Are Millennials Really Hard to Manage?

If you work in corporate America in 2018, there is no way to avoid it: you’ve either hired or you work with millennials.

By way of definition, millennials also known as Generation Y, were born in the early 80s through the turn of the millennium. They are a generation marked by the ubiquity of technology in their lives; they were coming of age as the iPhone was introduced. That makes them different from “Gen X,” who grew up without the internet, and Gen Z, who are the digital natives who are entering high school and college now.

This interview with leadership guru Simon Sinek got us to thinking about our own experience placing millennial candidates in companies.

As this generation matures, we see more and more of them rising into executive ranks and reshaping corporate life and management. As  Sinek points out, they bring a very different experience than their generational predecessors in the following areas:

  • Family: Millennials were raised with an “A for effort mentality” that means moving into the corporate world, where there are fewer obvious “trophies,” entails challenges that can affect their motivation to excel and achieve at the highest level.
  • Technology: social media is ubiquitous in the life of a millennial and therefore connections to those in the real world may take a backseat.
  • Impatience: As the pace of technological innovation accelerates, the millennial has been trained to believe that instant gratification is a birthright.
  • Environment: Millennials crave novel environments geared to the idiosyncratic values of their generation.

So what is management to do to attract superb millennial candidates and coax out the greatness within?

We find that it starts early in the hiring process. Rather than simply being motivated by money, the socially conscious millennial is ultimately driven by a desire for purpose and impact. If you can underscore how your company will provide these candidates with opportunities to grow, give back or connect with meaningful work, you will be standing at the head of the pack.

The late-twenties-to-early-thirties candidate who spends off hours selfie-ing with cupcakes also naturally appreciates the perks of a company that will provide free snacks and fringe benefits like bike and scooter parking.

Once hired, the millennial does best in an organization that will take steps to get at the root of some of those unstructured parenting strategies that contributed to the unique qualities of this generation. It therefore becomes the companies’ responsibility to find ways to teach the millennial to achieve a healthy balance at work regarding responsibility and social investment (both online and off). In a larger way, we see companies that are invested in developing their younger workers through mentorship that ultimately builds trusts being the organizations that successfully hold onto and develop millennial talent.

What does this mean for you, the executive who oversees hiring?

If you want to successfully connect with this generation, remember:

  • Millennials want more than money; they want purpose (and free snacks)
  • You’ll have to be strategic in the leadership you provide, recognizing the unique qualities of this generation
  • Give a millennial the purpose and structure they need out of work and you will be richly rewarded

How do you approach hiring millennial workers? And does your management strategy differ for them?

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