Leadership

How to manage millennials effectively

Millennials are tech-savvy, collaborative and innovative. In the digital world, they are well-connected and resourceful. Those are the strengths that can be transformed into valuable business opportunities. However, Millennials - like everybody else - have baggage. Some of their weaknesses might not be so desirable in the workplace. If you find it challenging to work with and to supervise Gen Y employees, you are not the minority in the managers’ world. Therefore, we put together some tips to help you overcome the challenges and make the best out of your Gen Y employees.

So, what are the weaknesses of Millennials? You might have heard loads of Gen Y rants, as they call it the ME ME ME GENERATION. It is however very important to be aware ofstereotypes. We try to avoid prejudices by looking deeper into what is behind certain weaknesses in Generation Y. Here is what we have found:

Impatience

Millennials are no experts at waiting. They are spoiled with fast internet connection, instant download, and real-time apps (not to mentioned drive-thru fast food).

Let me illustrate this point with a simple calculation. 4G networks enable a downloading speed of 100MB per second or more. A 20-minute HD video (e.g. the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory) is around 450MB. It is therefore possible for one to connect to his 4G network and have the video downloaded in 4.5 seconds. So, why should one wait for anything or anyone longer than a minute?

Millennials’ early life is made up with high-speed experiences. They then go to the office expecting more or less the same. However, 4G networks can fail to deliver the promised 100mbps speed due to the distance from the cell tower or the interference from walls and objects - the real-world things. Same things happen at the office. Factors that are out of Millennials’ control can affect the speed of getting things done. For example, when a colleague works from home with slow internet connection, he or she might not respond to a request as quickly as a Millennial expects.

It often comes across as Millennials are too impatient to consider the real world things. Many managers complain about the “I want it now” attitude among Millennials. Millennials themselves admit that they are impatient. As long as you sympathise with the root of it, you can however find ways to minimize the negative impact. We will talk about this a bit further down.

Commitment-phobia

Millennials are widely thought as having a commitment issue. When HR managers talk about Millennials, it often goes like this: They don’t stay in a company for longer than 2 years. They change jobs more often than not. They are not loyal. You get them onboard. You spend two months training them for the skills you want. They leave you in three months. You have to start the painful recruiting process all over again. You hesitate when you see more applications from Millennials. You don’t know if you should risk it again.

A big part of these rants is true. When you compare Millennials with the preceding generations, you can see a big difference. Baby boomers and Gen X tended to stay in the same company for a long time if not their whole life. The story has changed with Millennials. They focus more on their personal development. They want to be at a place where they can grow. If you don’t give them the chance to grow, they will leave for a place that does. It sounds kind of logical, don’t you think?

It is the fact that it has never been easier for employees to change job. The increasing transparency in the workplace (yes, I am talking about Glassdoor) means people know the opportunities they have and ones they can aim for. Millennials are very well-informed. They get instant notifications about ideal jobs, even ones across the globe. Moving abroad is so much easier for Millennials than it has been for their parents. That brings a lot more options. Millennials’ personality prompts them to take a risk in pursuing different career paths. The transparent and connected world they grew up in gives them the means to do so. I am surprised that they are not doing it more.

Gen Y job-hopping is undeniably a headache for employers. However it might help if companies start focusing on the reasons why Millennials leave them and work from there. More on this will follow later.

Short attention span

Attention span is the amount of concentrated time on a task without becoming distracted. Educators and psychologists agree that the ability to focus attention on a task is crucial for achieving one's goals.

Undoubtedly, Millennials have their attention span shortened by their desire to check their Facebook and Twitter all the time. Moreover, the internet provides Millennials with a lot of information. It is getting too much that their mind finds it hard to handle. The mind learns tomulti task and scan data instead of going deeply into things. In the long term, it affects the ability to learn the depth, and to stick with goals.

This is what modern technology does to the attention span of human beings as a whole. Generation Y is not the only group affected - we might see it worse in Generation Z. However, as they are making up the larger part in nowadays’ workplace, their ability to focus and achieve goals concern employers a great deal.

Strong sense of entitlement

The older generations often complain that Millennials feel entitled to undeserved promotions and praise. They want constant and instant compliments and gratitude. They ask for flexible working time. They rather work from home. They demand fewer hours and more work-life balance.

If you ask a Millennial, he or she would probably tell you a different version. Millennials value positive feedback, flexibility at work and a better balance in life. Generation X or Generation Y, who would not feel strongly motivated if they receive instant recognition after getting the work done?I know I would.

Employers might consider Millennials’ sense of entitlement a weakness. The way employers react the the entitlement is however more important. If you decide that Millennials do not deserve what they want, there is not much else one can do about it. But if you can see the rationale for their values, there are ways to meet their expectations and benefit your business at the same time.

