My Proven Ways To Lead The Millennials Workforce
How can you improve the chances of success for your hard-charging millennial employees? Is it really that difficult to lead Millennials? Are Millennials really lazy, spoiled, and lacking interpersonal skills and ambition? The short answer is no. You can learn how to lead Millennials workforce by following my advices and best practices below.
Nearly one in three American employees are Millennials. Those numbers are unprecedented. And that reality has fundamentally changed the American workplace.
Although Millennials have become the most populous demographic in the American workplace, there’s still some uncertainty around how to best leverage their unique characteristics in a professional setting. It’s no secret that Millennials were raised differently than any previous generation, but it’s a lesser-known fact that they need to be led differently, too.
A common issue for businesses is finding, attracting, and retaining Millennials, now the biggest generation in the workforce.
Companies have to learn how to hire and keep Millennials because they don’t really have another choice. The truth is that each generation brings a different worldview on things, which can create both opportunities and threats for businesses.
Millennials view the world differently than previous generations, including mine, and I am not that old!
Building connections and effectively communicating with Millennials requires a few subtle nuances. Generally speaking, they get bored quicker, want to know the ‘why’ behind everything and desire instant feedback.
Nonetheless, for leaders, there is an opportunity to tap into the unique characteristics of Millennials and leverage the attributes of this generation.
Millennial values, beliefs, and communication style are perceived as quite different. Every generation has its quirks. The rap on Millennials is that traditional management techniques don’t work well on them at all. Let’s be honest though: No one really likes to be managed!
The benefits of leading Millennials well are huge. So what does it take to do this well?
While these employees may seem like an enigma, it’s essential to crack their behavioral code. Why? Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce in the next ten years. Here are my proven ways and strategies for understanding their work style and effectively leading them to success!
Tip #1: Millennials Want a Purpose
Stemming from their fondness for social media, Millennials crave meaningful work that directly contributes to a good cause. Leaders should clearly explain WHY something needs to be done, no matter how insignificant it might seem.
When leading Millennials, you will want to give them a good reason to do what they do.
Millennials are driven by the need to feel a purpose in their work. They care more about that than the bottom line. They want to feel like they’re doing something for their community, their co-workers and their families. Explain what’s valuable about their individual contributions and how they impact the business’s overall success. Such discussions not only show appreciation for these employees’ contributions, they also promote esprit de corps.
Everybody wants to do work that matters, and meaningful work is defined differently by each generation. The importance of meaningful work should not be overlooked.
It is amongst the main factors why Millennials stay or leave their workplace. Lack of recognition for hard work, or feeling unrecognized by leaders, is a significant hindrance to meaningfulness at work.
In order to gain the loyalty of their Millennial workers, employers must aim to fulfill this need.
One way to go about this is by making sure your millennial workers feel challenged. If their work is too easy, they’ll get bored and lose their sense of purpose and personal growth. Millennials desire to be more than just cogs in a machine — they need to feel personally challenged to stay happy and motivated.
No matter which generation they’re part of, young people have always been known for their idealism. Millennials express that idealism as a desire meaningful work.
Coaching is the ideal solution to providing Millennials with work that has meaning. Through coaching you can help them find solutions for day-to-day issues, resolve workplace conflicts, or plot out their long-term goals. It’s the easiest way to connect your team with what they find important.
Millennials want to change the world and believe they can do it.
What this means though is that your mission is more important than ever. Leaders who want to preserve the institution, pad the bottom line, or simply grow the organization will always struggle to attract and keep young leaders. If you’re in business, profit won’t be nearly the motivator that cause is. If you don’t know what your cause is, figure it out.
Millennials want to be a part of an organization that they feel is making a difference in the world.
They value social responsibility and are loyal to organizations that are providing specific solutions to social issues. If you want to attract Millennials to your organization, ask yourself what specific problem you’re trying to solve and how you’re helping make the world a better place. Find your cause and show your team how their roles are directly contributing to making the world a better place.
