Millennials are changing organizational structures around the globe. Many in this generation, that now is the biggest in the U.S., have taken over management roles recently as well. Their mindset is reshaping some core concepts behind the traditional leadership style.
Millennials want a different work environment and company culture, they need to feel part of something bigger, for this reason, we need to treat differently from other generations.
Although most managers today are millennials themselves, they are what I would consider “early millennials”. These are in their 30s and have grown up professionally in the mid of the change. They have a set of values shaped by old generations, but with a considerably different inner feeling.
The Millennial Management Issue
These “new” managers represent the change. They are the ones in the front line managing the “real” millennials. They have a tough job ahead of them because they need to act as the middle-man between generations.
Pulled by the need for a change and, on the other side, by a traditional mindset, these managers are struggling to communicate both ways.
The millennial management issue is even more complicated as most of the CEOs and top executives rarely understand them. Low loyalty and high disengagement is a reality. Millennials are not in it for the long-term, and we better get used to it. Statistics say that the majority of them don’t expect to be in the same job for more than 2 years.
Management Is Failing At Millennials
Although job conditions have never been better than today, millennials are still feeling unsatisfied and leaving their job. However, they are not just “job-hopper”, as many might think.
A survey showed that 91% of millennials are looking for full-time stable employment. There’s obviously a mismatch between expectations and reality. There’s a lot of confusion and very few are trying to address it by reshaping traditional leadership concepts.
Here are 4 ways to change the current state within your organization:
1. Empowerment For The Learnings
From the day we stepped into an organization, we have been told what to do and how to do it. Managers have been focusing on giving directions and employees on executing. Regardless of the company size, solutions, usually, flow from top to down.
There is little or no time to waste. Decisions need to be taken fast. Actions need to be implemented in the “best possible way”.
This has been the traditional communication style. Liner and one-directional with little or no involvement from the employee side.
Millennials, however, live in a different world, a very far reality.
They are aware of the fact that they might not have the tools to deliver the best decisions, but for them, leadership is about empowering others.
Millennials want to be part of the decision-making process. They want to contribute to the growth of the company actively, not just like a wheel in the machine. Millennials value career progression more than anything else. Career advancement is linked to learning and skill improvement, which comes from taking part in the process.
A two-way communication style needs to be incorporated into the day-to-day relationship with employees.
Questions such as “How would you go about doing this task?“, “What do you think is the best process to achieve this result?“, are empowering questions that will help to manage millennials (and everyone else for that matter).
TIP: Empowering questions are the best for stimulating learning and self-progression. These will keep engagement high and help both sides understand what skills need to be developed.
Remember though that as a manager, your role is also to help out when needed. Keep your ears open and offer help when requested to do so.
2. The Feedback Loop
According to Gallup’s research, millennials receive way less feedback than what they are expecting. Only 19% of them said that they receive routine feedback.
Not giving feedback is bad for all employees, regardless of the generation they are in. However, for millennials, who value communication and learnings above everything else, this becomes a major pain-point.
The same research, however, has also shown that this is not exclusively a management issue. Millennials are also failing at asking feedback. But, is it really so?
Too many times, managers brush off a feedback request with an “everything is going well” response. Feedback on performance must be regular and well-thought. An annual or bi-annual performance review is not enough if there’s no feedback in between. It is important that organizations have a way to control how feedback is provided and implemented.
Millennials want to be heard. They value leaders who seek feedback from employees and implement it. The feedback must be a two-way road. It’s a loop that stimulates growth.
TIP: There’s an old saying that goes “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak“. This should always be true, but even more in management. Speak less, hear more. Let your team members talk about their experiences and feelings and provide valuable feedback when needed.
3. Perks, The Way To Perceived Happiness
It is known that happy employees are more engaged and deliver better results. This is also the key to profitability.
Making employees happy, however, is not as straightforward as it might seem. Most organizations are taking the easy way to reach perceived happiness. As said earlier, job conditions have never been better than today.
Pizza-day, breakfast-day, beer-day, casual-day, massage-day, sport-day, yoga-day, are just a few examples of how employees are spoiled today. No matter which companies you step in, you will find one of the above, at least.
As someone else put it, perks should be divided into “basic shit and fancy shit“. Fancy shit won’t make you happy.
Millennials have started their career when free and fancy perks were a reality. The perception of value is undoubtedly different between generations. However, 66% of millennials are ready to switch jobs if another company offers better perks. But, is it all about perks?
Millennials are not as superficial as one might think. Yes, perks are attractive, but because the working environment is not. Managing to create a working environment where they feel valued and with possibilities to learn and grow will have far better results than focusing on fancy shit. Obviously, the basic perks, such a decent pay, decent work-life balance, flexibility and so on are still to be considered.
TIP: Perks are the way to perceived happiness. Creating happiness through fancy perks will not lead to higher engagement. Fancy perks will then be regarded as basic ones, and expectations will keep increasing. Link fancy perks to achievements and results. Stimulate growth and accountability.
4. Transparency Creates Awareness
Aside from learning opportunities and growth, millennials value transparency in communication. Changes happen constantly in organizations. Decisions cannot always be taken in groups. However, you can still make them feel part of the decision process by being transparent.
Creating awareness through transparency is key to trust. Regardless of how big your organization is, let millennials be aware of why the company is taking certain steps. If you take the time to explain what’s going on, they will feel part of it.
Sometimes taking these steps can get you in a difficult situation, but as a manager, you need to take responsibility.
Let’s say your organization is going through rough times for whatever reason, how are you going to address this with your team? You need to be open and honest in sharing the situation and also ready to take in harsh feedback.
Do this by:
- Creating a safe environment where feedback is welcome
- Acknowledging the facts without softening stories
- Keeping enquiring about further clarifications
- Answering in a positive but realistic way
Remember that as a manager, you still represent the company, so you need to find the right balance.
TIP: Honesty and transparency are highly regarded by millennials. Creating a safe environment where both parties feel comfortable in sharing thoughts and feelings can go a long way for engagement.
The Road To Success
Although managing millennials can be challenging for everyone, these are the employees that will give you the greatest feeling of achievement.
I believe that implementing the 4 above-mentioned points can be beneficial to anyone, regardless of the generation they are in. The real difference between millennials and baby-boomers, for example, is that today’s job is not equal to life. Job satisfaction is regarded differently because of the economic situation we are in. However, being respectful, listening more, giving feedback and growth opportunities are beneficial for everyone, not only millennials. We are all just realizing this now because millennials are not afraid to speak up.
One important last point is that not all millennials are created equally. Generalizations have always limitations and it’s up to managers to understand the person in front of them and make a decision about it. You can’t save everyone, but you should save the ones who deserve it.