Tips for Working with Millennials

January 23, 2017
By Zack Poelwijk
Creative blond businesswoman leading hes team in a friendly conversation about their next agency project

I just got back from Las Vegas, where I attended two different, very large trade shows and conventions that were both happening the same week. Both of these events are large enough to draw people from all over the world, and both are in extremely different industries. One I had attended before and the other I had not.

I picked up literature of the numerous business development seminars being offered at both events. One topic each offered was a session on the theme of working with Millennials. The first conference had a seminar about managing and motivating your team based on personality, and leadership in a multi-generational workforce, both of which addressed Millennials. The other offered a similar program entitled “Managing in the Multi-Generational Workplace.”

Both sessions referenced the exit of Baby Boomers from our workforce and the influx of Millennials. This is a broad name for a group of people born in the years 1980 to 1999. According to Forbes, by 2025 Millennials will make up to 75% of the world’s working population.

Each generation is convinced that the other generations “just don’t get it.” This feeling can lead to confusion and friction in the workplace. The second session described “radically different core motivations” for each generation. I’m personally experiencing that as I’m working with one team of older people who have been very slow to accept technological advances. This older group is not comfortable doing things such as updating a website. Even the “simple” things such as using Dropbox or accessing services like Google Drive through a gmail account, which is very common in work places now, is very challenging for this particular group of people. Because of this, their business has suffered.

We’re not suggesting that every Millennial is the same, but in general, researchers have concluded that Millennials have certain differences. Here are our tips for working with Millennials. Leave your own tips or experiences in the comments!

Millennials are motivated by things other than money.

Millennials place a high priority on healthy work-life balance. They want flexible work times, the ability to work from home, paid time off and personal days that they can use without feeling guilty. They appreciate workplace perks such as a stocked cafeteria or access to professional development courses or training so they can advance.

Millennials want to understand why.

Whereas older generations would likely do what they are told without question, Millennials will be more likely to ask, “Why?” That doesn’t mean that the Millennial is being disrespectful or questioning your authority, as that question might come across. It means they want to know your decision-making process. They want to know what the end goal is and how their piece is working towards it. They want a chance to see the big picture and give their opinion.

Millennials like feedback, but they also like to work independently.

That doesn’t mean they can’t be part of a team, but they don’t like to be micromanaged. And really, who does! Give them clear tasks and expectations, and a deadline, and let them do it. If they don’t meet the goals, then have a discussion about what might change. But there’s no need to check in with them on a daily basis as long as they have a clear idea of what they are supposed to be working on.

Many people have said, “Millennials don’t like to be told what to do, but it’s my job to tell them what to do.” How does that work together? Find a balance of granting autonomy while giving them space to check in with you when they feel they need to. When they do check in, provide honest feedback and praise where appropriate. Millennials seem to appreciate an employee-employer relationship that is more like mentorship than, “do what I say because I’m the boss.”

Millennials are more likely to have tattoos and piercings, and colored hair.

So what? Honestly, I’ve never met anyone whose tattoos or haircut affected how they did their job. Look at their talent and how they do their work, rather than their appearance. If their appearance is causing friction with other employees, address everyone at a meeting–you don’t single out a Millennial in front of the crowd–to make sure that everyone knows the dress code. Tell the employees who are having a hard time with the appearance that if the tattoo or piercing is actually affecting the Millennial’s job in some documentable way, you want to hear about it. But in the meantime, they should focus on doing their own work to the best of their ability.

Millennials are multi-taskers.

Millennials grew up with televisions, phone, computers, laptops, Kindles and tablets. And they use them. Don’t worry, unless the gadgets are affecting their work in some documentable way.

Millennials are early adopters of technology.

They are more likely to produce and upload content online than any other generation. This makes them a good choice for marketing and social media positions. If your company culture discourages the use of technology and social media, your Millennial will not be happy. Let the Millennial lead some workshops to teach other employees how to do things.

What are your own experiences and tips for working with Millennials?

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