Seven Key Points for Managing and Developing Millennial Talent

The following is a review of a Marcus Evans webinar on Managing and Developing Millennial Talent, which ran on the 30th March 2016. The webinar features Apprentice Asia winner and former chief of staff at Air Asia, Jonathan Yabut.

The workplace is changing, yet again. There have been the adorably named Baby Boomers, the strangely named Generation X and now, to use a term every bit as loathed as it is nebulous, the millennials. A generation described at varying points as both lazy and too highly-strung, or as both socially conscious and entirely self-centred, it’s easy to be confused by this throng of apparently profoundly conflicted individuals.

Of those hired in 2015, 45% were millennials; this figure is predicted to surpass 75% by 2020. Here are some key points, taken from the advice offered by Jonathan within the webinar.

1. Know who millennials are

Some millennials doing, presumably, millennial things.

It’s not enough to know that a potential employee is a ‘millennial’; that’s like walking into a fishmonger’s and asking for ‘the one with scales, please’. The term ‘millennial’ encompasses a richly diverse group of people, and can only be approached using the broadest of descriptors. Jonathan offers up the idea that millennials can be defined as having been born between the 80s and 90s, often being tech-savvy and purpose-driven, particularly with the aim of giving back to society.

2. Understand how workers see themselves

There is a significant difference between how HR managers perceive millennials and how millennials perceive themselves, as evidenced by some quite staggering results from international studies presented by Jonathan.

Most striking is the following result, in which Gen Y employees and HR managers were asked whether they believed that ‘millennials were loyal to their employer’. A very healthy 84% of employees questioned believed that they were loyal. Compare this, if you will, to a single percent of HR managers who thought the same. The results were attributed to differing views on what ‘loyalty’ entails: for millennials it means a year, whereas for HR managers the figure was closer to five or above. By attempting to reconcile these discrepancies, you can avoid those slight, niggling miscommunications such as calling your entire workforce disloyal.

As a side-note, the same study revealed the wholly depressing statistic that only 14% of employees considered themselves to be ‘fun-loving’. It’s my sincerest hope that the majority of the remaining 86% are fun-liking, or at least fun-ambivalent.

3. Take the IKEA approach

Jonathan uses IKEA’s flat pack formula in order to convey the point that ‘autonomy leads to engagement’. A chair you’ve built yourself is, no matter how much of a hideous affront it may seem to chair-kind, a chair you’re more inclined to enjoy — insofar as it’s possible to enjoy a chair.

A selection of chairs. None of which you built; all of which are worthless.

Millennials value their work to be guided rather than dictated to them. To illustrate this, 60% of Gen Y employees saw their boss’s role as that of a coach or mentor.

Jonathan does however add that it’s important to stress teamwork alongside individual success, advising the wearing of a ‘corporate hat’. (Providing an actual corporate hat is not necessary. If anything, employees should build their own corporate hats! But don’t do that, either.)

4. Offer more frequent feedback

Jonathan asserts that millennials ‘constantly seek affirmation, online and offline’, adding that if a social media post goes five minutes without a comment they ‘don’t feel loved any more’ — a comment I found so offensive that I almost forgot to check my hourly Instagram likes report.

Jonathan recommends feedback sessions that, while informal, are more frequent. Mentorship should be a shared responsibility, forming a two-way street between employer and employee.

5. Millennials are less money-driven

Following in the footsteps of the Beatles’ “Money Can’t Buy Me Love” is the new and updated (and sadly inaccurate) “Money Can’t Buy Me Opportunities for Personal Development”, which is what 65% of millennials value most about an employment position.

When looking to outreach, Jonathan says, HR managers should focus on culture rather than salary. This includes photos, videos and social media posts which tell, as Jonathan puts it, the ‘human stories’ of the workplace. Any windows, computers or ceiling fans that want to get in on the storytelling should be shunned with extreme prejudice.

6. Hire based on resilience as well as talent

The ideal candidate should have bucketloads of grit! (Not literally, although it never hurts to be prepared.)

The interview process should attempt to ascertain if the candidate has ‘grit’. (For the particularly keen readers out there grasping for a shovel, this does not involve spreading the candidate over an icy road.) In Jonathan’s experience, adaptability and hard work are two of the key attributes that should be sought in the employment process — attributes which come under the umbrella term of grit. General questions should be eschewed in favour of specifics, such as an example of conflict and how it was resolved.

7. Avoid the ‘Peter Principle’

A famous theory formulated by Laurence J. Peter in 1969, the Peter Principle states that a competent employee will be continually promoted right up to their level of incompetence. In order to avoid this, Jonathan advises the weighing up of ‘success potential’ along with past successes when considering suitability for promotion.

And that wraps up the seven top tips for managing and developing millennial talent! It should be noted at this point, as Jonathan does, that the information contained within should be taken with a grain of salt. Generally speaking however, the advice can be boiled down to focusing on culture, increasing the frequency of feedback and offering autonomy while encouraging teamwork.

Download the webinar and its accompanying slides here:

Connor O’Malley,

Marcus Evans
101 Finsbury Pavement,
London, EC2A 1RS