It would be easier to manage your staff if all the employees were motivated by the same things and worked in the same way. Unfortunately, the speed of change in the workplace means that business tools and processes evolve quickly, and every new generation of workers brings its own values, communication strategies, and sensibilities. That’s why many supervisors have difficulty managing Millennial employees.
Like the Baby Boomers and Generation X, Millennials (also known as Generation Y) make up a specific demographic segment: those born during the 1980s and 1990s. Millennial workers aged 17 to 37 now number 53.5 million and outnumber both the Boomers and Generation X. One in three members of today’s workforce is a Millennial, and more are entering the workplace as Boomers start to retire in larger numbers.
Let’s face it: Millennials already are and are going to continue to shape the workplace for years to come.
A New Communication Style
As children of the internet generation, Millennials are more connected, more open, and more team-oriented than previous generations. With the advent of smartphones and social media, they share more about themselves. They have always had technology, and they sleep with their smartphones, which means they have a different way of communicating, a prime consideration when managing Millennial employees.
Pew Research and other analysts have found that Millennials are more caring and feel a greater need for connection with their community and their family. They tend to be closer to their parents than previous generations, and they value family time outside the workplace. They also are passionate about their jobs and are hardworking with a can-do attitude, but they want flexibility and respect for personal time as well.
Manage to the Millennials’ Strengths
Because Millennials have different ways of communicating and different values, executives have to apply a different strategy. Here are seven tips to consider when managing Millennial workers:
- Communicate with people as individuals, not employees. Acknowledge their need for personal connection. Be conversational, transparent, and open. Also be prepared to listen, because Millennial workers have a lot of ideas and don’t like to be ignored.
- Provide leadership and guidance. Millennials don’t want to be managed; they want to be mentored, which means they want to learn from you. They want to be shown the big picture and coached so as to become key contributors. Plan to invest time and training when you work with Millennials.
- Provide structure. Set up regular hours and scheduled activities and provide deadlines for projects and reports. Meetings need to have agendas and minutes. Goals need to be clearly stated, and success factors measured. Millennials want structure, and they want to assess their progress against established metrics.
- Promote team participation. Take advantage of the fact that Millennials want to collaborate. Unlike previous generations that prefer to work alone and honor individual achievement, Millennials see teams as a better approach to problem-solving. They strive for team success.
- Encourage work–life balance. Millennials are busy, and they have very full lives, and unlike their parents, they are unwilling to work 60 hours each week. They would rather be with friends, play sports, support causes, and pursue activities outside the office. When they are on the job, they are dedicated and hardworking but be sure to promote a work–life balance or they will leave rather than burn out.
- Understand they are multitaskers. Get used to the fact that Millennials will do two things at once. They will talk on the telephone and answer emails at the same time, or they will hold a conversation while sending text messages. If they aren’t pursuing multiple activities, they are likely to become bored.
- Millennials rely on technology. The new generation of workers is the most technologically savvy to date. They intuitively know how to use computers and organize their lives on their smartphones. Old-school employees will call and leave a voicemail, whereas Millennials will use email, text, chat, social media, and a variety of other technological tools to get an immediate response when they want it.
Match Your Leadership Style to Your Team
When managing Millennial employees, it’s vital to match your communication style with theirs. That includes using the same tools they use, such as the smartphone. You just have to walk down the street to see Millennials talking and texting; their phones are their wireless umbilical. If you want to work effectively with Millennials, use smartphones as a primary means of communication. With today’s wireless technology, you can use smartphones for everything from email access to web surfing, and with apps such as Spoke, workers can carry their office in their pocket.
Spoke was designed with the Millennial worker in mind. It converts employees’ smartphones into a virtual office phone system, complete with attendant, voicemail, smart directories, call transfer, and everything you would expect from today’s modern office phone system. The beauty of Spoke is that it runs on a smartphone, so workers are always in touch, and they still have access to smartphone features such as text and email.
Adapting your company to the Millennial workforce will require some changes in your management approach, but the logical place to start is with communication.
Adapt your communication style and apply the tools that Millennials know and love. If you can adapt your operation to accommodate the Millennials’ perspective, you will reap untold benefits.