November 14, 2016
Many of my clients complain about managing millennials (the generation born between 1980-2000, also known as "Generation Y"): that they don't want to work hard, that they don't follow orders, that they're "entitled." Yet they are charging into the workforce as the largest generation in history, even bigger than the baby boomers. In fact, they will make up 75% of the workforce in the next 10 years: "Managing Millennials: Six Must For CEOs Who Want to Get Ahead".
Although the research is contradictory about whether the generation is that different, or whether it's simply that workers want different things if they're at a different stage of life, I find that both leaders and the millennial employees themselves believe that they're different, resulting in continual misunderstandings and conflicts. (I also happen to be the mother of millennial twins, so I have my own management challenges!)

"...both leaders and the millennial employees themselves 
believe that they are different, 
resulting in continual misunderstandings and conflicts."

Millennials feel frustrated because many of them left college with huge debts -- $1 trillion and counting -- only to find a job market that offered them few opportunities, and a recession that forced them to bounce back into their parents' households. Others found that they could not afford college and that the access to technical training that previous generations enjoyed through high school "vo-tech" training or labor union apprenticeships, had dried up. Not to mention those pesky baby boomers, who keep working long after they should have retired, blocking upward mobility for those at the bottom of the heap. 

What Should You Do?

If you're a leader, you need to realize that there are things that work with Gen Y, and encourage your team to incorporate these suggestions. 

First, Gen Y has been raised with a team approach for everything from solving math problems to resolving playground disputes. They're going to want to participate in brainstorming and decision making. In short, they want the remote. While it's impossible to involve them in every issue, do so when you can and you'll reap the benefits.
Second, I've heard leaders complain that millennials don't want to work hard. That's not my experience, but what is true is that they want to focus on results, not hours worked. They believe that with technology and their ability to multi-task they can get things done better and faster, so we need to experiment with different ways of working, and above all else flexibility. Gen Y is also known for job hopping but a lot of that comes from organizations not giving them the time off they want for that trip to Bali or boarding when the snow flies. To the extent you can, give them flexible hours and the time off they want - even if it's without pay.
Thirdly, they also want frequent feedback - these are the kids who received stars for every soccer goal - and an understanding of their purpose. They want to know what the company stands for as well as what their contribution means.
Lastly, Gen Y expects transparency. Don't expect them to keep compensation secret, they'll network around your privacy walls or hack into your system faster than you can admonish them not to talk. Obviously, many things need to be confidential - employee investigations and financial planning that would impact stock prices, for example - but to the extent you can open up your processes and results, you'll be rewarded with loyalty and hard work. 


Did You Know?

We can tailor all our management classes to reflect your leaders' needs for understanding different generations. For more information, call or write us at: 303-216-1020 or [email protected]

Be sure to read Lynne's helpful books on handling tough conversations with employees.

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