You look around at your team… fresh eager faces, heads glued to lighted screens, seamlessly moving between smartphones, tablets, laptops, simultaneously answering business emails, analysing results, writing reports and snap-chatting that cute guy/girl they met the other night. You feel like Methuselah… am I right? I’ll let you in on a little secret.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
But do not fear. Millennials are an amazing generation, chock-full of tech-savy multi-taskers ready to work their socks off for the common good. As long as you praise them for losing said socks.
Millennials respond better to a coach than they do a director. That’s the first thing we’re going to look at in this round-up of advice on making the most of the young talent in your teams.
This vibrant group of society (born between 1983 and 2000) gets a lot of press for being unfocused and precious. They’re not – they’re just born to a world where the office is not a physical space. Success does not come from putting the hours in through office face time. They can work anywhere, around the clock, and will commit wholeheartedly to projects they feel engaged in. Success is quality of life, good feedback and a sense of purpose.
Remember, the same allegations of being disruptive and slack were also thrown at the baby boomers (1956 to the 60s) and Gen X (1965 to 1976) as they came into the workforce. Every generation struggles with communication gaps between themselves and the new kids on the block as culture changes, but these young people can offer great commitment and even better ideas.
How to manage a millennial
1. Prepare to be asked a lot of questions
It’s not that they are undermining your rationale or unpicking your decisions. They were brought up by the generation that saw massive social empowerment via civil rights and pop culture. This rubbed off on the way parents brought millennial kids into a conversation. They have always been asked for their opinion. Value their enthusiasm to totally understand what’s expected of them and share the information they need.
2. Get everyone involved
The start-up culture of beanbags and slides in the office isn’t practical for most multigenerational workspaces. Baby boomer bosses want structure and polished projects, but millennials value freedom, communication, and regular feedback. This is where the two cultures can jar.
There are two ways to manage this. The first is to use regular activities that allow colleagues to get to know each other and explore ideas, either out of work or simply by grabbing a conference room to discuss an idea. Make the workplace flow and encourage people to move around. Or, you can change the way you communicate.
3. Manage communication processes
Forget their reputation – the young people currently coming into the workforce will readily commit to projects. They just need feedback and information (and probably to ask some questions.) Keep them updated and involved.
In practice, this involves checking in with them regularly on exactly what you need. Use these opportunities to also offer feedback on what’s going well or something that could be approached differently in the future. Some people find to-do lists with clear reporting goals work well for getting things done effectively.
How a millennial understands the management styles of older bosses
The current structure of the workplace, often managed by baby boomers, throws up challenges for millennials. Bosses that set a task and send teams to just go figure it out don’t bring out the best in millennial staff. It worked in the old culture of chasing ambition, but ideas are shifting.
Instead, harness the possibilities of idea-sharing with brainstorming sessions that draw out new ideas. Millennials often recognise the huge depth of knowledge in their superiors, but they have a different way of working, facilitated by technology, that’s as much about life as it is work. I don’t think that’s a bad path to follow.
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