Ten Tips for Managing Millennials — Combining Inspiration and Empowerment
by Tiffany Saulnier, MBA
Millennials are not constrained by the expectations that are set for them. We think big, dream and view the world as a sphere of infinite possibilities. Millennials are a bit idealistic. We grew up in an era of unparalleled “boom” and want to help get people back to our glory days of growth and learning. Millennials are truly changing the world.
To manage millennials effectively, you have to learn how to lead millennials effectively. A millennial myself, I know we require a different style of leadership. Gone are the days of command and control, and welcome are the days of inspiration and empowerment.
Millennials demand great company leaders. Millennials demand great local managers. We want to learn and grow. We want our work to be meaningful. And we want to be given the visibility and opportunity for career advancement.
Here are 10 tips to keep in mind as you manage millennials:
- Great Leadership Is Great Leadership
High-quality managers — those who listen to their teams, connect one-on-one, clarify expectations and drive performance through accountability — will continue to deliver high-quality management for their millennial team members. Millennials are more similar to than different from other generations, and are very diverse in their needs, wants and expectations of a manager. Just as any other generation would, we desire effective leadership.
Think about your strengths as a leader and apply those same strengths in managing millennials.
- Development as a Top Priority
Development is performance; performance is development. Millennials want to talk about development all of the time. It’s not just a monthly or annual conversation; it’s a conversation topic integrated into every discussion you have. Millennials want to know that they are learning and growing through each experience. We want clear goals and priorities, so we know where our development needs to occur. Development is what motivates performance for us.
Make development a priority in your ongoing conversations with millennials; integrate developmental topics — strengths and areas for growth — into meaningful conversations.
- Work Must Be Meaningful
Recent Gallup data suggests meaning is more important than money. Millennials want to know that the work they do will have a real impact on the people around them, on society as a whole and on the betterment of the world. We must be interested in the work we do and know that it is contributing to the larger organization’s mission and vision. Millennials want to know that the work that they do matters.
When delegating responsibilities and talking about specific performance areas, link the responsibility or performance issue to its contribution to the larger goal or mission for the organization.
- Advancement Is Key
Millennials want to know the next steps in their career with the company. We desire learning and growth. We were raised in decades of rapid technology advancement. Millennials are accustomed to continual change and have very high expectations for how their career advancement journey will evolve. While millennials value upward advancement, lateral and cross-functional development opportunities may provide additional levels of engagement for us with regard to career advancement.
Integrate career advancement into regular discussions with millennials. Be as transparent as possible in explaining the importance of growth and learning in every role.
- Contribution to Mission and Vision
While not as important as development and management quality, millennials want to know that they are contributing to the mission and vision of the organization. We want to feel connected to the long-term, broad scope view of what the organization is aiming for and know that our work matters to those moving the company forward. Millennials are less inclined to join an organization that does not align with their personal values and with their personal mission.
Continue to reinforce the company’s vision and mission in goal setting and in determining performance priorities.
- Engagement versus Satisfaction
Despite perceptions of millennials as needing “hip, modern, open-concept and fun workplaces,” we really just want to be engaged at work, similar to other generations. It’s not just about satisfaction; it’s about engagement. While sweatpants and espresso machines might lead to a happy workplace, millennials need much more than that to be satisfied. We want to be focused, grow, be cared about and be able to do our best every day.
Identify what engagement means to each individual and take simple action steps to meet the needs of individuals, teams and partners.
- Boss as a Coach/Mentor
Millennials don’t just need a formal boss. We want a manager who will be our mentor, coach and partner in helping to support development. Millennials want an advocate, someone who will be a champion for their ideas and fight for their involvement. We want a manager to inspire us by setting high goals, talking about future possibilities and openly sharing the leadership potential they see in us. Millennials want a leader who will empower them to make decisions and take risks. It’s not just about delegating and following up. It’s about “getting work done through people” and “getting people done through work.”
Identify what each individual needs in terms of feedback and regular conversations from their manager. Be sure to support them through achieving their performance expectations.
- Constant Feedback and Conversations
Beyond once-a-year performance conversations, millennials want to know how they are doing at all times. We view development as a top priority and, as such, view feedback as constant. It should be given at all times, regardless of whether it is positive, constructive or neutral in tone. Millennials don’t just want to be told what to do, they want to engage in meaningful conversations to get feedback and give feedback. We want to provide input for decisions and actions. We want to be held accountable and want everyone else to be held accountable consistently.
Find out how each individual prefers to get feedback and deliver your feedback accordingly. Don’t just view feedback as a one-way discussion, but engage in a two-way conversation, asking questions to drive meaningful understanding.
- Talent Strengthening
Only three in 10 millennials agree that they get to do what they do best every day. Just as with other generations, it’s important to identify talents and start to intentionally invest in those talents to develop strengths. We perform best when we are at our best. There is a connection between who we are and what we do best. There is a connection between what we do best and how we feel. And there is a connection between how we feel and how we perform.
Identify the talents of your individual team members and create opportunities for your team to be at their best every day.
- My Job Is My Life
Millennials are getting married later, if at all, and are having children later in life, if at all. With this shift in family values, millennials place heightened emphasis on their career advancement and professional development. It’s not just about a job; it’s about life in the job. We don’t just want to live to work, but we want to work to live. Purpose in our roles at work is extremely important.
Encourage connecting both the inside and outside of the professional environment. Promote friendships at work and foster an engaging environment with one-on-one partnerships among your team.
Millennials are unattached to a specific company. Being comfortable with change, we can be content changing companies to promote our continued personal and professional development. However, millennials want to be connected to their organizations. We want the support of our managers, to know that our work is connected to a higher purpose and to build relationships with our colleagues.
The millennial generation brings about a necessity to know one’s self, regardless of your generation. This change will have a profound effect on how we live and work in the future. Perhaps the most important action managers and leaders can take to keep up with this change is to first understand their own talents, and then to continually focus on and grow the unique talents of their teams.
Join Gallup for an unprecedented Summit on everything millennials. Breakthrough analytics reveal how they want to work and live, and what they mean to your business.
Tiffany Saulnier is a Global Learning and Development Manager at Gallup. Tiffany consults with and coaches Gallup clients on strategies to increase individual and organizational performance using strengths-based development, engagement and well-being approaches. She creates meaningful learning experiences and fosters deep coaching relationships to build on individual potential, elevate team performance and harness organizational capability to drive change.
Tiffany’s top 5 strengths are: Achiever | Responsibility | Competition | WOO | Activator
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