How to Manage Millennials


So what is a Millennial? And, what is all the fuss about? It seems as though every article written about the future of the workforce involves some discussion about Millennials. You can't discuss social media, TV viewing habits or the state of the workforce without an in-depth analysis of this group. Can one group really command this much attention? The answer is a resounding yes. So again, who are they?

A Millennial is generally considered someone who was born between 1980 and 1999. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, there are more than 80 million Millennials in our country. They are the most technologically advanced, diverse and tolerant generation in history. They are larger than their predecessors, Generation X and the Baby Boomers, and they are now entering the workforce in record numbers. Their entry into corporate America will challenge management to create innovative strategies in an effort to engage and develop an entire generation.

To me, management is understanding, adapting to, and in some cases, adopting new ways to inspire and lead, which in the end will make your organization more successful. With this in mind, challenges will, inevitably, ensue as this generation of Facebookers, SnapChatters, and YouTubers take their seats in cubicles across America. Let's explore ways to manage and fully integrate this generation into the workplace - a generation of which this the author is a proud member.


''They don't always trust the old ethic that if they work hard everything will come out right.'' A quote that could have been said by a modern day industrial psychologist explaining how Millennials feel entering the workplace, instead, was said by L.E. Joines in 1982. Joines, who was director of human resources for the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, was quoted by The New York Times contributor Thomas Friedman in "The Baby Boom Comes of Age," an article concerned with how difficult Baby Boomers were finding the workplace. As the children of the Greatest Generation, Boomers did not conform to the social norms set out by the previous generations. There was a natural conflict between the two. Further research during this time period illustrates that hiring managers and those in the C-Suite had to, in many ways, change how they viewed and trained the newest additions to the workforce. Long hair, bell bottoms and a sense of entitlement were all workplace challenges that needed to be addressed. As Baby Boomers continued their rise up the corporate ladder, they enacted many changes. Formal training programs, sexual harassment policies and diversity positions in the workplace were made possible due, in large part, to the leadership of Baby Boomers. However, time has a way of inverting roles, responsibilities and sensibilities.

Today, Baby Boomers find themselves looking at an advanced version of themselves. And it is scary. Boomers hold the keys to the C-Suite and have developed social norms and business practices of their own. In order to manage effectively, one must have an understanding that the wave of Millennials in the workplace and the fact that they want/demand certain things is not unusual. In fact, it is a continual - generational -- process. Viewing it in this light should give a more rounded perspective to what is sometimes a very contentious issue.

The Risk

The workforce of the future will be dominated by Millennials. This is not something that can be avoided, and companies large and small will need to adjust to this reality. A recent article highlights places like Silicon Valley, where companies are adapting to Millennials - and they are flocking to them. Firms that can quickly adapt to the needs of this generation will garner the best talent, and those that do not adapt will not be in the race. Not being able to provide a work environment that this group will be able to thrive in will mean dollars and cents to the bottom line or lack thereof. In a recently released Deloitte Millennial survey, 44 percent of Millennials said if given the choice, they expect to leave their current employers in the next two years. That figure increases to 66 percent when the time frame is extended to 2020. This is a risk to companies both large and small. Looking deeper into this survey, we find that leadership opportunities and the social responsibility of an organization play major roles in how this generation feels about their work and if they are going to remain with a company. Organizations such as LinkedIn are at the forefront of changing their onboarding and talent management processes so that they remain an attractive place to work for Millennials.

A Different Approach

In The Millennial Generation Research Review, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce noted that some studies suggest that the generation is rewiring the brain with extensive multitasking training. Simply put, Millennials can look at Facebook, listen to music AND do their assigned tasks at the same time. While this flies in the face of many traditional business norms, Millennials have found a way to make it work for them. Easing policies, whether they be explicit or implicit is one approach to retaining Millennial talent. Additionally, Millennials want to see a path for growth. During onboarding, it is important to show career paths within your organization and ways to get there. Furthermore, these discussions need to be ongoing. This generation wants to know that their hard work will pay off and they need to see it displayed. The involvement of senior management is key to the overall success of this strategy. For example, employing a mentor program that is not just in name only but is focused on the new hires' future is a way to increase retention. Finally, your organization must invest heavily in technology. This is the generation that grew up playing the highest definition video games. They have always paid their bills online and put their thumb on a button to open their phones. This is the level of technology they know and expect in the business world. Continuing to invest in your firm's technological capabilities will not only help to retain Millennial talent, but will also improve internal company functions.

These are but a few of the ways in which your organization can attract, manage and retain the next generation of talent. There are many more but the discussion must start now!