot on. Mixing both constructive and encouraging feedback keeps praise from feeling empty and criticism from seeming spiteful. With a balance of each, workers can feel good about the hard work they’ve accomplished as well as knowing which areas to work on improving in next. It helps provide a sense of progression that millennials crave.
Communication isn’t a one way street. David Scarola, Vice President & CXO of The Alternative Board, urges managers take this approach with their millennial workers:
“Listen to them. The worst thing you can do with a millennial employee is dismiss them as too ‘young, inexperienced, <other dismissive adjective>’. They see the world differently than previous generations. That’s a good thing. Depending on the business, some, many or the majority of their customers are millennials. So respect their different perspectives and incorporate them into the decision making process. As with any employee, some of their ideas and perspective will be good and others not very good. As long as they get a chance to be heard and respected, you’ll have a greater chance of retaining them and getting the most from them.”
Give your millennial employees the chance to have a voice. They’ll be more satisfied with their work environment if they feel respected and included, and they can bring fresh perspectives to the table that can benefit the whole company.
Like listening, transparency could be considered part of communication, but it’s still important enough to receive it’s own listing. Having grown up in a more interconnected world than earlier generations, many millennials are interested in the big picture. They want to know where the company is moving on a whole as well as their place in it. This added awareness inspires your employees to be more engaged.
David Kosmayer, founder of Bookmark Website Builder sums transparency up nicely, writing: “Based on my experience managing millennials, I have found it helpful to communicate the ‘why.’ Whether it’s ‘Why we exist as an organization,’ ‘Why this project needs to be done this way,’ or ‘Why customer feedback is important,’ managers and leaders need to be more consistent with including the ‘Why.’”
4. Be Flexible
Millennials respond well to flexible work environments that allow them to find own way to complete projects and achieve results The key to success is finding a balance between the specific steps and results you need and enough leeway to keep your employees from feeling stifled. Being organized will help you manage this type of work environment, if it’s something you’re not familiar with, or comfortable with at first.
Ian Wright, founder of British Business Energy, writes: “My best piece of advice is to give millennials projects that give them a decent degree of autonomy, but where you can guide them. Make it clear that if they are able to consistently deliver for customers, they will be able to progress. And have a solid plan in place for what progress will look like.”
Flexibility can also come from how you allow your employees to engage with technology. As Grace Fidalgo, Vice President of Robert Half Finance & Accounting, notes: “Be open to and appreciate that they were born into and raised in a world driven by technology and social media, etc. Allow them to embrace and leverage that in the workplace. For example, if you have a millennial on your team and they happen to work all day with their earbuds in, don’t assume that they aren’t focused or getting their work done. They went through high school and college doing their homework this way.”
5. Lead by Example
Millennials don’t appreciate good managers because they have the authority to give orders or sign paychecks. They appreciate them because they work hard to make sure their small business, and by extension all its employees, succeed. After all, being an entrepreneur is about helping others succeed. Turning up, pulling your weight, and diving into whatever needs to get done is great way to inspire all your employees, not just those born after 1984.
Business and Marketing Consultant, Joel Razi Lutfiyya says this about how to earn your millennial employees respect. “When managing millennials, it’s best to not be a boss figure that uses positional power to motivate and direct. It’s better to lead by example by rolling your sleeves up and getting in the trenches so millennial employees know they’re not alone in the battle.”
The Smart Hack
Our list of suggestions on how to manage millennials effectively doubles as a list of suggestions for how to manage anyone effectively. Communicate with your employees, give them positive as well as constructive feedback and really listen to what they have to say. Let them know about the business’s goals and mission, and give them the flexibility to find the best way to complete the objectives at hand. Don’t forget to lead by example, by putting in hard work yourself to make sure your workers know you’re all on the same team.
By following these five steps you can show your employees, millennial or otherwise, that you care about them and your business. This cultivates a sense of unity and community that will maximize their potential as employees and enrich the workplace experience for everyone. Managing millennials in the workplace is really just about modernizing your business.