Education and Personal Development

How do you manage Millennials?

By 27/11/2017 August 22nd, 2019 No Comments
How do you manage millennials

I get asked this a lot.

How do I manage Millennials?

Easy – the same way you manage everyone else; with care, dignity, respect and faith that they want to succeed in their job and careers.

I have never met anyone who doesn’t want to be managed in this way no matter what generation they belong to.

One of the easiest ways to answer this question is to ask people why they think Millennials (those born between about 1980 – mid 1990s) are different – and here are some of the statements I’ve heard.

People Working

People Working
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Note, that many of the following are myths, rumours, nonsense, and maybe partially true. Do a quick internet search for Millennials at work and you’ll find article after article coming to different conclusions about what they want….basic management 101 – speak to your direct reports and listen to them, no matter what generation they belong to.

Note – this article was previously posted via my newsletter where many of my readers got in touch with me in response (Millennials, Gen X, Gen Y, Baby Boomers – all) – thank you for your kind feedback. This post has some minor corrections and feedback from them, but my premise was correct and welcomed by my readers- you manage Millennials the same way you would anyone else. 


But Millennials want more active coaching.

Good. Managers should be providing coaching to every single one of their directs either directly or via someone who has the skills their direct report needs and wants.

Apparently Millennials have grown up with a wider access to coaching. This is good – every generation benefits from coaching. Every employee needs coaching. We should never be static – a good manager is always asking their people for more and expanding their roles – and to achieve more there is usually some need for coaching.

If we’re not growing in our self learning, development and experiences – what are we doing?

It’s not just Millennials that benefit from coaching – and I have never met anyone in any one of my teams who didn’t appreciate access to coaching and training.

But Millennials want a better work life balance.

Hurrah. Spot on – don’t we all?

This will force employers to think differently about the workplace of today where the “relentless life destroying pursuit of more sweat and tears” is put above everything else.

Hard work is important – little is achieved without out. But a relentless, unbalanced work ethic often comes at a deep cost; depression, burnout, poor health, troubled relationship and ironically, a massive dip in productivity.

If you make the work engaging people will want to work and work hard, but managers should help those who can’t find balance find it.

I’ve never once expected my team to work evenings and weekends unless there has been a customer incident or a really tight one-off deadline. Yet, we’ve produced, grown, scaled and delivered consistently. In fact, most research suggests that working long hours and burning the candle at both ends is a major cost for business. (super helpful links below as usual)

Why do managers believe that constant excessive hours actually creates more value? The quality of work suffers, there’s no downtime to improve or innovate and people get tired, stresses or leave. Sometimes, taking a pause and asking “is there a better way to do this?” is the solution – and many new employees are coming in to our workplaces and asking this question – yay – keep asking it.

But Millennials have no loyalty to a company anymore.

Really? Does anyone? If it’s true – then good – it means you have to work extra hard as a manager or business to keep people engaged and motivated by making the work so interesting, and the purpose so compelling, that people want to work there.

This is not just true of Millennials, I’ve never met anyone from any generation that didn’t want compelling work that has meaning. True – some people will just keep working at the same company for years, despite being miserable…

A personal belief of mine is that people will always leave your business – and when they do they should be the best candidate on the market. It means you hired well, you coached and trained well, you had valuable input from them and now they can take that to their next role.

My job is to make it such a brilliant place to work that people don’t want to leave. And Millennials may actually force employers to start thinking more about their staff than themselves. I think this is a positive thing.

But Millennials have different values to me.

Good. And bad. I doubt they are that much different. And if they are then don’t hire those Millennials. Not all Millennials are the same too. In fact, there will be people in all age brackets/labels that have different values – why is that a problem just for Millennials? It’s not.

Maybe you need to change the values you have. Or maybe a clash of values is just what your business needs (be careful though – it can cause deep turmoil when people believe in different values and principles).

Not everyone who is labelled with Millennial will have the same values – just like everyone of my generation don’t all share the same values.

But Millennials expect lots of freedom and flexibility in work.

Brilliant. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had freedom and flexibility to work where we wanted and work around personal schedules. No more permission to parent, no more stuck in traffic only to have to work at your least productive hours of work, no more having to take time off for appointments, no more working when you’re dog tired when you could push your schedule back later.

Sure, communication and synchronisation of work becomes trickier, but it’s not impossible to change and innovate to accommodate this.

But Millennials grew up with tech and expect better tech and communication.

Yay. Just what most businesses need.

No more draconian IT polices that protect the company but disempower the employees. Security is important, for sure, but so too is productivity and the ability to use the latest tech.

Millennials grew up with tech and know how to use it; listen to them, experiment with new ideas and implement that which is useful.

Our businesses must always be edging forward, what better way to drive some innovation than to listen to those you employ – regardless of their generation label. But bare in mind – tech often makes problems worse.

But Millennials are different to us.

Eh? Everyone is different. Millennial is a “catch all label” based on nothing more than age and as soon as we label something and define it, we confine it. It’s best we don’t do that – which is exactly why managing Millennials is the same as managing anyone else.

Instead hire good people who buy in to your mission – treat them well, provide coaching, mentoring and training and trust them to do a good job. And if they happen to Gen X, Gen Y, Millennials or whatever else – so be it.

But Millennials seek friendship and close working relationships

Awesome. Break down the silos and get people co-operating and working together. Who in their right mind would want something opposite to this?

Millennials may indeed be different as a collective, but individuals are not collectives. And we manage individuals, not teams. Individuals are all different, yet, in my experience anyway, they all benefit from coaching, care, respect and from using their strengths to do good work.

And if the next generation of workers come in to the workplace and demand it changes – then so be it – let’s embrace those ideas that are useful, and ask critical questions of those that are not. But interestingly, I don’t think it’s a generational thing at all – I think it’s a mindset – and the chances are you already have many people who think like “Millennials” already.

Listen and improve – it’s the only way to stay relevant as a manager and an organisation

So go forth and hire the right people – no matter what their label 🙂


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