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Leading a Team of Millennials (With Enthusiasm)

February 09, 2021 :: Admissionado

As of 2015, millennials surpassed Generation X as the largest working cohort, and their presence is fundamentally shifting how business is conducted. 

While it’s unwise to assume an entire generation thinks the same way (tempting as may seems) one thing is clear: businesses must adapt to this new generation, or face the consequences. 

Though many articles have been written about exactly this topic, few people even agree on who is and who isn’t a millennial. The typical rule is that a millennial is born between 1982 and 2000, but this 18-year period is vast, leading to subcategories such as the mysterious Xenial. It’s all enough to leave you dizzy. Worse, the media often paints millennials in a very negative light:  craving instant gratification, quickly trending towards boredom, and liable to leave any company within a year.

Not all is lost however!

With all these differences and gaps between management and millennial employees, many of them are skeptical their work lives are heading in the right direction. According to Deloitte’s 2018 Millennial Survey, workplace trust is down, a situation that leads to short professional engagement and a lack of trust between employer and employee. This disrupts traditional leadership strategies for the better, pushing companies to respond to the world they grew up and know intimately. Now, it’s up to companies to adapt. 

Here are a few notable ways the best managers are leading millennials.

1.Prioritize Skill Development, Flexibility and Diversity.

People today are goal oriented, and millennials in particular are looking ahead towards the next job, the home they hope to purchase and the retirement they hope to fund. There’s always a next step. 60% of millennials say “purpose” matters when choosing their employer, as they want to make their work life work for them, not just for their employer. This means they’re seeking to develop skills they can bring with them to their next job, without having to pull their hair out to succeed at this one. For employers, that means providing opportunities to develop the life skills millennials have yet to master, from emotional management to overcoming professional challenges. Some employers are even considering different ways to communicate and hosting podcasts to deliver the knowledge and skills to the millennials. Developing hard skills can also be important, but these need to be portable – not just mastering a company-exclusive legacy system.

Concurrently, millennials value flexible hours, telecommuting, and location independence. All aspects of modern work that can seem scary to employers used to seeing the same faces in the same office at 9AM sharp. This premium on self self-care, convenience and time with loved ones can be a benefit however, as many millennials leverage technology to work harder and longer. They won’t be wasting time stuck in traffic, and can socialize with loved ones of their choice rather than coworkers. Lean in to this new workplace dynamic and your team will be happier and more productive. Dig in your heels and insist that the old ways are best however, and you’ll face significant difficulties hiring top young talent. 

Finally, millennials account for more people identifying as multiracial than any other generation and. While they’re more likely to leave a job within two years than any other generation, they are also more likely to stick with firms with diverse management that allow the flexibility mentioned above. Take advantage of this by building a diverse leadership team and staff.

2.Provide Leadership, Not Management

In report after report, millennials claim their leadership skills aren’t being fully developed, as companies focus on traditional success rather than fostering career development. Leadership-minded millennials know their strengths and weaknesses and know when a company is avoiding the issue to keep them in the same position year after year. Leadership shouldn’t be viewed solely through the lens of exponential year-over-year growth, particularly if that growth doesn’t benefit a company’s employees. Instead, millennials expect their seniors to inspire others, honor their words and take responsibility for the overall health of a corporate culture. 

The good news is, they’re incredible self-learners, used to finding just-in-time information online rather than slogging through training seminars. They want to learn from peers and coworkers as well as experts and they want to control when, where and how they’ll acquire new knowledge. This means investing in online and cloud-based knowledge sharing systems can pay huge dividends, empowering millennials to deliver their best work.

3.Provide Mentorship and Feedback

Personal mentorship is just as important to millennials as overall leadership. Millennials are seeking to grow professionally through feedback and guidance from trusted mentors. The yearly review is dead, the regular check in with team members is thriving, so find where your team is struggling, and offer coaching. This won’t only develop their skill set, but also help you retain your team, as mentorship has a huge impact on whether millennials will stick with an employer – if they can’t develop in their current organization, they’ll find one where they can.

Beyond regular reviews and coaching, millennials seeking purpose in their work respond positively to in the moment acknowledgement. Praise and recognition aren’t just boxes to be checked, they’re opportunities to impart significance to a job so . Highlighting areas where millennials are excelling offers opportunities to develop trust, respect and loyalty. This in turn, will push your team to work that much harder, all while attracting more talent, as the word spreads.

Expanding this beyond the scope of the personal, millennials want to work with leaders who value feedback from employees. With flat organizational structures becoming increasingly commonplace, millennials want their thoughts and experiences validated, rather than simply following top down orders from management. They understand that the further up the corporate ladder, the less leaders understand the situation “on the ground” and the more dismissive management can get. Avoid this perception by seeking and implementing feedback.

4.Ensure Their Work Has a Purpose

Millennials are seeking purposeful work. They’re not all seeking altruistic non-profit work, but they do want to know they’re making a positive impact on the world today. That means ensuring your team understands the reasons behind their work and how it fits into their company’s overall mission. Don’t just assign work “because you say so” – showcase your reasoning as this will provide motivation. Studies show that your team will be happier and more engaged at work as a result. A recent Gallup report found that Millennials, more than any other generation, ask, “Does this organization value my strengths and contributions?” so make sure that your organization does.

5.Embrace Collaboration

If there’s one big takeaway in this piece, let it be that traditional top-down management doesn’t work for millennials, who prefer to collaborate with teams and see their managers as team-leaders in their corner rather than taskmasters handing down orders. That means being open to learning from your employees, all while teaching them. Keep those communication lines open! This isn’t just capriciousness – it’s the result of a change to the education system, in the decades millennials went to school. Having grown up in group projects requiring teamwork, millennials expect to continue to leverage and contribute to teams. Structure your staff in a way that takes advantage of this proclivity towards collaboration.

In Summary

In conclusion, millennials are… people. They have goals, and hopes and dreams and know what hands they’ve been dealt, good and bad. By emphasizing flexibility, leadership, coaching, purpose and collaboration, you’ll find the latest generation of employees to be the most dynamic and hardworking yet.