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Working With Millennials: Turn Your Frustration Into Results

By Jayne Jenkins (1237 words)
Posted in Management on July 10, 2014

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Recently I was walking through the lobby of my office building when I overheard a mother at the reception desk encouraging her twenty-something year old son about an impending job interview.  The mother said, “Look her in the eyes, sit up straight and believe you can get this job! They need someone as amazing as you. Text me once you come out, and I will bring the car to the front door."


Minutes later that same son was introduced to me as the interview candidate for a new position we were filling. I introduced myself, and we got started. Overall, the son performed average at best in the interview.  Unfortunately, he asked very few questions, showed little passion and could not differentiate himself from other candidates.  He genuinely did not seem interested in the marketing role we had open.


I hear similar stories of frustration from leaders who are trying to hire, engage and lead Millennials.  Like all generations, the millennial generation, born between 1981 and 2000, has some common general drivers:

  • They grew up in the 90's, an era that paid a great deal of attention to children's issues.
  • They are the high-speed, digital, multitask generation. 
  • A majority do not appear to show as much respect to or appreciate seniority (unlike older generations).
  • They respond positively to personal attention, but may resent anything they perceive as negative feedback.
  • They embrace collaborative leadership and value intergenerational goodwill.
  • Personal safety is a top concern, not surprising when you consider many grew up in the wake of 9/11.

These younger employees are creative, bright and have a great deal to offer.


If you are struggling with how to lead and manage Millennials, you are not alone and there are solutions that create a sweet spot for you and your Millennial talent.


First, understanding some key traits, such as Millennials need numerous and varying tasks to work on to reduce boredom, will help you with their engagement. 


Also try to incorporate the following suggestions into your day-to-day management:


1. Over-communicate, all the time.

Most Millennials grew up in a warm, supportive environment, in which they were constantly told they were the best or brightest (the "everyone gets a trophy" approach and remember the overly encouraging mother from the beginning of this article). As a result, their thirst for immediate positive feedback is never-ending. Accept this fact and be sure to:

  • Over-communicate. Just when you are sick of communicating a certain subject, your team will just about be clear on the message.
  • Conduct regular team meetings
  • Provide feedback, good and bad, in the moment
  • Shine the spotlight on those who truly deserve it
  • If you need to terminate a Millennial, be sure to provide clarity on why and how

2. Go heavy on the rewards and consequences.

Millennials can be cliquey. They run in packs in and out of the office. This means they'll celebrate one another's success and at the same time complain why Mark received the promotion and not Jasmine.  Work smart:

  • Provide clear, written guidelines that detail the career path to success at your organization. When there is a promotion, then provide an explanation why it was earned.
  • Be transparent why Jasmine did not get the promotion and why Mark did. Millennials have not experienced job loss yet, so when a "trophy kid" does not get a promotion, the group feels their pain.
  • To energize and focus the workplace use open, honest and written communication.
  • Focus on what they can do for future career growth. Encourage their potential.
  • Be clear that they are ultimately responsible for their personal growth

3. Accountability should be consistent and crystal clear.

Provide clear goals with measurable, time bound outcomes (SMART goals). Have regular conversations based on the progress of those outcomes. Note the term “outcomes” and not “steps.”  Any effective manager needs to give some autonomy to the employees and allow them space to achieve the result required (assuming they have the training and skill needed). The degree of autonomy and delegation depends on the readiness of the employees.

Hold annual (or more ideally bi-annual) performance reviews for each employee. All large organizations do this because they have learned the benefit if done right.


4. Meet halfway and learn from them.

Try meeting your Millennials halfway by participating in non-workplace events with them, such as charitable events they support or social events they invite you to. Also, reward them in a way that is personal to them (e.g. concert tickets).


5. Find their passions.

Many of our more experienced generations have worked very long hours and in a "command and control" work environment, such as following direction and doing what needs to get done.  Apart from the military most work environments have changed. A possible consequence to that over time is disengagement. In fact today 70% of the US workforce is not fully engaged. An advantage with Millennials is that they have passion and strong beliefs so seek to understand their passion, how it aligns to your business and how it can be channeled for greater performance. An example is their strong commitment to social networking and a better working environment, both of which can be channeled well in many businesses to accelerate performance.


Bottom line.

No generation has all of the answers, but by understanding and embracing the diversity of each one we can create harmony and greater productivity.  And, most importantly – no matter which generation an employee is from ­– the secret is to accelerate their greatest potential by understanding and channeling the strengths of each employee and minimize limitations that can get in their way.

Finally, the most important tip to working with the Millennials is to be authentic as this is a generation that prizes authenticity above all else.  


{#/pub/images/JayneJenkins3.jpg}Written by Jayne Jenkins, CEO Churchill Leadership Group-Jayne, a STAND OUT Master Strengths Coach and Workshop Facilitator, is a leadership business veteran working with some of the largest companies in the world including Exxon, AstraZeneca and Sanofi-Aventis.  She has over 23 years of experience leading successful sales teams and holding positions in Marketing, Strategic Operations and Organization Development.  As CEO of Churchill Leadership Group, Jane consults and coaches teams to maximize the impact of Managers and Teams through a focus on STRENGTHS for sustainable results.


Do you have a question for Jayne?  Post it in our Senior Manager Community and she will be happy to help: Ask an Expert


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Comments (1)

Jim Shaffer posted on: July 12, 2014

In other words, do exactly what you should do for any age group.

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