Managing the Integration of
Millennials with Baby Boomers
The Millennials born between 1981 and 2000, and just entering
the workforce, pose some significant challenges in integrating
effectively into Baby Boomer led organizations. This generation
values civic responsibility, is self-confident, and has a respect
for diversity of all sorts. Millennials are experts at
multi-tasking, always looking for ways to balance hobbies and
volunteer activities with work. To effectively integrate
Millennials, it is important to understand the context that shaped
them. Millennials grew up in a child-focused society, with
information technology, violence and terrorism at all time highs.
They are the product of parents who think they can do no wrong.
This generation tends to be “street smart,” adaptive to
change, comfortable with new technology, confident, achievement
oriented, globally connected, and communal. Such core values
present themselves at work through the need for independence and
autonomy, challenge and variety, entrepreneurial efforts, continual
development of skills, distrust of hierarchy and authority, lack of
loyalty and unwillingness to commit, desire for a fun and collective
workplace, and most importantly, their need for work-life balance.
Examine your own beliefs about Millennials:
integrate Millennials into your workforce, first think about your
own beliefs including any stereotypes, biases, etc. you may have
about them. Consider some of the common thoughts about
Millennials: they are self centered, disloyal, looking for the easy
way to get it done, lack work ethic, etc. Examine your thinking if
these are the phrases that immediately come to mind for you when you
think about hiring them. Each generation has its advantages and
disadvantages and many of the differences can contribute positively
to an organization if we understand them.
Become a more
active listener and teach active listening skills:
Millennials are so used to hyper-tasking that focus on
one person while visibly demonstrating active listening skills is a
foreign concept. These are the kids who grew up texting while
playing a computer game while doing homework! Don’t take it
personally if they don’t seem to pay a lot of attention to you, but
do teach them active listening skills including why they matter to
the other generations.
interactions with a concise statement of your intent. This allows
others to mentally prepare for what is to come. Most of us have
good intentions, but somehow our words get misconstrued especially
when there are generational differences. Rather than catching
someone off guard, this technique helps minimize putting the other
person on the defensive.
When a member of an
older generation is speaking to someone younger, it is common for
the listener to feel as if they are being spoken down to no matter
what the true intentions might actually be. State your intentions
up front (i.e. “I am mentioning this to you because…”). Millennials
do not like to be talked down to; acknowledge their value and
encourage them to continue to think “out-of-the-box” when you can.
Remember that it is
highly likely you will feel as if a Millennial is implying your view
or opinion is outdated when they speak to you no matter their
intention, so try to suspend your assumptions in this regard and
coach them to state their own intention up front as well.
Although this may
seem like an obvious point to be made, cross-generational
conversations can pose a significant challenge because each
generation has strong preferences for the type, frequency, and style
of communication used. While members of your own generation will
likely understand the connotations of your words, differing
generations may have trouble understanding and worse still, may be
offended by your harmless intentions.
In general, you can
speak faster to the Millennials than any other generation. They
have been exposed and become accustomed to hyper speed in
communications. Work hard to eliminate differing interpretations
of what you say by stating your intentions upfront and presenting
clear, concise information including your conclusion or
recommendations. Minimize your use of slang and clichés. These
differ greatly by generation. “Fat” and “phat” mean very different
things! Use “I” statements. Discuss what the topic/decision means
to you and why. This helps others relate to you even when their
view might be completely different.
Teach the Millennials what is important to others:
Be sure to present
and discuss basics about the other generations in the workplace with
Millennials. Outline key differences in the generations and the
worth of diversity in age and perspective as well as the other types
of diversity they more naturally value. They have grown up in a
world that is mostly about them, so their understanding and
awareness of other approaches and styles is likely to be low.
feedback: The Millennials live in a world of social networking where feedback is
just a way of being for them. The frequency in which they provide
it to others varies dramatically from previous generations.
Millennials crave positive reinforcement and seek to validate their
value to an organization more than any other generation. Integrate
recognition and ongoing team improvement opportunities into weekly
team meetings to meet some of their needs.
Unfortunately, although Millennials participate in feedback a
lot, they are not necessarily skilled at how to provide effective
feedback. Their connection to others electronically does not
necessarily equate to quality face to face conversations.
likely to give feedback up, across and down whether it is part of
the culture or not, so it is best to prepare them through building
skills on doing it well.
Demonstrate appreciation & learning opportunities:
Provide daily acknowledgement of their
contribution or redirect them immediately if they need to do
something different. Don’t hold any feedback for Millennials until
your next scheduled meeting.
They will be in your face to get as much feedback as they can
Millennials will not embrace the traditional
training methods. Instead it must be fast-paced, using real life
application (real work product). Make their orientation,
assimilation and training fun and challenging or you will lose their
Based on watching their parents work excessively,
they are more inclined to seek outlets to relieve their stress.
Consider subsidizing gym memberships, rock climbing and extreme
sports venues as well as community events and participation.
Time-off and flexible work hours are highly valued. Their belief is
“tell me what to do, let me figure out how to do it and get out of
my way (and don’t bog me down with silly rules that are not relevant
to my productivity).” They enjoy and expect to multi-task so
construct their role to do so.
Generational understanding and adaptation does not take the place of
addressing the needs of the individual. Never forget that not all
20-somethings are the same, just as not all 50-somethings are the
same. Knowledge IS power, and effective leaders find out what the
desires, wants and needs are for employees on an individual basis,
not just generationally.
communication tips for connecting to Millennials
utilization of the chain of command
language to paint clear pictures of the future
verbs to challenge them
down to them – they will resent it
through your language, and they will respect you
Use e-mail and
voicemail as primary tools
seek their feedback
Use humor –
reassure them that you don't take yourself too seriously
to break the rules (appropriately & within some parameters) to
explore new paths or options
Read other articles and learn more about
Holly G. Green.
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