Working with Millenials

There is a lot of talk these days about the inherent tension between baby boomers and generation X when the boomers are tasked with motivating and engaging their millennial staffers.  Millennials complain that traditional companies don’t move fast enough to compete with today’s cutting edge companies and/or give them enough responsibility soon enough; while the older generations can feel be-trodden by millennial’s perceived need of consistent hand-holding and praise. What’s the secret to creating more of a harmonious, blended workplace? Leadership Coach, Katie Kelley offered tips for how to effectively manage millennials in the workplace:

• Honor Their Generation’s Experience.

Millennial have grown up alongside the explosion of the digital landscape and observing tremendous moments in our history such as 9/11, the Iraq War and the financial crisis. Thus, their inclination to abide by traditional cultural expectations of how to navigate their career and life plans is very, very different. They have observed signs of a broken system whether by watching their parents companies downsize or our governments remain stuck in an unending power struggle.  As a result, millennials are thirsting for intrinsic satisfaction throughout their lives and proof of creating a life that is sustainable and enjoyable. Their careers run a close second after they tackle this first round of questions.
 

• Tap Into their Fresh Perspectives

Many millennials hate it when companies say, “we’re going to keep doing it this way, because that’s the way we’ve always done it”, particularly when those processes or programs don’t appear to be working anymore.  Try to find a happy medium where you are able to investigate further what their generation’s perspective might afford your company and people while also taking the time to explain and layout the rationale for holding onto some tried and true traditions. Millennials are easily frustrated with bureaucracy as they grew up with immediately gratifying norms, much like social media has afforded us all for better or for worse.  Find a way to strike a balance between your workplace’s traditions with millennials’ fresh ideas for how to create an even more effective environment, system or culture.


• Instill Cultures of Trust

There are a lot of negative assumptions and fears that baby boomers and millennials make about one another, especially in the workplace—all of which leaves both parties feeling totally devalued and frustrated. Take the time to clear the air at your workplace whether as a group discussion or one on one and work on rebuilding trust.  The best way to do that is to try to actually build a personal relationship with your millennials that allows you to see them for their unique self and not just the negative stereotypes that are continually being regurgitated throughout the media cycle.  Millennials love the feeling of flexibility and opportunities to self express—find ways that your company can give your staff those experiences such as flex time and off site outings.


• Offer Structure & Discipline

One theory for this phenomenon is that because many millennials were raised by either ‘bucker’s’ (those who bucked the system) and/ or ‘helicopter parents’; they have not had to struggle or fight for what they want as much as other generations.  This results in many young people having a very strong fear of failure because this was something they were taught that they would always be protected from. To combat this potential anxiety, make sure that you are offering concrete direction and real time feedback with your assignments.
 

• Explain Higher Purpose of Assigned Tasks

There is a perception that millennials don’t understand the greater business picture for why they are being assigned certain tasks, or worse that they feel like some parts of their work responsibilities are below their skill set.  To tackle this, make sure that you explain to them the higher purpose of what they are being asked to do as well as insights from where you sit.  This should help them appreciate how their work impacts the larger picture for the organization and why their contribution matters.

• Explore Opportunities for Millennials to Contribute

Some of the millennials I spoke with told me that many of their peers feel undervalued by their employers and thus are not as engaged as some of them would like to be.  A suggestion to combat this is to create a program for staffers to incubate new ideas and strategies and present them internally, a bit like a hackathon.  This would be a place for folks to develop and display skills that their current role does not allow them to showcase while also building company morale.

 

 


 

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