How to Manage Millennials In the Workplace

Millennials don’t always operate like other employees. Learn how to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.
Millennial Employees Brainstorming
Make sure to be clear about what you want from your millennial employees. (Photo: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)

Millennials are unlike previous generations. They view the world differently and have redefined the meaning of success, personally and professionally. In some cases, this has led to misunderstanding among the different generations coexisting in today’s workplace.

So, how do you implement a multi-­generational work environment that enables millennials to perform to their highest potential?

Michelle Dagnino, a senior engagement consultant at Lura Consulting in Toronto, has a few ideas. Dagnino has spoken at hundreds of conferences globally as an expert in multi-­generational engagement across communities and organizations.

She shared her top tips on managing millennials in the workplace.

Encourage their positive and unique self-­image.

It is important to remember many millennials have been showered with their parents’ attention and empowered to believe they can take on the world by being uniquely themselves, Dagnino said.

Refrain from taking a blanket approach with your millennial employee and instead work with and encourage their individuality.

“One of the challenges that younger people face in the workplace is the standard HR practices of ‘one size fits all’ doesn’t actually work,” Dagnino said. “It is not exclusive to millennials, but it has come forward because of millennials. There is an understanding that individual employees want to be treated as such. Everything from benefits to work plans should be tailored to the individual needs of employees.”

Provide leadership and guidance

Most millennials want to learn from their bosses. They want the opportunity to be part of your business’s big picture.

Providing mentorship to your millennial employee is a fine idea as long as there is an actual check-­in process. Dagnino advocates for an accountability program.

“Have a program where both parties are accountable for each other,” she says. “The employee who is being mentored has clear goals of what they want out of the relationship, and the mentor has a clear understanding of what it is to be a mentor.”

Prepare to take some time out to coach and train your millennials when you hire them and honor that commitment.

Learn to communicate differently

Thanks to their ease with technology, especially smartphones, it isn’t surprising that millennials have a different way of communicating in the workplace than their colleagues and peers.

“It sounds cliché to say that they are more prone to pick up a text than a phone, but it is true,” Dagnino said. “How millennials communicate is to get to the answers quickly.”

While older employees might find it frustrating, Dagnino said that millennials are responsive. You just need to be clear about the communication standards and discuss what you are comfortable with.

“If an older employee is managing a younger employee and they want to know what is the quickest way to get ahold of them, they should ask, ‘Which is easier? Text or email? A phone call versus a messaging system?’ This allows for more flexibility, but also for managers to say there are more appropriate times for phone conversations or email,” said Dagnino. “You have to be clear with what you are asking for, and if you need it in a specific format, then ask for that format.

Tech savvy

As digital natives. millennials are uniquely prepared to thrive in a tech environment.

“The ability to manage technology can make for a more efficient workplace, and I think employers should take more advantage of that,” said Dagnino. “If you want a workplace that promotes efficiency and innovation and the ability to advance the cause of your organization, then you need to allow millennials to do what they are best at, which, the majority of time, is to use technology. We know that millennials use technology intuitively, so not a lot of money or training needs to be used.”

Create a team environment

Due to their innate drive to collaborate and build consensus, millennials believe a team can accomplish more and achieve greater success than an individual can. They are the ultimate team players.

“Older generations are more prone to think a successful workplace needs a powerful leader, but millennials think that various people play roles that contribute to the success of the company,” said Dagnino.

Your reward for including millennials in the conversation is that they will suggest things you might not have thought about before. “Even if you know where you want to go, it is really helpful to get a new perspective… Small business owners need their employees to be partners in their success.”

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