Tip #2: Millennials Roam Free
The workplace of a generation ago insisted on things like showing up at 8:30 every morning and putting in time until 4:30, on being present every day in the office whether you had anything to do or not.
Today, the feels like a prison sentence to most office workers. It even does to me, so I abandoned that mantra decades ago.
I’ve found if you let team members set their own start and finish times, and even give them the flexibility to work from home or a coffee shop, the rewards are enormous for the entire team or organization.
Advancements in technology have enabled flexibility in the way people connect to work, communicate at work, and complete their work.
The traditional hierarchical structure has become outdated and does not work for organizations where employees actively seek flexibility. It may seem difficult to foster autonomy — independence in one’s thoughts and actions — within an organization, however, there are many benefits to creating an environment where it is nurtured.
Many employers don’t allow Facebook, Snapchat and other social media at the office along with structured hours of work. Structure is good and needed; however, flexibility is also important.
Millennials grew up distracted with technology that provides connection and instant gratification. If we put them in an environment that limits or eliminates that, it may risk their energy and excitement at work. Flexibility is important to them both in access to social media, others and hours of work. They will get the job done and want a say in what that looks like.
Traditional leaders are often Drivers — those results-oriented people which could potentially derail Millennial engagement efforts.
Millennials grew up with no clear lines of authority. Access to information and power is at their fingertips and if leaders are not transparent, good listeners, relationship-oriented and collaborative, engagement and empowerment become at risk. Millennials grew up being praised and heard. This all means the leaders of tomorrow may have to venture more to an Amiable personality style which can be quite opposite to the Driver.
Tip #3: Millennials Desire to Grow
Millennials are still quite young and want to be knowledgeable on various topics. Not only exclusively on their specific area of work. They value knowledge more than a degree. When something resonates with them, they like to take them further and get to know them in more detail.
Learning just one thing and doing it for the rest of their life is not something Millennials aim for.
Along with bite-sized information, Millennials like continuous training with short lessons and modules that support reaching small goals fast. This approach provides bursts of motivation that helps them to learn more. Their training courses need to be highly engaging, fast-paced and digitally accessible. They’d rather not spend two to three hours in a training session made up of PowerPoint slides covered in intense text.
Millennials want things fast, maybe even a bit too soon. But it’s not all bad.
Leaders can use several creative strategies to guide all those enthusiastic expectations towards productive purposes. Consider adopting a variation of the Spotify workplace model in which representatives from different teams form guilds to help remove silos, share knowledge better, and brainstorm new initiatives. This way, guild members can take on roles that expand beyond just their cubicle work.
Skill-building is a great perk of a job for a millennial, but these skills need to be distinct enough to make the difference.
It’s highly unlikely their job will hold precedent over their life, so why not leverage it as an opportunity instead of force-feeding more company values down their throat? Without the people, there is no organization. It’s time we recognized this for what it is.
Most millennials have grown up in the trophy generation, which has created an immense sense of entitlement.
They need to learn another ‘E’ word – earn. Create a system where individuals have to earn everything. They expect a leader to play the same role as the walls and cliffs in their video games. Leaders should be aware of this and help point out the potential pitfalls of certain courses of action, both before and after tasks are completed.
Tip #4: Millennials Need 2-Way Feedback
The once-a-year feedback inherent in annual reviews doesn’t work for Millennials any better than it worked for past generations. Millennials are just the big demographic finally forcing much-needed change.
Translated into the workplace, this means you need to schedule times for feedback.
Remember, all adult learners perform better with regular feedback, not just Millennials. But for your young employees who don’t know what they don’t know, coaching can mitigate any frustration at not being promoted fast enough. Your goal during feedback sessions is to help your employees identify roadblocks and paths forward, so that they build confidence and experience.
To lead Millennials better, you better ask for their feedback.
