Here’s a hint about learning how to manage millennials: Manage millennials in the same way you’d manage anyone else.
Workplaces are made up of many generations, and each one thinks it’s different and new and will change the face of the working world. They all certainly try in their own ways, and they all change the working world in different ways. But the fact is that, regardless of generation, they're all just people who want to be treated like respected, capable adults.
And the fact is that more than one in three American labor force participants (35 percent) are millennials, making them the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. As of 2017, 56 million millennials were working or looking for work, which was more than the 53 million generation Xers and the 41 million baby boomers.
A recent Monster.com “My First Job” survey of graduates 18 to 34 years old found that 29 percent of millennials actually quit their first jobs before hitting their one-year marks. While they do so for a gamut of reasons, a large majority of them simply feel unprepared. They need managers who can help them thrive, but there are so many preconceived notions about millennial workers that many managers chalk millennials up to lazy or uninterested.
A wealth of research suggests that millennials just want regular feedback, a healthy work-life balance, workplace flexibility and a diverse, financially-stable work environment — and they are ready to leave a job in which they feel overworked and undervalued.
With that in mind, here are three tips for how to manage millennials.
One of the best ways to manage millennials effectively is to meet with them one on one. Say it with me now: one-on-one meetings. Shout it from the rooftops. If you are a manager, you need to be having regular one-on-one conversations with each of your team members. This isn’t solely a status update on projects. It’s a little about how their world is inside work, how they are feeling, what’s going on outside of work and anything in between. Having these conversations on a consistent basis creates the time and space for you to get to know one another. Meetings should be for on-the-spot coaching on issues that are happening this week. Meetings allow you to know enough about Jane on an average day to recognize when she’s off or especially stressed. If you only speak to your team as a group, you won’t ever learn that. Or at least you won’t learn it of everyone on your team.
According to Kim Hughes of Talent Acquisition Pro: “We are often overloaded with stereotypes of generational employees, especially millennials. It is to an organization's detriment to buy into a one-size-fits-all approach. Have those one-on-one conversations and learn what motivates the individual, not just the generational column that employee falls into.”
Let’s say you don’t like weekly meetings. Your team might, but you don’t like them so you’ll have them when you choose. Your remote folks would like to connect over video chat because it makes them feel more connected to the office and the people in it. You find seeing your face over video weird so you only do phone calls. Here’s the deal. It’s your job as the manager to find out what works best for each member of your team and adapt. Not the other way around. Generally, what millennials want are things like communication, mentorship and opportunities for growth. They will likely try to meet you halfway, but realize that you are the leader here and you shouldn't insist upon your way or the highway. That’s a one-way ticket to team turnover.
People can have heightened sensitivity when it comes to their careers. To some folks, no news is good news. To others, no news equals a catastrophe. Hughes of DisruptHR Philadelphia says the following: “Find out what your employees are looking for. When in doubt ask, ask and ask again. Be transparent with your answers on career progression and give clear direction on performance no matter what generation your employee falls into. This is how you create a growth culture in your organization.”
Being a manager isn’t easy. Simply being skilled at the work itself won’t help you to motivate or lead others. You need to do more than that to get the job done. Leaning into your emotional intelligence and spending time getting to know your team, especially millennials, will make a huge impact. Even if you find that you couldn’t have less in common with them, you should embrace millennials' work ethic and work with them.
Kelly is a human resources pro and coach who helps people find and achieve what they want career-wise and beyond. Coaching, training, recruiting – if you name it in the world of HR, she's done it in a variety of industries. Her advice has been featured on The Muse, Career Contessa, Levo, Workology, among others. Learn more by scoping her out at www.kellypoulson.com.