Millennials

How to manage millennials in the workplace

Millennials are in demand and on the rise in the workforce, but could their skills and desire for success also be causing companies to rethink their approach to managing this generation of employees?

By Marina Williams

Millennials are in demand with their skill set a popular choice for employers on a global scale.

A generation motivated by passion more than money, their affordability, energy and eagerness to please makes them attractive to companies, reports global talent firm Mercer.

Add in being digital savvy, having an entrepreneurial spirit and a commitment to professional development and learning new skills, Millennials also “naturally help companies market themselves as being progressive”, which appeals to business leaders, says Garry Adams, Talent Business Leader, Pacific at Mercer.

Adams says Millennials outnumber other generations in today’s workforce, including Baby Boomers, however their desire to achieve more personal and professional satisfaction by frequently changing jobs could be giving them a reputation for being self-absorbed and entitled. 

Services group Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited reports the younger generation has an “absence of allegiance”, as identified in its recently released fifth annual Millennial Survey. The survey, Winning over the next generation of leaders, reports that two-thirds of the 7700 Millennials from 29 counties interviewed express a desire to leave their employer by 2020. Through its findings, Deloitte suggests businesses need to adjust how they nurture loyalty among Millennials or risk losing a large percentage of their workforces.

“If anyone is hoping to find the single formula in managing Millennials they are going to fail.”

Business leader Mi Thian-De Wind, of Coach Mi, says that while companies need to lead in this area, Millennials must be equally open to understanding their employer’s needs.  

“No two employees are the same, so there should never be a single brush to identify all of them, just like any other group. With Millennials there is good staff and there is bad staff; the key is to keep the good ones. With good management of Millennials you need to identify what motivates that individual,” Thian-De Wind says.

“If anyone is hoping to find the single formula in managing Millennials they are going to fail.”

Building loyalty with staff starts with line managers establishing strong lines of communication and trust with all employees, no matter their age, the business coach says.

“Loyalty is not a given and must be earned, but while there is a lot of talk on how we manage Millennials, how we respect them, how we engage with them, I also think ‘ hang on a minute’ they need to understand what an employer needs and wants – it’s a two-way street for success,” she says.

“We also forget that this sense of entitlement was impressed on Millennials through previous generations – we spoilt them. We helped create this problem so we need to fix it and understand what it is that makes this generation really tick in the workplace.”

Thian–De Wind, a former CEO with more than 20 years’ experience in coaching and building executive teams, says face-to-face conversations in the workplace are vital for retaining Millennials.

“Eye contact is critical,” she says. “We know the generation is digitally savvy and likes communicating through digital channels and they can get frustrated with others who are not as quick to adopt new technology, so ensuring they can communicate with others in person is a vital skill to teach and nurture in them.”

“The generation is digitally savvy and likes communicating through digital channels and they can get frustrated with others who are not as quick to adopt new technology.”

When it comes to career advancement, Adams says companies will need to delicately manage Millennials’ expectations within the corporate hierarchy without discouraging them or giving them a reason to leave.

“Millennials may have the misconception that if they can demonstrate capability, then the rules of pay and hierarchy needn’t apply,” Adams says. However, a well-organised employee assessment strategy will help a company recognise people for leadership training.

“Line managers also have to be coached themselves to manage staff appropriately.  This will help leaders understand what drives their team members,” Thian-De Wind says.

Companies that can clearly define their value proposition to Millennials are likely to be a destination spot, adds Adams.

And, if Millennials aren’t necessarily driven by money, then the compensation has to be “strong enough to take that question off the table”.

“It needs to be fair, relevant, and competitive,” Adams says. “But then it gets to the question of, is this exciting work, am I with really smart colleagues, am I learning, am I developing, do I get a chance to grow internationally?”

As for understanding what will keep Millennials engaged and loyal to a company, the answer is simple, says Thian-De Wind.

“Ask them. Ask ‘how do you want to be managed, what would help you produce the best work; help me manage you’.

“This also puts responsibility on to Millennials, and opens up communication.”

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