Managing Millennials in the Workplace: 5 Tips for Older Generations

Big Think Edge | September 05, 2017

Millennials, aka the generation of workers born between 1980 and 2000, are a bit different from previous generations. This is the first generation to grow up with the internet, Google, and the smartphone. This is the generation of ready access to mass computing power and information at just a few keystrokes.

This generation has grown up with technologies and resources that would have been the realm of science fiction to their grandparents at the same age, yet they take it as a given part of their everyday lives. Millennials have been immersed in these revolutionary new technologies almost literally from the day they were born, and it has impacted their attitudes and skills compared to previous generations.

The differences between Millennials and other generations of workers can create a disconnect between the two. This can make it difficult for leaders from older generations to relate to, understand, and manage their Millennial employees. Yet, Millennials will eventually become the majority of the workforce.

To get more out of Millennial workers, and to help Millennials be more successful, there are a few things that more experienced workers from previous generations can do. Following a few relatively simple tips can help older generations better manage their Millennial cohorts.

1) Stop Lumping All Millennials into the Same Basket

Now, it’s important to note that not all Millennials are the same. There will always be outliers within any group. Some Millennials may not be as comfortable with the internet and the technologies it supports as others are. Individual upbringings will have a significant impact on work ethic, morals, and skills.

Keeping this in mind when dealing with Millennials is crucial for a number of reasons. First, it helps avoid making false assumptions about a fellow worker simply based on their age. Second, it forces you to pay attention to the person, and not the superficial details when you start making assessments of their abilities.

This also means taking the rest of this list of tips with a grain of salt, as not everything will be true of every Millennial worker.

2) Keep Offering Opportunities for Learning and Development

As Guido Stein, the Professor of Managing People in Organizations at IESE Business School, says in an article for Forbes, “Millennials, especially ‘junior millennials’ (those born in the nineties), have grown up in a culture of immediacy, surrounded by stimuli. They are impatient, eager for new experiences, and they thrive on short-term goals with visible results.”

In other words, Millennial workers are used to a faster pace of growth and learning than their forebears. If their appetite for new knowledge and experience isn’t satisfied, then they’re more likely to become frustrated with their work—which leads to disengagement and lost productivity.

One way to remedy this need for constant growth, learning, and new experiences is to give Millennial workers access to a variety of training resources and to shake things up by assigning them new tasks or positions from time to time. This can help fuel the sense of growth in the job role, and even help make the employee a better, more well-rounded worker.

Just be sure not to go overboard. Even new experience-loving Millennials will likely want to have some stability in their overall job roles and expectations. Rather than posing training and new job roles as a requirement for advancement, try positioning them as opportunities for growth or a change of pace.

3) Focus On More Than Just Monetary Compensation

Everyone likes getting paid more, even Millennials, right? Well, not necessarily. Many Millennials are less concerned with getting the biggest possible paycheck than they are with other forms of compensation, or even having a sense of accomplishment at work.

As Professor Stein noted in the Forbes article, for Millennials, money is “not their primary motivation. What they value most is the attractiveness of the work itself, mobility (both geographical and between assignments) the opportunity to meet people and network, and a relaxed atmosphere.”

In fact, focusing on monetary compensation can actually be detrimental to employee performance. As noted in a Big Think article on the limits of money as a motivator, “In the case of workers, mid-range financial reward does not increase proficiency at routine tasks, and large sums may even increase the pressure under which workers operate, causing them to choke under the strain.”

So, rather than promising more money and bigger bonuses, try offering other rewards for Millennial workers, like extra paid time off, vacation packages, awards for achieving milestones, and other nonmonetary forms of compensation for a job well done.

4) Make Work Mean Something to the Millennial

Aside from providing compensation, try to link the work that Millennials do with their positive, real-world impacts. Knowing that doing your job well helps you stay employed is one thing, but knowing how it helps others or makes an impact on the world at large is another. Linking work to its impacts can be an enormous motivator for Millennials.

And, try to make those impacts something other than how their labor helps a bunch of faceless investors, that the worker will never know, make more money. This is not an ideal “impact” to highlight to a Millennial. Instead, focus on how your work/company helps the community or a particular cause.

This helps younger workers feel like they’re a part of something bigger and more meaningful than just another 9-to-5 job. Which, in turn, helps keep them motivated and productive on the job.

5) Be a Mentor

As mentioned earlier, many Millennials are looking for opportunities to grow and learn. Mentoring programs at work are a great way for them to accomplish this, and for you to get a chance to learn more about your Millennial employees by working more closely with them.

Becoming a mentor can help you guide and develop Millennial workers by passing down your skills and experience to them. Incidentally, you may find yourself learning a new thing or two from your disciple as well. Millennials may have technical skills or knowledge that wasn’t available when you were younger.

These are just a few strategies for managing Millennials in the workplace. There are many more ways to help your younger employees learn, grow, and be more productive!

Have a favorite strategy for engaging with younger employees in the workplace? Please share it in the comments below!

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