Tips for Managing a Millennial Workforce

Written by Paul Marchildon, on November 5, 2013.

Bewildered by millennials? Maybe you should ask their parents for help. Google and LinkedIn host popular “Bring Your Parents to Work Day.” At Northwestern Mutual, managers send notes or call parents to let them know their intern children have hit sales goals. Enterprise lets parents of new employees sit in when managers describe the job. Eight percent of college grads have had a parent come with them to an interview. Not all Millennials like to tote Mom to work, but it is one indicator of the huge shift in work habits and preferences of Generation Y – one that demands a corresponding shift in management practice.

Managing them like older generations doesn’t work – but maybe managing older generations like Generation Y can! Many of the techniques of effective Millennial management can be applied across the board.

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  • Offer feedback. And keep it coming. Traditional reviews are done annually, or semi-annually, if you’re lucky. Your Millennials might not be around for that long. Providing ongoing constructive feedback is one way to lower turnover. They need to know how they’re doing, what they can improve on, what they’re doing well, and how their contributions are viewed. A review system that incorporates a manager review, self-review, and peer review creates fertile ground for these discussions and gives the Millennial – or anyone – a good 360 view of their performance. Informal, and frequent, feedback – “Hey, good job on that project,” or “Next time, try using this technique and see what happens” – should supplement more formal reviews.
  • Foster a Continual Learning Environment. These are people who grew up with the concept of third and fourth screens. They can Google anything. They don’t have to wonder what that little thing on the end of their shoelace is called (aglet, by the way), or how to splice video and edit in graphics. They can look it up. With constant access to information, they are voracious learners. If they’re not learning at the job, they’ll feel maxed out. Why bother being here? Opportunities for training and development keep Millennials engaged.
  • Provide stimulation. Or, better yet, let them pursue activities and initiatives that stimulate them. We harp on innovation. We need it; we want it; we value it. Well, let them at it. Build it into the job and provide them opportunities to bring new ideas and thoughts to the table. Let them be the voice of innovation – and make sure that voice is heard and acknowledged. New projects, different avenues of growth, training opportunities, cross-training – whatever it is, stimulation is not entertainment to mollify workers. It is growth to develop leaders.
  • Be more flexible. 45 percent of Millennials would choose greater flexibility over pay. The 9-5, cubicle model doesn’t work. Why sit at a desk when I could do the same work at the coffee shop? Why come in at 9:00am when I do my best work at 9:00pm? Too many companies still play “Big Brother.” They need to see their people in the office, working – or pretending to work while they shop online.
  • Clearly defined goals. You’re worried about productivity. So communicate measurable expectations and objectives to your people, and then let them go. Whether they fulfill those responsibilities at the office, at the park, at home, or at the Laundromat between spin cycles, doesn’t matter. No, that’s not true. It does matter because you’re getting happier employees who are self-disciplined and able to blend work and life.

By 2028, Generation Y will account for 75 percent of the Canadian workforce. That doesn’t mean we’ve got 15 years to figure out how to manage them! It means we have that time to develop them into capable, effective leaders and to redefine work. Mom said she was ok with that.

Paul Marchildon

Paul Marchildon

A self-proclaimed Leisureologist and Motivational Speaker, Paul Marchildon applies his vast expertise in human engagement to help leaders create more productive, effective organizations. Building on an influential career as a pioneer in employee incentive and loyalty programs, strategic creative communications, social media and mobile marketing, Paul provides insight into the advantages of incorporating a leisure culture in the "work" place. He is past president of Society of Incentive and Travel Executives’ (Site) Canadian Chapter and founder of Atlantis Creative Group (now part of Maritz Canada). He is one of a select group of Canadians who have received the Certified Incentive Travel Executive (CITE) designation.