Just last year, millennials overtook Baby Boomers as the largest generation in the US and we can see similar demographics playing out around the world. Millennials are defined as those born between 1981 and 1997. Basically they grew up with technology at their fingertips (and are likely defined by that large societal change). One of the more perplexing questions is how to get the most out of millennials in the workplace. They seemingly have different preferences, behaviors, and strengths/weaknesses than generations before them.
And as such, people often have strong opinions about this generation. On the positive side, people praise their self-reliance and ability to use technology. There have been many accomplishments from this generation (and very quickly) due to using these resources effectively. On the negative side, however, many grow frustrated and call millennials overly sensitive, entitled, and lazy. Many think they also lack basic life skills like communication compared to past generations.
If you want to understand millennials in the workplace or in social situations, this clip sums it up pretty nicely…
We agree with many of the speaker’s initial observations here. The key to understanding millennials is to understand how they were raised and what advantages/disadvantages they had due to that environment. And obviously this changes wherever someone was born and raised but is largely true in the Western world at least.
The speaker is right. Millennials are often entitled because of bad parenting, social media, unlimited access to anything they want, and more. And he’s right that many haven’t been taught or been forced to develop crucial human interaction skills. Of course he’s generalizing because not everyone was raised badly, many people reject social media, and many had to work hard to build relationships and achieve success.
Where we strongly disagree is the victimization tone from the speaker. Some of his observations are right but millennials are far from victims. Each person is still the captain of their own individual life. And as their manager or co-worker, you need to enforce boundaries and proper behavior, even when you get resistance.
A participation trophy does not eliminate achievement desirability. A lack of incentives cause laziness. So incentivize them properly to eliminate this tendency.
Social media does not cause people to troll online, become superficial, or look at pictures for hours. People choose to exhibit these poor personal qualities. Create discipline around social media usage (and the time they spend on such things).
People are not victims of work culture. No company is under any obligation to go “care for the special little new starters”. Companies would be smart to train employees better, create better incentives (like pay for performance), and motivate their people better. But people choose where they want to work and how hard they want to achieve in that job. Don’t kill company culture and productivity to accommodate people that can’t handle working.
These are just a few examples. By understanding millennial backgrounds, you can better manage them. So let’s talk a bit more about managing millennials in the workplace…
How to Manage Millennials in the Workplace
People that interact with millennials need to make a better effort to incentivize them. The speaker is right about many of his observations. So what can we do to better interact or incentivize millennials?
Give them a better sense of purpose.
Give them more freedom to do good work.
Hand out accolades and feedback for smaller things.
Stop putting constraints on them. Pay them for performance with no upper bound, allow them to work when/where they choose, and consider things like sabbaticals, good vacation policies, etc.
Train them well. If they lack skills, then this should be a huge part of how to equip millennials to do their jobs (both when hired and as continual reinforcement).
If they lack true relationship building skills, implement that in your culture (because all humans do crave community and intimacy).
Allow them to make big impacts at work and give them the resources to be impactful in their spare time.
Get to know them. Defining a person by their generation is wrong. But using their environment to understand them is wise.
There are plenty more things. Don’t allow millennials to get away with bad behavior, bad performance, and claims of victimization. Train them and nurture them. Understand them. And partner with them. They are already the largest generation and will soon be entering leadership in your organization and in the world. There is still time to shape this generation for the better, while also taking advantage of the many strengths they bring to the table.
Dealing with millennials in the workplace is only one managerial challenge. Whether you are managing a team (millennials and more) or you’re a millennial seeking to grow your management capabilities, we have the help for you. Our Business Management Learning Path removes all the fluff from management and helps you develop core skills. We think you’ll enjoy it and it can really bolster your career!