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The Business Advisory Blog

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Greg Millar
Published on

18 tips for leading Millenials

According to a recent report, Millennials now make up a quarter of the UK population and they are predicted to hit the 17 million mark by 2019.

How do we define a Millenial worker?

employees-421The millennials joining your workforce now are employees born between 1980 and 2000. Unlike the Gen-Xers and the Baby Boomers, the Millennials have developed work characteristics and tendencies from doting parents, structured lives, and contact with diverse people.

How do Millenials like to work and what are their general characteristics?

Millennials are used to working in teams and want to make friends with people at work, and they work well with diverse co-workers. They have a can-do attitude about tasks and look for feedback about how they are doing frequently. They want a variety of tasks and fully expect to accomplish every one of them.

They seek leadership, and even structure from their older and managerial co-workers, but expect that you will draw out and respect their ideas. Millennials seek a challenge and do not want to experience boredom. Used to balancing many activities such as teams, friends, and philanthropic activities, they want flexibility in scheduling and a life away from work.

Millennials need to see where their career is going and they want to know exactly what they need to do to get there. They await their next challenge – and there better be a next challenge. 

They are the most connected generation in history and will network right out of their current workplace if these needs are not met. As computer experts, they are connected all over the world by email, instant messages, text messages and the Internet.

How do we lead the new breed of employee effectively?

1. Provide structure. Reports have monthly due dates. Jobs have fairly regular hours. Certain activities are scheduled every day. Meetings have agendas and minutes. Goals are clearly stated and progress is assessed. Define assignments and success factors.

2. Provide leadership and guidance. Millennials want to look up to you, learn from you, and receive daily feedback from you. They want “in” on the whole picture and to know what’s going on. Plan to spend a lot of time teaching and coaching and be aware of this commitment to Millennials when you hire them.

3. Encourage the self-assuredness, "can-do" attitude, and positive personal self-image. Millennials are ready to take on the world. Their parents and teachers told them they can do it - they can. Encourage - don't squash them or contain them.

4. Give them a Mentor. Millennials want attention in the form of guidance, advice, and genuine interest. A mentor gives Millennials someone they can connect with on a personal and professional platform who will give them the one-on-one attention that will help them gain experience and knowledge. Millennials value the genuine interest mentors take in them, and they will work harder for someone whom they appreciate and respect than for someone who is a disconnected manager.

5. Challenge Them. Millennials know they have a lot to offer and they are eager to share it. They’ll tolerate mundane tasks if given the opportunity to voice ideas. Let them sample more challenging work so that they know they’ll have an opportunity to grow. Keep them excited about what’s to come.

6. Take advantage of their comfort level with teams. They are used to working in groups and teams. In contrast to the lone ranger attitude of earlier generations, Millennials actually believe a team can accomplish more and better - they've experienced team success. Millennials gather in groups and play on teams; you can also mentor, coach, and train your millennials as a team.

7. Listen to them. Your millennial employees are used to loving parents who have scheduled their lives around the activities and events of their children. These young adults have ideas and opinions, and don't take kindly to having their thoughts ignored. After all, they had the best listening, most child-centric audience in history.

8. Show Respect and appreciation. Millennials respond well to respect and appreciation. They are smart and hardworking; they know it and they want to know that you know it. It doesn’t take much to show a little appreciation. Bring in free bacon butties on Fridays or try a simple thank-you. A small gesture can go a long way.

9. They are multi-taskers on a scale you’ve never seen before. Multiple tasks don’t phase them - talk on the phone while doing email and answering multiple instant messages – yes! This is a way of life and without many different tasks and goals to pursue within the week, Millennials will likely experience boredom.

10. Take advantage of their technology literacy. Are you a Boomer or even an early Gen-Xer? The electronic capabilities of these employees are amazing. The world is wide for your Millennial employees.

11. Capitalise on their affinity for networking. Not just comfortable with teams and group activities, your Millennial employee likes to network around the world electronically. Keep this in mind because they are able to post their resume electronically on Web job boards too. They are sought after, loyal employees, but they keep their options open – always.

12. Provide a life-work balanced workplace. Your Millennials are used to cramming their lives with multiple activities. They may play on sports teams, support charitable or social causes, and spend lots of time with family and friends. They work hard, but they are not into the 60 hour work weeks defined by the Baby Boomers. Home, family, spending time with the children and families are priorities. Balance and multiple activities are important to these millennial employees. Ignore this to your peril.

13. Provide a fun, employee-centric workplace. Millennials want to enjoy their work and their workplace. They want to make friends, so worry if your Millennial employees aren't laughing, going out with teammates for lunch, and helping plan the next company event or committee. Help your long-term employees make room for the millennials.

14. Get buy-in. Millennials have a capacity to be critically reflective and they have confidence in their own judgment. While some may see this trait as arrogance, it is something you as a leader have to deal with. Theirs is a world of "Yes, but..." They may agree with you, but they may also have a qualification, and they won't hesitate to tell you about it. Leading Millennials requires not only directing them, but also winning them over by pitching your ideas.

15. Treat them as partners. In the traditional model of leadership, there is this belief that leaders need to give those they work with power. Millennials don't want you to give them the right to do anything. They want you to reach out to them as partners who will celebrate and appreciate their talent. The very notion of empowering them by "giving" them the right to do something is abhorrent to them. What they want is recognition through partnership, not trickle-down empowerment.

16. Focus on the team, not the company. Once they have chosen you as their employer, it is likely that Millennials will not identify with the organisational brand, but rather they will affiliate with their team of co-workers. Listen to them speak - you will hear them make reference to "my team," "our team," etc. Focus on their team affiliation as a way of motivating and retaining them.

17. Create intrapreneurial opportunities. In order to retain and lead Millennials, you have to challenge them. The best way to do so is to involve them in complex problems or projects. They are driven by the search for solutions. Indeed, one of the defining traits of Millennials is their ability to think divergently and come up with precise solutions. Give them space to experiment and fail - you will see that it will breed success and loyalty.

18. Help bolster their CVs. Millennials understand that it is unlikely that they will finish their career in one organisation. They know that they could lose their jobs during the next major downsizing or they may leave to join other companies. Instead of ignoring or denying this, celebrate it, work with them to enhance their skills, to enrich their CVs and to expand their experience. Make it clear to them that, even outside the organisation, you will be their partner. They will return this loyalty.

Topics: culture employees leadership management talent team