Create a space where they can easily express their honest opinion about leadership in the company. It will make the entire organization more transparent and creates more trust towards all of the leaders of the company. A good idea is to have one-on-one talks every once in a while, where the leader gives and also seeks feedback from the employee.
Millennials require frequent, two-way feedback assuring them that their ideas and concerns are a part of decision-making.
To truly engage Millennials, leaders have to make an authentic effort to keep their promises and not to mince their words around an issue. If you promise that you are passionate about work life balance, show it, and don’t let the issue remain thought that is not put to action.
Make yourself approachable so your Millennials feel comfortable to ask you anything.
Whether it’s physically coming into the office, sending regular texts or another form of communication, establish a relationship with your Millennials on a regular, weekly basis. Act in a way that’s relevant to them, which lets them know you care. They will remain loyal and retention will go through the roof.
No one wants to be micromanaged, and that’s especially true for Millennials.
The coaching approach to leadership assumes that the best solution is the one that an employee comes up with themselves, because it’s the solution that they will really own. When you empower Millennial employees and encourage their entrepreneurial spirits to finding solutions, you’ll find they can be quite resourceful.
The cliché about younger generations growing up with an excessive amount of praise isn’t entirely off-mark.
Millennials were a generation raised by parents who asked for their opinions, answered all of their questions, and praised them when they did a good job. They are used to receiving feedback and instant gratification. In fact, they expect it!
Build extra sessions to brainstorm and give/receive feedback, rather than expect them to just come back later with a completed project.
Providing your employees with this extra step in the process, and the space to ask their questions, will make them feel more confident in their projects. Making employees feel heard will improve their mental and physical health, and they will inevitably end up doing a better job.
Tip #5: Millennials Love Innovating
To develop expertise and wisdom in any industry, people must invest in nonglamorous grunt work. These experiences also help build character and patience. Millennials aren’t so fond of this type of work.
Millennials have lived all their lives in a time of constant change and evolution.
Therefore, you can expect them to get excited about experimenting, coming up with disruptive solutions, and challenging the status quo. Let’s face it, not all jobs are as exciting as flying a man to the moon. Leaders must stay creative by giving your energy-filled talents stretch assignment such as leading companywide initiatives, employee engagement initiatives, business process optimization, proof of concept sessions, etc.
Leaders should strive to find innovative ways to help leverage new technology that reduces manual workflows and frees younger workers up to take on more meaningful, creative tasks.
Regardless of whether the barriers to change are real or perceived, Millennials, brimming with a combination of current youth and experience growing up with rapidly changing technology, expect innovation in processes, software and hardware — and not just for innovation’s sake, but for the purpose of not doing something a certain way because that is the way it has always been done, or for another equally unsatisfactory reason.
Millennials tend to think one step ahead: “What will I be doing next?” “What should I start when I finish this task?”
This has often been seen as a downfall of their generation, but it’s actually a very real skill that can be leveraged. By understanding that millennial workers are more productive when they have variety in their daily tasks, employers are better able to maximize their potential.
Creating a balance between allowing them access to technology while also understanding their desire for in-person contact is key.
Outdated technology decreases productivity. Let your millennial employees teach you a thing or two about technology, so your company can be more efficient. This will foster that one-on-one contact that they crave while also improving your technological proficiency.
Tip #6: Millennials Struggle With Authority
Don’t be a lazy leader. Make sure your Millennial employees understand why your organization and team are doing what they are doing. Don’t tell people they should do things just because you said so. Keep investing in your leadership capabilities so you can motivate your Millennial employees.
I challenge you to start your next meeting with, “How can I help you today?” and watch your team soar.
I used to think leadership meant telling people what to do, but now I know it’s about delegating authority and making myself available to facilitate success in the daily work lives of my team members. Most leaders delegate tasks instead of authority. If you delegate tasks, you create followers. If you delegate authority, you create leaders.
As a cohort, Millennials yearn for to be coached.
