“How do I manage my Millennial employees?” It’s a common question that is asked by many managers who find themselves frequently scratching their heads as they look for the ‘answer’ to their prayers.
Managers often talk about the challenge of getting their Gen Y team members to focus on the tasks that need completing when they seem more concerned with their own self-esteem, their career development and how they can make a bigger impact in society; sometimes the world.
The reality is that Millennials, just like previous generations are misunderstood by older generations. The purpose of this article is to share two myths surrounding Millennials and 5 easy steps to take when managing them.
Myth 1-Millennials Are Narcissistic And Unwilling To Work Hard
Simon Sinek in his famous Ted Talk ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action’ addressed this with his theory that Millennials “had grown up expecting instant gratification, while the rest of the world preached patience” struck a chord with much of the audience.
While many took umbrage with Sinek’s comments, the reality is that Millennials will work hard. They don’t buy into the story that you have to start from the bottom and work your way up like previous generations have.
If you think about it, this isn’t about not wanting to work hard; it’s more about not conforming to the norm that previous generations have. That being in most cases, to a value system of endless hours at the office at the expense of our personal lives.
If we are honest about this, it isn’t only Millennials who are pushing back on endless office hours. Work life balance is an ongoing conversation in organisations today, and it’s one that’s driving health and wellbeing strategies.
Myth 2 Millennials Only Want Positive Feedback And Recognition
“Millennials say they want feedback at work but what they want is praise and to be told they’re doing well. When you give them negative feedback, they cry or quit.”
While this isn’t the case with a lot of the generation, it’s true that feedback can be hard to manage with millennials. My experience over the years has taught me that unless feedback is given skilfully to anyone it can have a demovitating effect irrespective of their generation.
Being able to give feedback and handle an individual’s response to it is a skill all mangers must develop.
What Can I Do To Manage Millennials?
1. Understand what is important to each member of your team
Millennials will work hard when they see meaning in what they are doing and how this contributes to the organisation’s bigger picture and society.
Find out what is ‘meaningful’ for each employee and use this information to engage and motivate them.
2. Millennials are driven and ambitious; they do expect more from life than previous generations
Managing expectations is crucial, and yet it’s how mangers do this that makes a difference.
As I have already mentioned make sure leaders are good at giving feedback. Be honest and respectful. Make sure behavioural examples are given and coach individuals on how to improve. Millennials want feedback more regularly than Gen X or Baby Boomers and they want a balance of positive motivational feedback as well as developmental; make time to meet these needs.
3. Millennials want to be coached and developed
Make sure that each team member has a development plan and that you are having regular conversations about its implementation. Many Millennials will take responsibility for their development, and yet they still need a managers support and guidance. This is where delegation is important for managers at all levels.
Delegation allows an employee to take on extra resonsibilities, build knowledge and learn new skills; it also allows the manager who is delegating to take on new tasks and projects to develop themselves. A win: win for all.
Include projects, secondments, ‘budding’ new team members, ‘acting’ up roles, representing the team, department or company at internal meetings and external industry events.
4. Encourage cross-generational collaboration
Millennials have plenty of value that they can contribute to Gen X colleagues and vice versa. Look for suitable opportunities to bring multi-generational colleagues together and see how they all benefit and deliver enhanced results.
5. Be authentic
Millennials want a manager who is approachable and a role model whom they can emulate. Telling stories of your failures and struggles isn’t a sign of weakness, it shows you are human and makes you more approachable. Only sharing ‘victory’ stories makes it all about you and will create disconnection.
Managers who are authentic coaches and good listeners build trust which is an essential foundation upon which to build a great team.
Millennials have had some bad press over the years. When Gen X employees came on the scene they experienced their version of bad press from Baby Boomers yet we seem to have forgotten about this. It’s time to stop judging and start developing further our management skills to tap into the talents and motivations of this generation.
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Until next time