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Managing Millennials: Getting The Most Out Of Your Gen Y Employees

Every generation in the workplace has its hallmarks. Unfortunately, millennials have the unique distinction of being the first generation in recorded history to perform worse than their parents financially. This age bracket receives an unfortunate amount of bad press, with stereotypes ranging from entitlement to social ineptitude. However, business leaders must understand that hiring millennials is an inevitability, especially as the baby boomer generation continues to age and retire. So, what can you motivate and leverage the strengths of your younger staff? Should you adjust your business models to adapt to this generation, or should you expect millennial employees to adapt to your organization’s existing models?

Positive Generational Characteristics of Millennials

Despite the negative stereotypes, millennials have proven to be ambitious, opportunistic, highly interested in professional development, and motivated to make a positive impact. Due to these characteristics, millennial employees are often self-motivated to complete work ahead of schedule, then ask for more work to create as significant an impact on outcomes as possible.

This generation is also known for its propensity for multi-tasking, so millennials generally perform well in positions that offer varied, interesting assignments. However, millennials also expect consistent feedback and recognition. If a millennial perceives that their hard work has gone unnoticed, they may be more likely to consider new employment than their more senior counterparts would be in the same situation.

Negative Work-Related Stereotypes

One of the most popular negative stereotypes associated with millennials is a lack of communication skills, particularly verbal communication. There’s a common perception that millennials avoid face-to-face interactions in favor of electronic communications, which is likely due to the fact that this generation is the first to grow up with instant messaging, email, and social media. As a trade-off, this generation of digital natives is significantly more tech-savvy than previous generations.

Another prevalent stereotype of this generation is a sense of entitlement – a perception that millennials expect unrealistic salaries and rapid advancement. This sense of perceived entitlement may be traced back to this generation’s rampant idealism. Gen Y-ers are more comfortable with challenging established processes than older employees, and believe that success should be based on personal contributions – not corporate politics.

This idealism extends further; millennials don’t just want to pursue a career that pays well, but genuinely want to do work that matters. This generation has firm personal values, including a healthy work/life balance, and is interested in organizations that place significance on corporate responsibility. In fact, many members of this generation are more driven to pursue opportunities that are in line with their core personal values than they are motivated by compensation.

What Do Millennials Expect From Employers?

  • Consistent, clear communication from leadership, and timely feedback.
  • Challenging, varied work.
  • An organization that places significant value on corporate responsibility.
  • Creative, collaborative work environment. (While all generations value a positive work environment, millennials are less likely than preceding generations to tolerate a bad environment.)
  • Remote flexibility and a healthy work/life balance.
  • Opportunities for mentorship, professional development, and advancement.

What Do Employers Expect From Millennial Employees?

    • Realistic compensation and promotion expectations.
    • Solid work ethic.
    • Self-motivation.
    • Good communication skills, including verbal and written.
    • Willingness and ability to work collaboratively and communicate cross-functionally.

Tips For Managing Millennials

  1. Offer feedback and clear expectations. To ensure that Gen Y staff members continue to go above and beyond, it’s important to provide clear feedback. However, note that it’s not necessary to provide instant or constant feedback; it’s more important to ensure consistency in your approach. If possible, schedule a weekly check-in with your millennial reports – even if only for 15 minutes. Use this time to provide honest, constructive criticism that may help guide your direct reports to future advancement opportunities.
  2. Be generous with career expansion opportunities. Similarly, understand that advancement doesn’t necessarily have to be in the form of a promotion or raise. Consider whether there are any special projects or assignments on your plate that a millennial can cut his or her teeth on. For example, is there room for your organization to strengthen its social media presence?
  3. Expect to invest time in developing millennials. Hiring younger employees is an easy way to reduce staffing costs, but it’s also a business opportunity to build and mold your team from the ground up. However, as a trade-off, you should expect and plan for a longer ramp-up period. Having a formalized onboarding and training program will help to keep millennials on track as they learn the nuances of your business.
  4. Commit to keeping millennial employees engaged. Engagement drives performance for any employee, but keeping millennials engaged is particularly important for retention. On average, members of this generation will jump jobs four times in their first decade out of college. If your millennial staff members aren’t engaged, they are much more likely than their predecessors to pursue other opportunities.
  5. Consider offering flexible work arrangements to all employees. Post-COVID, the landscape of the workplace has changed. Companies offering flexible work schedules, such as an option to work from home on occasion, are becoming increasingly prevalent. If you want your organization to stay competitive in the marketplace, consider whether there is an opportunity to increase flexibility.

We can work together well.

Hiring millennials is an inevitability, but not necessarily a business obstacle. This ambitious, self-confident, tech-savvy, progressive generation of employees can add tremendous value to any organization. By simply providing recognition, fair advancement opportunities, consistent communication, and a degree of flexibility, you can position your organization to become extremely competitive in the current candidate marketplace.

The workforce is constantly evolving, and you can expect that the generation proceeding millennials will also have specific strengths and expectations. As such, organizations must embrace change, adjusting policies to reflect their current staff’s expectations. In exchange, employees will engage with the culture and align with the organization’s already-established core values and mission. In the end, the organization will only become stronger as a result of this tradeoff.

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