They want their particular values, strengths, and desires tied to their professional goals — and that’s exactly what coaching does. Leaders everywhere are using coaching as a leadership strategy to better motivate, develop, and lead their Millennial employees. Given that Millennials are the largest group in the workforce, the skill of coaching is more important than ever.
Too much talking, not enough listening. Many Millennials see that their leaders aren’t listening to them. Instead, they’re speaking in the void and micromanaging.
Besides being asked questions, Millennials like being held accountable for their actions. They appreciate getting credit for the hard work they’ve done. The keys to a fancy car that they haven’t earned doesn’t make them happy. Millennials want to know the steps they need to take to earn the keys.
Millennials as a result crave training, mentoring, regular feedback and being part of the big picture.
Leaders therefore need to dialogue regularly with Millennials rather than follow traditional structures like a yearly performance review. Let them know how they are doing regularly through praising and constructive feedback. They would rather have you coach and engage than being highly directive.
Tip #7: Millennials Like Transparency
Many organizations have used social media to create authentic dialogue with their Millennial employees with much success. Others, recognizing the opportunity for social media to play a significant positive role for their organizations, have leveraged Millennials for reverse mentoring to learn about how to effectively use various social media platforms, or even for leadership in this area.
Ultimately, the transparency and authenticity of an organization and its leadership impacts retention and the choice to stay with an employer.
Millennials have come of age in the age of nearly ubiquitous access to information and the rise of social media, making it much more difficult to develop a sense of self that is not impacted by the opinions of others. Authentic and transparent communication — in person, through digital channels, and via social media — are favored strategies for effectively connecting with Millennials.
To truly engage Millennials, leaders have to make an authentic effort to keep their promises and not to mince their words around an issue.
Millennials require frequent, two-way feedback assuring them that their ideas and concerns are a part of decision-making. If you promise that you are passionate about work life balance, show it, and don’t let the issue remain thought that is not put to action.
Keep an open mind. You’re talking about an audience that’s not one size fits all. Treat it with a customized, unique approach. Be genuine.
It isn’t only what you say or how you say it. It’s also about what you don’t say. If you’re not pointing out the issues that your team or the entire workplace is facing, and not taking any action to solve them, Millennials will most likely leave. If you aren’t willing to hear their opinion and discuss it, they will not be happy.
For Millennials to love their job, the culture needs to be healthy, fun and open. In conclusion, it’s important to practice what you preach!
If your culture is thriving and people really want to come to work, you don’t need huge slogans on your walls. Instead, ask your team whether they know why they’re doing what they’re doing. Make it clear, so that everyone is on the same page, working towards the same goals, and having the same vision.
Generational gaps in the workplace bring about all kinds of interesting opportunities. Given that the average Millennial employee is looking for purpose in their work, there’s no greater purpose notification than genuine, authentic acknowledgement.
The person who generates the greatest results from a team of Millennials has less to do with what they do and far more to do with who they are.
These three points of emphasis can transform an organization for the better if applied with a keen sense of compassion and understanding for where the team members are at in their level of self-awareness. Sadly, too many companies don’t know how to effectively engage the largest generation in the workforce.
Keep in mind that Millennials want it all. They are willing to eat the whole cake!
Apart from a paycheck, they also want fulfilling work, hobbies to pursue, and a family to grow while avoiding burn out. With modern technology, you can help them by providing more options to work more flexibly and/or remotely.
Millennials are worldly and interconnected. So what?
They strive to bond together in order to make the workplace a better place to live. All they need are what we all need in a great manager: Involve me, coach me and invest in our success; Together, we will succeed; just let me drive with you.
The key is to help them find balance between instructing them and letting them handle everything on their own.
Millennials don’t want to come to work every day and then just leave at the end of the day. They need to see that they create value every day they work. What do you think? I would love to hear both from young leaders and over 40 leaders on this one. Scroll down and leave a comment.