There was a time when “what the boss says goes”; no discussion, no personal development and no asking questions. It’s one of the things that employees dislike about old school management; a heavy reliance on hierarchy and a lack of autonomy for staff. In recent years we’ve come to realise that collaboration, coaching and personal responsibility get more from people, so this should fit right in when it comes to managing millennials. People born around 1989/2000 have often been characterised as over-privileged or lazy, but is this in any way fair? Millennials just have a different approach to work, rather than a lack of a work ethic. Maybe managing people should take note of the mix of what the experienced employee and the millennial can contribute. When it comes to managing them, we should be meeting the millennials halfway. How do we go about doing this?
Learn from Each Other
There is a lot of unfair criticism out there about millennials, which sees some people born around the millennium in a negative light when it comes to work ethic. If you employed a millennial, you did so because they probably came with good qualifications, entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial spirit and enthusiasm. They may not fit into a company where formal reverence is required, but then again, who likes that anyway? Yes, you may need to let them know that you don’t start an email to a valued client with the word “Hey”, but they can also help more experienced colleagues in looking at things in a new light. Pigeonholing some people as past their prime is counterproductive, as is bemoaning the approach to the workplace that younger people have. You can learn from each other and there are numerous ways to do it.
- Collaboration – A lot of younger people have become used to group activities in college or work. They are used to being on a team, something which some older colleagues may not have been accustomed to in the past. Millennials will respond to collaborating rather than strict instruction. More mature colleagues bring a wealth of experience which help them find the balance. Get them to work together.
- Feedback – Millennials have been brought up in a world where what they say or do online can be instantly seen, commented on or critiqued. They are used to it. They also want feedback and not just once a year in an annual review. A lot more companies now have regular updates and feedback to staff, which suits Generation X, baby boomers and millennials alike. Regular feedback is important for younger people and it works for their older colleagues too.
- Flexibility – Giving your staff options around working hours, technology use and home working can prove appealing to millennials. Some people want rigid work hours and others don’t mind responding to emails at weekends. Work on a happy medium with your staff. Agree on flexible terms for staff and you could end up with a happier, more productive workplace for everyone.
- Culture – This matters to millennials. With increasing job mobility, they want a reason to stay with a company. Autonomy, personal goal setting and appreciation all important. A culture of collaboration and openness attracts younger workers. It also helps staff retention, among all ages. Millennials also see the social side of work as a fundamental part of their life. Nights out or other social events appeal to them and they might help older staff to associate work with fun again. Try to find something that suits everyone. Communicate regularly and praise when praise is due. It’s not just millennials who need to know when they are doing a good job.
- Coach. Don’t Coerce – If you want to get the best out of your millennial staff, you will need to guide them. Meeting them halfway is about letting them know what’s expected of them while not quashing their enthusiasm or innovation. They may not have experience in dealing with clients or communicating to outside partners. They may even need guidance on the dress code required for client meetings, but these are the things managers can help them with. Coach your new staff, using the skills of experienced colleagues and then let them thrive.
Showing staff of all generations that they are valued and that they all have something to contribute is essential to providing a good workplace for everyone. You don’t suddenly have to change everything when you employ millennials. You just have to work out how you are going to find common ground among employees, by embracing experience and youth together. Meet the millennials halfway and you’re halfway there.