Your Millennial Employees
By Dr. Joanne G.
Sujansky and Dr. Jan Ferri-Reed
When Amanda Ross
learned that her company was planning to place several recent
college grads in her customer service department she started to
worry. Amanda herself had joined the company right out of college.
Now 37 years old, Amanda has supervised Customer Service for the
past five years and has worked almost exclusively with employees her
age or older throughout her career. The prospect of supervising
these “20-something” employees fills her with dread.
Part of Amanda’s fear is based on stories she’s heard about
how different (and difficult) the younger generation is proving to
be. Other supervisors in the company have suggested that Millennials
expect instant job promotion and aren’t afraid to challenge company
practices if they don’t agree with them. They also say that
Millennials are constantly asking for feedback on their performance
and demand a lot of face-time with their managers. One supervisor in
another department even told Amanda that his new employees have the
audacity to request flexible work schedules, even though they’re
brand new to the job and the organization. Amanda’s worried that the
challenge of dealing with these demanding new employees will eat up
a lot of her time and disrupt the high department morale that she’s
worked so hard to achieve.
It’s not that Amanda lacks managerial skills. She understands
how to conduct effective performance reviews and she is skilled at
confronting employees to solve job-related issues and problems.
However, with this new batch of Millennial workers coming on board,
Amanda realizes that she is going to have to figure out how to
motivate her new, younger employees before their job performance
becomes an issue. But guess what? Amanda isn’t the only supervisor
facing this dilemma these days.
With Millennials now entering the workforce in large numbers
your employee team could turn into a volatile mixture of four
different generations. But, employees from the Mature generation
(born between 1909 and 1945), the Baby Boomer generation (1946 to
1964) and Generation X (1965 to 1979) have all had time to adjust to
each other in the workplace. It’s the newest generation –
Millennials who were born between the years 1980 to 2000 – that are
now shaking things up.
Millennials possess a unique set of skills and a somewhat
different work ethic than previous generations. They will have a
profound impact over the next five years. There are already around
35 million Millennials populating the workplaces of America and by
2014 there will be more than 58 million members of Generation Y
employed in U.S. organizations.
Without question the culture clash between Millennials and
earlier generations has already ignited. Veteran employees from the
Mature, Boomer and Gen X generations frequently complain about the
different attitudes and workplace expectations of Millennials. Many
do not understand why they are the way they are, hindering
Millennials’ full engagement in the workplace. Often this biased
thinking prohibits managers from finding Millennials’ unique talents
and skills that can contribute to company growth and profitability.
Yet … writing off your Millennial employees before they have
a chance to prove themselves is a big mistake! Generation Y is
already one of the best-educated generations in American history.
They’re technologically savvy, embrace diversity, and have a strong
preference for collaboration to solve problems and seize
opportunities. They also have a strong sense of work-life balance
or, as they would say, “we work to live” philosophy. If Millennials
seem over-confident that’s because they’ve been taught to expect
success by teachers and by “helicopter” parents (so-called because
they hovered over their children).
In short, Millennials may be a challenge to integrate into
your work teams, but over time they’re just as likely to become
among your most energetic and successful employees. It is important,
however, to adjust your management strategies to take advantage of
Millennial preferences and strengths.
Following are four strategies to help leaders adapt to the
unique needs and perspectives of these new Millennial employees:
Ramp Up Your Onboarding Process –
This is not
your father’s new employee orientation program! In the old days
new employees watched a video on company history, received a
policy and procedures manual, and heard a welcome speech from
the CEO or senior manager. Today we bring new employees “on
board” by assimilating them into the company culture, providing
exposure to different parts of the business, providing resources
on the intranet for them to use at their own pace, and helping
them to build relationships with current employees. Onboarding
is ongoing, with lots of feedback, plenty of checkpoints and
close mentoring. The goal is to ensure that all new employees –
especially Millennials – become valued contributors while
reducing turnover and increasing morale.
Profile Your Talent –
part of onboarding, as well as career management, is to make
sure your people are filling positions that are well matched to
their talents, skills and interests. You can’t always rely on a
resume to find the right fit, but you can use employee
profiles and assessments to make a good match. But make sure you
use well-designed instruments with high reliability and share
those results directly with each employee. Profiles are not
tests in the strictest sense of the word, but rather learning
opportunities that can increase job satisfaction, provide
valuable coaching suggestions to employees, and guide career
Correct Your Corrections –
No matter how
carefully you onboard your new employees and create a good job
fit, the potential for performance problems always exists. But
you have to be careful when providing corrective feedback to
Millennials. They’re accustomed to receiving a great deal of
praise from parents and teachers and some may have a hard time
accepting seemingly negative feedback, especially if overloaded
with it or if provided in absence of recognition for work well
done. Your corrective feedback needs to be specific and
concrete, creating a clear picture for the employee of what was
done well and what needs to be improved. Also be sure to refocus
on your Millennials’ job goals and career path with the feedback
so they can see how their actions affect others in the
organization. When you keep your corrective feedback specific,
solution-oriented and forward-focused, you can keep your
Millennials motivated and engaged.
Create a Fun and Challenging Atmosphere
– Millennials, like most employees, prefer to work in an
atmosphere that’s productive but also fun. That can mean
everything from changing the office layout to creating new
opportunities for social interaction. Instead of classic
“cubicle farms,” many organizations are adding open workspaces
to encourage more employee interaction and collaboration.
Managers can also reinforce teamwork by sponsoring “social”
events, such as Friday afternoon “happy hour” (alcohol-free, of
course) or teambuilding activities, such as scavenger hunts,
Nerf battles, etc. Fun social activities are also a good way to
celebrate victories, such as an important project milestone or a
major goal achieved. The only limits are the leader’s
imagination, but looking for ways to encourage social
interactions is a powerful way to build a productive,
As you begin to recruit and integrate Millennials into your
work team don’t be afraid to “change up” how you orient, train and
manage new hires. Too often in the past, the members of preceding
generations were thrown into a new job without much guidance. This
“sink or swim” approach won’t work for Millennials, who have
experienced extremely attentive teaching and parenting styles as
they grew up. Given a fair chance they’ll make strong contributions
to your organization and may lead the way to a more collaborative,
productive and energetic environment.
Read other articles and learn more about
Dr. Joanne G. Sujansky and Dr.
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