Millennials, also called the Y Generation are people who reached adulthood around the turn of the 21st century. Today, Millennials are in their 20s and 30s, ready to take on the world, expecting to give a lot, but also receive no less than they deserve. To a manager who represents another generation, leading Millennials can be a real challenge. But to a Millennial Leader, it could be even more challenging.
No matter which generation you are, here are a few tips on what you are expected to do and what steps to take, when leading a team of Millennials and building a team culture that everyone can relate to.
Lead, don’t manage
Millennials don’t need management. Many of them do not even know the meaning of the word because they have never been managed nor have they ever managed anyone else themselves. They require brave, headstrong leadership instead — someone who doesn’t only keep them on track but someone who can above all inspire them. They need someone to look to when understanding their team’s common values and purpose. To a generation who is constantly contemplating life, existence and their personal ambitions, knowing they work for a clear, common and achievable goal is the cornerstone of great team collaboration and overall workplace happiness.
Challenge, listen and offer change
No one like a boring job, especially the Millennials. The Y Generation is all about challenge, novelty and testing boundaries. They are great at self-motivation and constantly pushing themselves forward. A nudge from a leader every now and then keeps them on the track and engages, but push them too much and too far, and you’ll push them right out the door. Your responsibility is to create a challenging and exciting environment, your team will take it from there. Another thing about Millennials is that they are not afraid to speak their minds and let you know if something is bothering them or if change needs to happen in some area of their work or your business. Take the time to hear them out.
Provide flexibility and good work-life balance
Have a look at the graph below. Having a successful career and earning tons of money doesn’t exactly come at the top of the list for Millennial’s. However, don’t be fooled by this. Millennials are very career oriented and motivated to achieve great things, but not at the expense of their personal lives. They work to live, not the other way around. Career comes much higher on the Millennial priorities list than the need for free time. Overall, this means you have to provide the Millennial a work-life balance that fits their needs and priorities. Freedom to choose where and when they work might have been a benefit in the books of some previous generations, but not to the Y Generation — they take it for granted and so should you as a leader. The harsh truth is that they will never put your business or career ahead of their own personal aspirations, family or lifestyle. If not given enough freedom, they can easily opt for starting a business themselves or shifting to somewhere where their need for balance and flexibility is valued.
Give constructive feedback — early and often
Millennials have grown up in the era of social media. They’re used to getting constant feedback on mostly everything they do — the good, the bad, the praise, and the ugly. A pat on the back every now and they just doesn’t cut it for a Millennial, and neither does an avalanche of criticism. Although they require more encouragement and recognition than any other generation, above all, the Y Generation needs something they can actually use in order to grow, develop and set higher goals. Most Millennials consider receiving no reviews nor feedback for their work as not being appreciated in the workplace. For them, regular positive affirmations go a long way in achieving higher employee engagement, happiness and as a consequence, much more success as a team.
Give them meaning
Why are you doing what you are doing as a team and who does it benefit? Millennials, more than any other generation, wants their lives and jobs to have a deeper meaning and a universal impact. They don’t care that much about the revenue you earn, or the salary they make right now, or the promises of a better tomorrow for themselves professionally. They are driven by societal progress as much (or even more) then their personal growth, and they are constantly asking themselves if what they are doing has any purpose other than simply doing business and making money. Ignoring that as a leader, will at some point make your Millennial ask themselves the question, why am I here at all if I could do something so much more awesome someplace else.
At the end of the day, Millennials are not some peculiar breed of people who need a special kind of approach. But growing up in politically turbulent but also extremely convenient and technology-driven times leaves a mark on an individual. Being affirmed on a daily basis that everything is possible and you’re the only one in charge of your destiny might sound a like cliche, but there’s an entire generation out there living (and crushing it) while acting according to this uplifting mantra. As a team leader, you have to keep that in mind.