A common refrain is that employees aren’t what they used to be. ‘This next generation doesn’t take ownership’. ‘They spend more time on their phone than on doing the work I pay them for’. This article looks at how Millennials are different and offers some tips on managing Millennial Employees.
There’s no universally accepted definition of a Millennial. For this article, we use the Pew Research Center’s definition– anyone born between 1981 and 1996 is a Millennial. Those aged between 22 and 37 (in 2018) qualify. That’s estimated to be more than a third of the workforce. Millennials are now moving to middle and top management positions in your company. Therefore, managing Millennials is important.
What’s so different about Millennials? The single largest defining factor is that most Millennials grew up with the Internet. Hence, they are unique from earlier generations in the way they communicate and interact. That difference needs to be appreciated while managing millennial employees.
So, what do you need to do to get the best out of Millennials?
1. Give them technology
Millennials are acutely aware of technology. So, for example, if you expect them to send you a daily handwritten log of their work, think again. The Internet has made Millennials acutely aware of the use of technology to be more productive. They expect those technologies to be available to them. You obviously can’t give them every piece of technology. But a leader should keep abreast of technologies available and their cost-benefit to their business. Be open to suggestions on technology use from your employees. The right technology can also benefit the business in a significant way.
2. Allow them flexible schedules
Work life balance is important. With most Millennial women working, taking care of things at home has become more gender-neutral. You need to allow flexi-hours and work-from-home. For that to happen, work needs to be measured by outcomes, not by the temperature of the chair assigned to the employee! Hence, the definition and measurement of outcomes needs to be well designed. Also, technology enabling flexible schedules is needed.
Service industries are obviously more amenable to flexible schedules than say a manufacturing or process plant. But employees in a manufacturing or process plant also crave flexibility. As leaders, stay on the look out for ways to automate. Costs for employees performing these roles is set to rise significantly as India reaches the Lewis Turning Point.
3. Talk to them
Millennials love interacting with others from behind a computer or mobile screen. Yet, studies show that face-to-face interactions with business leaders are highly valued. Power distances need to be lowered. This is especially true in Family Businesses where the power distance between the patriarch and the rest is high. Keep engaging (that includes listening!) with your employees and try to remove hierarchies. Even consider making everyone call you by your first name. That can make a big difference.
4. Help their professional development
It’s the gig economy. An increasing number of Millennials want to start their own business. While there’s not much you can do about it, you could make your work environment simulate a start-up. Segregating work into projects and giving independence within certain boundaries helps. Also keep training your employees and help their professional growth. Not necessarily in areas which are directly related to their current work. But which helps them grow and can be helpful for your business’s future growth.
5. Give them purpose
The ‘What’ is obviously important in an employee job role. For Millennials, the ‘Why’ is more important. Doubtless, it’s always been important. Yet, for Millennials, it’s moved from ‘good-to-have’ to ‘essential’. Be sure that the higher purpose is authentic, consistent and isn’t (entirely) self-serving.
6. Share information liberally
If you want millennials to have ownership, give them (most) company information freely. It’s better they get accurate information from the leadership, rather than out-of-context from the grapevine.
7. Don’t pre-judge them
Millennials are here to stay. Their successors (post-millennials or Gen-Z) are in the process of joining the workforce. So, stop complaining about Millennials and learn to get the best out of them!
A common refrain across the ages is that the next generation is very different from them. Generally, in a worse way. Lazier, more sense of entitlement, less ownership. Yet, employees want the same fundamental things. Equal opportunity, freedom to voice their opinions and respect.
With post-millennials entering the workforce, leaders need to learn to manage Millennials effectively. Else, soon the leader and the junior-most employee will be at least two generations away from each other in age and expectations!
What’s your experience with managing Millennials? Comment below or write to / call me on firstname.lastname@example.org or +91-9322737127