Successfully Managing Millennials

There is no doubt that you have been exposed to a millennial. You know, the self- absorbed, self-entitled, don’t-tell-me-what-to-do because I’m smarter than you person. Millennials arrived into this world between roughly 1980 and 1995. This places them in the prime position of taking over the nation by 2020. That’s right, four short years from now and they will make up more than fifty percent of the nation’s workforce and thus, in theory, in control of the nation.

While I poke fun at this group because of their odd ways of thinking and acting, the truth is, since they are taking over the world, we must learn to understand them and perhaps even secede to their methods since they may be taking over your business or at least the way you do business.

Old School vs. Millennial School

I began my working career in 1977 when I got my first job working at McDonald’s. I was largely influenced by work ethics instilled by my parents. My mother worked for the city and my father was a former army guy who went on to work for Lockheed and a subcontractor of NASA. I would assume the culture of the era was: “Do what you’re told, never talk back or question authority, work hard and you get to keep your job and retire with a gold watch”. The gold watch was a symbol of a job well done and a thanks for loyalty. The millennial of today will expect nothing less than a 40-foot yacht as a true expression of your appreciation. A gold watch? Even if it was a 14k gold Rolex it would be dismissed as insulting. No, the millennial needs constant praise in order to pacify him into even staying with your company on a long-term basis unlike the Baby Boomer era I came from and retired from after 25-years of service.

While they can be interestingly demanding, they do bring certain qualities to the table that should be embraced and capitalized on.  Probably the biggest asset they have is the embracement of technology. While Boomers like myself saw the birth of the personal computer in the early 80’s and were mesmerized by them, for the millennial, personal computers, gaming consoles and cellular phones have always been a daily part of their life so they never had any fear of them. It’s almost as if they were born with some kind of microchip that previous generations didn’t have that empowers them with technology knowledge.

In the early 2000’s, the millennials started moving into grown up jobs. For the next fifteen years, I was their boss as that’s the work pool I had to work with. I perceive them as self-absorbed people who want to skip all the formal training and do things their own way because their way is better and the way I have been doing things for the past few decades is apparently all wrong and “old school”. They are glued to their electronic devices at all times.

They have no loyalty and they can’t handle any type of constructive or negative criticism at all. But, rather than continue to beat on them, let me share the positive side of the millennial and how you can get the most from them.

Millennial Work Ethic

They love working together and collaborating as opposed to working alone. Why? Because in their youth sports teams or competitions, everyone was a valued member of the team and everyone walked away with a trophy. The idea of any one person being declared an MVP was eliminated. Even the weakest kid on their Little League team was made to feel important to the overall success of the team. Embrace this and watch your creative team collectively create new ways of doing things that just might be a better way than what you are used to. I used to provide people with maps for events I was managing. The millennial team changed that to satellite images which drastically improved arrival expectations and knowledge by being able to visualize on a much broader basis.

Contrary to popular belief that millennials defy authority, they actually don’t seem to defy it but want to question the reason behind rules, policies and procedures only to improve upon them, not to eliminate them or change them. Ultimately, they do seem to have respect that a boss is a boss who gets to make the final decision. But, if they don’t believe it is the best decision they will likely begin looking for another job. So, rather than risk losing the investment of a trained employee, it is better to take the time to share with them the how’s and why’s they so desperately crave to know answers to.

Speaking of taking time to explain things, I have learned that millennials need to have their job, their duties and their functions explained to them and the best way to accomplish this is in a manner that stresses how vitally important their job is to the entire company. I don’t care if they are the janitor, they need to feel value and have their egos stroked for maximum productivity.

Speaking of stroked egos, the millennial is not happy with a simple paycheck on Friday. They must be complimented regularly and acknowledged for their contributions and team effort. Gone are the days of sitting down for a once a year evaluation. If you don’t provide regular evaluations to the millennial they will perceive they are not needed and again, they will look for other employment that is more rewarding to them beyond a paycheck.

This Is How We Do It.

It might be fitting that Montel Jordan released “This Is How We Do It”, one of the greatest pop songs of all time in 1995, the end of the millennial birth period. Their thought process is, as long as the job gets done the way it was explained and by the imposed deadline it shouldn’t matter how or where the job is completed. Perhaps because of their embracement of tablets, cell phones and computers they feel that coming to the office isn’t really necessary unless of course they need office supplies. This is a huge style difference for most Baby Boomers. At the end of the day, you really are paying someone to get a particular task done. The fact that we have always sat at a desk from 8:00am to 5:00pm makes us believe that’s how it should be done. The truth is, it was done like that because it had to be. The technology available to us today wasn’t there for us to be able to work on a project poolside. Don’t impede technology with old school thinking. By the way, a millennial will answer a text, an email or social media post at any time without a second thought. In the 80’s you wouldn’t even send a pigeon with a note tied to its foot on a weekend or after hours to an employee. So, feel free to abuse your millennial and send them questions or assignments as they pop up in your head. They don’t mind at all and chances are they will get right on it no matter where they are or what type of device is in their hand.