By Ron Hamara
They were the children that we walked to school, helped out with homework, equipped with all the latest technology, and told time and time again, that they could succeed at anything they tried. Now they are entering the workforce in droves and we are left to wonder: “How do we manage all these wonderful, creative minds that we helped create?”
Baby Boomers, meet the Millennials, those young people now between the ages of fourteen and thirty-one. Similar to those born after World War II, the Millennials represent a demographic bulge, another pig in the python, whose sheer numbers will cause dramatic change in the way we live and work.
Already, we can see that Millennials, because of their technological skills, are blurring the lines between what we regard as public and private, personal and professional, work and play, and, of course, reality and the virtual world. Will these changes be permanent? Baby Boomers created a social revolution, yet many are now part of the establishment they once railed against. Experts say it is too soon to tell what changes promoted by Millenials will ultimately last. In the present, however, older managers must learn how to exploit the abilities of these younger workers.
What do we know about Millennials?
They grew up during a time of great prosperity when Internet millionaires were made over night.
They are well-traveled and see the global picture, understanding that events like global warming affects everyone.
They were closely parented and still look to the adults in their lives for guidance and protection.
They are comfortable with technology and prefer to communicate in the digital world rather than face-to-face.
They can multi-task and, in fact, are more productive when they have more than one activity before them.
They want work that is challenging and aren’t interested in “paying their dues” to move ahead.
While they abhor “bosses” they eagerly seek mentors and coaches who can help them move ahead and develop their skills.
So how do managers manage these youthful workers to help them grow while becoming valuable members of the team? Here are some thoughts:
Tap into their aspirations.
Millennials don’t want the same lifestyle as Baby Boomers or even Generation X, those born between 1961 and 1981, when “making it” demanded working overtime and on weekends. They rebel again the “billable hour.” They want to work hard and do a good job, but don’t necessarily see that long hours automatically guarantee success.
Assign projects that are evaluated by results, not by the amount of time put in.
Recognize how they communicate.
One manager told me about four young people who shared a small space yet never spoke to each other in the office. He was puzzled by this lack of communication. What he didn’t understand was that they were communicating constantly—online. Millennials prefer to e-mail and text and are less inclined to talk face-to-face.
They are apt to be bored with long meetings that accomplish little. So hold these gatherings infrequently and make them short.
Temper their expectations.
They will recoil at your stories about how long it took for you to climb the corporate ladder. They want success NOW. So hold off on the stories and try to give encouragement, even small bump ups, along the way.
Challenge them by giving them assignments that stretch their skills and may allow them to showcase their talents.
Don’t be the parent.
Millennials have parents. (In fact, most have helicopter parents and you should pray they won’t make an appearance in your workplace complaining about how you are managing their kids). Better to maintain the role of coach, giving specific directions and helpful feedback.
Honor the boundary between private and personal. Millennials don’t need you to be the parent, but also don’t want you as a friend.
Help them to see the big picture.
These young workers want to see results and may not understand how the small job they are doing can help contribute to overall success.
Whenever possible, demonstrate how their contribution is valuable and a vital part of what you hope to accomplish.
Try to make work fit their lifestyle.
Remember that they seek a balance between their work and leisure time and may expect time off after completing a big project.
They may not identify work with the 9 to 5 office, so whenever possible employ flex-time and allow work at home to get the best out of them.
Each generation leaves its own imprint on the workplace. The Millennials are just beginning to establish themselves. And while they have definite ideas about how they see their work life, they still need the help and guidance of those who have preceded them. The workplace will continue to change, but with all generations working together, it can truly change for the better.
Ron Hamara is president and CEO of Hamara & Associates. He can be reached at rhamara@gmail.