As Facebook nears its epic IPO, led by 27-year-old Mark Zuckerberg, even the most hardened veterans must admit that the millennial generation has changed the face of how we do business.
In this era, if you want to compete in many industries, your managers need to attract, motivate and retain this next generation of talented young business minds.
If you're used to a different way of working, that means first understanding a few things about millennials.
Who is the millennial generation?
Millennials is the name given to the generation born between 1980 and 2000, which means anyone under 30-ish. Sometimes this group is also called Gen Y, Gen Next or Echo Boomers.
They're a confident generation, because they were brought up by parents who taught them they can do what they set their sights on, and so they have a high level of expectation about what's possible.
They are entrepreneurial and independent, yet they love to be part of a team and love feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment in their work.
They don't think like their parents, though, and you can't manage them the same way you managed the Gen Xers or Baby Boomers.
If you have millennials on your team, here are eight things you should know as a manager to get the best out of them.
- They want to be respected and acknowledged for their contributions.
They know their value and they want to be an integral part of the team, and to hear you recognize what they do. If you lie or talk down to them, they'll leave.
- They are hungry for honest feedback and mentoring.
They want a manager who trusts them and is willing to teach them. They love to be mentored, and they'll ask questions and take your coaching well. Monitor their progress regularly with them so they know you're watching, and they can feel good about their improvement.
- They're great working on teams and want to be included in meetings, events and social conversations.
Millennials were brought up with a spirit of cooperation and teamwork, and have trust for their team members. Put them on teams with more experienced people, and invite them to client events and other meetings. Show that you welcome their input.
- They have other interests outside work and want a balanced life.
Millennials work hard but they're not workaholics. They are accustomed to juggling work, social life, civic duty and personal interests, and they want to have it all, and aren't interested in a job that leaves room for nothing else.
- They're happiest with a flexible schedule.
Millennials don't see much point in the 8 to 5 grind. They like when they have the freedom to work in spurts, take breaks during the day, and maybe finish up in the evening. Lighten up on the schedule requirements if you possibly can, but keep checking in and hold them accountable for their results,
- They need to be plugged in and connected to their technology.
Texting is their communication method of choice, and they prefer to IM than to call you on the phone. Learn to communicate their way. And yes, they actually can get their work done wearing those headphones. Let them use their technology how they want, not how you think they should.
- They are open minded and embrace diversity.
Most millennials have been taught to embrace diversity and individuality, and don't relate to racist, sexist or bigoted ways of thinking. They're not focused on appearances, particularly the smart ones (notice how Mark Zuckerberg always wears a hoodie?), so the more flexible you are, the happier they'll be.
- They probably won't stick around too long.
If the challenge isn't there, or if they don't feel respected for their contributions, they'll move on quickly. Even if they like a job, they're likely to change jobs every few years just for variety. Do your best to give them what they need, but when it's time for them to move on, support them in their growth.
As I review these points, I realize that little of what is here is exclusive to millennials. Most of us crave strong leadership, honest feedback, a flexible schedule and being included in the interesting projects.
There's a lot to learn from these team-oriented, creative, caring young workers, and they are the future of business, so the sooner you welcome them onto your team, the better for us all.
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