How to overcome the challenges in managing Millennials

Undoubtedly, Gen Y weaknesses pose challenges to their employers. To name a few: Millennials’ short attention span affects the ability to achieve the company’s common goals. Their lack of commitment makes the recruitment a seemingly-never-ending loop. Besides, their impatience and strong sense of entitlement causes resentment among colleagues from older generations.

However, you can see from above that all their weaknesses come from their high expectations and their differentiated attitude towards the established way in the office. Therefore, you can make changes in the working environment and in your own management style to meet their expectations and match their values. Of course, it is only if you want to engage your Millennials and take the opportunities they bring.

Working environment

Gen Y employees don’t like to wait. Don’t let them wait for some knackered old computer systems to work. Upgrade your system. It will be good for the overall productivity anyway.

You should think about the totality of investment in the workplace’s technology. Do not just get powerful computers and good software for once and for all. Adopt the mindset to embrace technology as it advances. If you think you can install an automation system and leave it be for another ten years, you are not doing it right. Technology changes fast these days. Adjust your budget accordingly. It is for sure thatyou will struggle to engage young people with old technology.

Moreover, you should consider the bigger picture, beyond technology. Think about culture. Build a culture that reflects what Millennials value: constant feedback, transparency, flexibility, and work-life balance. A strong culture is a powerful factor to engage the youngsters. Building a culture doesn’t cost a fortune, either. All you need is to adopt the right mindset and to change certain behaviors. For example, Millennials want constant praise because that was what their parents did to them when they grew up. Fair enough. The question is what you do as their managers. You don’t want to keep spoiling them but you should see the value of praise regarding motivation. Here are some specific tips:

  • Make giving feedback a part of your culture. Form a habit of giving feedback as soon as your employees achieve something. Ask for their feedback on your managerial tasks. Encourage 360 degree feedback in the team.

  • Think positively. Praising is much more than “spoiling the already spoiled kids”. It is only fair that managers show their appreciation towards one’s hard work with a timely compliment. The earlier you recognize one’s achievement, the more motivational it is for him or her. If you see otherwise room for improvement, tell your employees constructively. The fact Millennials like praise doesn’t automatically mean that they hate constructive feedback. Remember that they highly focus on personal development. If you master the art of giving constructive feedback, your Gen Y’s employees would definitely like to hear it. (Click here if you want to read more about giving constructive feedback)

Your management style

You want to motivate your Gen Y employees instead of managing and supervising them. You want to be a role model, a coach and a friend. Here is how you can do it:

Help them learn

Allow them the time to learn new skills. Do not always expect a new Gen Y employee to have mastered the skills required for the job you give him. If he has, there is a high chance that he is looking for a new job where he can learn other skills.

Provide them the resources they need to learn. Pay subscription fees for digital libraries and appropriate tools. Give them advice on skill-related courses that they can register. Connect them with experts in their field.

Help them position themselves for the next step. Millennials want constant growth. Suggest paths for them to grow into. Provide mentorship through constructive feedback. Let them know about the skills they have mastered and what they can aim for with such skills. Help them recognise room to grow even more through positive feedback. Whatever you do, show them your confidence in them.

Be approachable

Let it be known that you are open for their ideas. Remove physical obstacles for communication. Sharing an open office with your Gen Y employees is a good start. When your team is bigger than 50, you probably need a separate office though. When you do, make sure that your door is open more often than it’s closed. Most of the time, it helps to physically go to your employees and to ask how they are. Think of having 1-on-1s very regularly or encourage them among your management team. I once worked in a big corporate with more than 300 employees. One day during my first week, the CEO came to my corner in the marketing office. She wanted to say hello because she was away on the day I started my job. She gave me her business card and asked me to send her an email whenever I had an idea for improvement oranything else. I always think it was a nice touch. You can call it being approachable in a digital world.

Be a role model

Last but not least, walk the walk, do not just talk the talk. Millennials are known for their civic mind and their liberal attitude towards authority and hierarchy. Forcing authority on them won’t keep them engaged, not for the long term at least. A better approach is to become their mentor, their friend and their role model.

Conclusion

Millennials have their weaknesses. Their attention span is short. So is their patience. They are not the best at committing themselves to the company’s long-term growth and somehow they feel entitled. Consequently, they are very challenging to work with and to manage. However, there are things you can do to overcome those challenges. You can use our tips as your coping mechanism because you can’t no longer avoid working with Millennials - they are everywhere. But what we want more is for you to take the opportunities they bring and minimize their weaknesses the best you can. Then, you will make the best of both worlds.

 

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