Why Managing Millennials isn't Easy, But is Worth it!

With PwC estimating that millennials will make up 50% of the global workforce by 2020 , understanding what makes them tick, what they can bring to your company and how to get the best out of them is going to be critical for growing companies taking on new staff.

‘Millennials’ – broadly those born between 1980 and 2000 - have their own ideas about how things should work, and how they want to work.

While some may read this as 'hard to manage’, for the savvy small business owner these are attributes that will work well in their business, and provide a way to entice great new talent much more easily than their bigger brothers who tend to have the rigid corporate structures and information silos that millennials loathe.

So how do you satisfy these highly-educated, tech-savvy graduates? And, more importantly, ensure they stay with you?

A failure to connect

Firstly, what is it that millennials dislike about their current jobs? According to PwC’s Millennials at Work research and MTV’s No Collar Workers research two of the main areas are:

  • the lack of responsibility and rapid career advancement (that they were expecting)
  • the expectation from the twin hierarchies of dress code and office hours

Reading this alone, you may think that they want things all their way; what will you get in return? Well, along with deep knowledge of technology, millennials bring a range of must-have skills to the table, including:

  • collaboration
  • a fast-paced approach to getting things done
  • a desire to make changes
  • a head full of ideas

So how can small businesses bridge the gap, managing millennials to harness and integrate their talents?

Ideas to help unlock millennials’ talents

1. Communication

Millennials have grown up with social media, and are used to instant communication and responses. Typically, they feel frustrated if it’s unclear what’s expected of them and how it fits into the wider business – they want to be more than just a small cog, they want to understand where the company’s headed and how they can make it happen – which has got to be good news for your business. Managers can help avoid communication breakdowns through open and honest conversations about expectations – both what the company expects from the employee as well as what the employee expects from the company. Clear communication about company goals and how they can be achieved is also a must.

2. Autonomy

Many millennials are disappointed they’re unable to use their knowledge at work and feel undervalued. Among many, ‘loving what they do’ is more important than money. To tackle the problem, consider moving away from formal objective-setting and look to give staff some of their own projects where they have autonomy.

3. Coaching

The majority of millennials coveted feedback and mentoring, and believe their managers should be coaching them. However, they also felt they had a contribution to make with two-thirds thinking they should be mentoring older co-workers on technology. Despite managers believing they were acting in this way, millennial employees felt differently.

4. Fun

As a smaller company, you probably have the upper hand when it comes to being able to offer fun activities that will help your employees feel like it’s not all nose to the grindstone (and as a by-product, help to create great relations between coworkers – key to an effective and efficient company. Win-Win!) It’ll also make it harder for your fun-seeking employees to leave! Here are a few that will likely appeal:

Source: Millennials at work: Reshaping the workplace, Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PWC), 2011.