9 Tips for Managing Millennials
Stein, Guido; Mesa, Rafael; Martín, Miguel
Original document: Los millennials, el trabajo y la empresa: políticas de gestión y estilos de liderazgo
"Millennials have plenty to say... and the rest of us have plenty to listen to." This is the premise of a technical note on how to manage millennials in the workplace.
In this paper, IESE's Guido Stein, Rafael Mesa and Miguel Martín, in collaboration with Marta Bartolomé and Pilar Nicolas, provide keys for companies to adapt their management policies and leadership styles to the unique characteristics of the generation born between 1980 and 2000. This is the generation that by 2025 will make up 75 percent of the world's working population.
The authors' work draws from the conclusions of their previous publication, "The Leadership of Millennials: Profile of a Generation," which offers a more sociological and descriptive breakdown of millennials' idiosyncrasies.
Below, find nine guidelines to help adapt your organization's management policies to the particular traits of this generation, with concrete actions and measures:
1. Provide opportunities for learning and development.
Millennials, especially "junior millennials" (those born in the nineties), have grown up in a culture of immediacy, surrounded by stimuli. They are impatient, eager for new experiences, and they thrive on short-term goals with visible results.
Therefore, managers must help them identify opportunities to develop new skills. For example, managers can maintain millennials' attention by frequently assigning new and different projects or temporary positions within the same company. Most importantly, millennials want to be able to "level up": they are, after all, the videogame generation.
2. Offer a balance between personal and professional life.
Many millennials grew up with largely absent parents who were stressed out by work -- and aren't willing to go through the same experience.
Expert multitaskers, today's constantly connected young workers expect flexibility and autonomy in their work. They don't want to be tied to an eight-hour office schedule: they don't share previous generations' elevated view of in-person collaboration, or of marathon work sessions within the confines of an office. They just care about results.
3. Money isn't everything.
It's not that millennials don't understand the value of money; it's just not their primary motivation. What they value most is the attractiveness of the work itself, mobility (both geographical and between assignments), the opportunity to meet people and network, and a relaxed atmosphere.
They love being able to "customize" their compensation packages with things like additional days off, flexible hours, telecommuting, discounts or cafeteria coupons.
Although their professional motivations and objectives differ from those of their predecessors, millennials are also ambitious. They may not aspire to have many direct reports or a particular job title, but they are interested in reaching executive positions where they can have an impact on the world.
Millennials are especially motivated by dynamic, cross-functional positions. They also seek jobs that allow them to be in contact with and learn from interesting people, interacting with other professionals and teams. For this reason, their career paths should offer a wide range of experiences and not just vertical promotions up the totem pole.
Millennials greatly appreciate opportunities to demonstrate their potential and capabilities to their bosses -- for example, invitations to join a management committee or to attend an informal event with top executives.
4. Make way for more movement.
Millennials make career decisions more autonomously than their predecessors. Generally speaking, they work today thinking about the position they will have tomorrow: they will not wait around indefinitely to achieve their goals. And they don't fear change. If they can't identify a clear purpose to their work, don't see development opportunities within the company, have a hard time balancing work and personal life, or don't have a good relationship with their superiors, they will look for an exit.
To retain them, it is therefore advisable to plan more frequent career conversations (once a year is no longer enough) and have personal exit interviews with the unit head. It is very important to understand what failed.
5. Be mentors, not bosses.
Millennials infamously lack respect for traditional structures of authority. Their upbringing has been much more lax and permissive, so they don't respond well to rigid protocols or displays of power. Rather, they need their leaders to be approachable, to encourage and guide them.
Managers should take care to avoid setting themselves up as role models or flexing their authority. They should earn the respect of millennials through their professional prestige and the consistency of their actions, not through some innate sense of respect for the established hierarchy or obedience of authority.
6. Create a strong company culture.
Millennial employees are attracted to companies with a strong culture and values that are in line with their own ideals and lifestyle. They need to feel that what they do is worthwhile and has a meaning above and beyond making money. They are motivated by being part of something important that positively affects their environment.
If the company culture is not consistent, they will quickly notice and seriously reconsider whether they will stay with the organization.
7. Recognize their need for... recognition.
One of this generation's most distinctive features is the need for others' approval. They are one step short of being "addicted" to recognition, which they not only expect from their superiors, but also (and especially) from their peers.
Their work is an important part of the daily life that they so brazenly share on social media. It's another tool to convey the image they want to project of themselves.
8. Take the good with the bad.
Their inclination to publicly promote themselves, and their natural ability to build images and stories from their own personal and professional life experiences, has made them a powerful vehicle for marketing and communication. For better and for worse, of course.
It can be very effective to identify social leaders among millennial employees and turn them into brand ambassadors. This can be done by including them in employer branding activities or internal focus groups, taking them to job fairs, or making them spokespersons for the company on social media, for example.
9. Don't disconnect the digital natives.
Junior millennials are very adept at technology. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are a daily part of their life -- and work, as well. They simply cannot conceive of an unconnected life: so much so that up to 56 percent of millennials would turn down a job that denied them access to social networks.
Companies shouldn't hinder the use of technology and social media. In fact, they should take advantage of it to help build competencies across the entire organization. For example, inverse mentoring programs could help older employees learn from millennials' technological skills. The evaluation of new purchases and technological developments could also benefit from this tech-savvy generation.
Millennial's arrival in the workforce is a challenge, but also an opportunity. Managers from previous generations stand to learn more about the world we live in and to make better decisions accordingly. Millennials are here to stay: let's make the most of it.
See "Keys to Manage Millennial Talent" in IESE Insight Review.