4 Steps to Managing the Millennial Generation
They’re confident, educated, and, according to a 2012 study, consider money, image and fame more important than values like self-acceptance and being part of a community.1
Their life centers around technology, not people. Welcome to managing the Millennial Generation, young adults born after 1980.
It’s estimated that within the next 10 years, millennials will make up the largest percent of the workforce. So how do you manage this new generation? And how do you create synergy with other generations?
Create a Millennial-Friendly Culture
Millennials transform the workplace. Their characteristics and styles impact how managers think and act. Build a millennial-friendly culture by following these 4 steps:
1. Engage with your millennial employees. Millennials are relational. They want to have a relationship with their manager or boss. Challenge yourself to connect with them. Make it a priority to ask about their hobbies, interests, and ideas. “One of the most threatening things to the millennial generation is to feel like they don’t have a good relationship with authority,” says Chip Espinoza, author of Managing the Millennials: Discover the Core Competencies for Managing Today's Workforce. “If you show an interest in investing in them, they will be loyal.”
2. Give millennials a voice. Let millennials participate in the decision-making process. Ask for their feedback about hospital procedures, services, and client communication. Put their imagination to work. They want to participate, so consider their opinions.
3. Let millenials problem-solve. According to Espinoza, one of the top frustrations for millennials is the pace of their career development. Allow them to challenge the system. Allow them opportunities to demonstrate their ability. Give them a problem-solving project to keep them engaged, interested, and learning. “Millennials see things from a ‘new’ lens, and they desire to prove themselves,” Espinoza says.
4. Give regular and instant feedback. Millennials want to know they are doing a good job and they want to know now. Instead of an annual review, give them more regular and less formal feedback. But keep it constructive. Your message will be much more effective that way. “Make your feedback developmental; make it learning,” Espinoza says. “Make it something that’s going to help and improve them, not put them down.”
The Challenges of Managing the Millennial Generation
One of the biggest challenges of managing the millennial generation is that they upset the status quo. Their attitudes, values, and behaviors change the workplace setting.
Millennials want to have a voice from day one. They don’t want to do busy work. They want to put their mark on the practice. That presents tremendous challenges for practices where processes are already in place. “Particularly in the veterinary industry, millennials come out with high expectations about where their careers are going and how fast they’re going to get there,” Espinoza explains.
Millennials also tend to blend life and work, which can be challenging in an industry - like veterinary medicine - built on structure. “How easy is it to blend life and work when you’re on call? When your clinic is open six days a week?” Espinoza asks.
Perhaps most distinguishable about the millennial generation is their relationship to authority. They prefer to keep it casual and informal. “Because of the Internet and technology, millennials don’t have a self-need to build relationships upward. They will look for answers to problems everywhere before they will approach an authority figure,” Espinoza states.
Failing to reach out to authority is what often creates a lot of frustration in organizations. But don’t take it personally. It’s not the millennials’ fault, Espinoza notes. It’s the world they’ve grown up in.
“Particularly in veterinary medicine, you have a generation of people that the only way they got to where they are today is by reaching out to authority,” Espinoza says. “They might look at the millennial generation and take it personally.”
Bridging the Generation Gap
Creating harmony between generations in the workplace can be difficult. Each generation has different attitudes, learning styles, and work ethics. So how do these diverse groups co-exist and how do you manage them?
It centers on understanding: understanding the differences in attitudes, behavior, and communication. “Seek to try and understand the values of generations and their experiences,” Espinoza explains.
Second, focus on the employee’s experience, not your own. Don’t make your experience the basis of what the entire team needs to accomplish. “Effective managers have the ability to suspend the bias of their own experience,” he adds.
Finally, build rapport between generations. Make sure knowledge is shared and passed down. The only way this happens is through relationships. “The greatest investment you’re going to invest in is your people,” Espinoza says.
1. Generational Differences in Young Adults’ Life Goals, Concern for Others, and Civic Orientation, 1966–2009. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Available at ttp://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp-102-5-1045.pdf