By Glenn Saunders
Millennials are the great cohort of Internet-savvy and technologically advanced employees currently infiltrating the workforce. Generation Y, another name for millennials, is known as a difficult group to manage. There’s no question, though, that they’re shaking up corporate offices everywhere.
Born between 1984 and 2004, millennials have always had a computer, and very few of them know the world before the Internet. Some, like yours truly, remember the days of dial-up and those free AOL trials. Somewhere there is a massive pile of unused AOL disks just waiting for their day.
I was born in 1983, so I’ve adopted most of the traits of millennials, but I also have worked with and managed millennials. In this blog post, I’ll offer some perspective on the common qualities in Generation Y, as well as an approach to gaining the most from their work.
- Provide feedback: Millennials crave constant feedback and like a team-based approach to solving problems. Very few millennials want to sit in a cube and perform the same tasks each day. In other words, you’re not going to catch many Generation Y college graduates sitting in a corporation like Initech from the movie “Office Space.”
Of course, the economy has caused many people of all ages to accept jobs that they’re not necessarily thrilled about. One approach to this dilemma is to create a collaborative environment that blends traditional management styles with a more flat approach. For the feedback conundrum, it is important to set clear goals and listen to feedback from employees. Ask them what they hope to achieve from their employment.
- Motivate with more than money: Create bonus structures that do not focus purely on financial outputs. Most millennials are not motivated simply by money. Money will of course be important, but not at the expense of a job that is despised by the person. Opportunities to learn new things, free gym memberships and even sponsorship for charitable works/trips that they might be interested in are innovative ways to provide benefits. These types of bonuses convey a sense of belonging or understanding to the employee that goes beyond just being a statistic in the great corporate cog.
- Use reverse mentoring: Provide active mentorship and allow the mentoring to work both ways. There are many ways in which older employees can learn from their younger counterparts. The idea behind this concept is that the millennials have the ability to steer their own development and not just accept the standard path taken by all management. With reverse mentoring, management will better learn how to engage, challenge and ultimately lead Generation Y.
- Create a challenging environment: The typical millennial has enjoyed access to vast amounts of information throughout their life. They do not remember a time before smartphones. Due to the constant bombardment of information, millennials are very susceptible to boredom. The key is to challenge millennials with special projects or varying types of work.
I am sure many managers are asking themselves why they should have to adapt to this new generation entering the workforce. The reasons are simple: Generation Y will outnumber all others in the workforce in the next 10 years, they are more technologically advanced than the average employee and they have skills that you will need to be successful in your business.
Generation Y thrives on relationships over dictatorships, so take some time to focus on developing, mentoring and helping the millennials in your organization flourish.
“Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Glenn Saunders is the director of client success for Kraft Enterprise Systems. He is an expert in the professional services and software industries and frequently consults with clients on both the design and implementation of software solutions to solve complex business issues.