Once you gain a better understanding of why it is that millennials have been branded with the particular traits attributed to them as employees, you start to realise that it has very little to do with their age or being part of a particular generation. It has everything to do with the current societal and working environments into which millennials have been introduced.
These environments have been heavily influenced and engineered by baby boomers and Generation X (I am an X). Those generations only have themselves to blame for the difficulty they now have in trying to understand why a new generation of employees appears difficult to manage.
Psychology of millennials
It is unhelpful and short-sighted to head down the well-worn path of moaning about how difficult it is to manage millennials because they lack loyalty and ‘job hop’, have a poor work ethic, want a promotion before they’ve even started to understand their craft, and feel otherwise ‘entitled’.
The reality is, millennials are just like any other generation, only they find themselves in a world that is more informed, faster-paced, and technologically far more advanced than that of the generations that preceded them. It is also a world that has less certainty around job security and potentially less hope (particularly in a post-GFC economy). The baby boomers felt the after-effects of the Great Depression, and Generation X had ‘the recession we had to have’, but neither was reared in a post-GFC environment (rather they were the architects of the GFC!).
Provide clear direction and purpose
With the above in mind, how do you gain a better understanding of how to manage millennials? Firstly, stop looking at millennials through an artificial generational prism. At their core, millennials are just like any other generation: they want to feel secure, they want to be trusted, they want to be liked, and they too want to be successful and part of something that is a success.
They are also a generation that has had access to information like no other, and this means they are also inquisitive like no other. This means they will often question what they are doing when it is not immediately apparent that it serves a meaningful purpose. This can be misinterpreted as lacking in work ethic or as insubordination, when it really comes from a place of wanting to better understand the purpose. Employers should really see this as an opportunity for the employees to buy into the work and emotionally invest in the work. The natural outcome is likely to be passionate and harder-working employees who are very likely to outperform the generations that have gone before them (and might even be managing them).
Use their collaboration skills
Millennials are also said to respond well to working in teams in a collaborative manner but at the same time thrive if they are permitted a degree of independence and ownership of a project or part of a project.
Other considerations that will help businesses best harness the depth of talent that millennials have to offer may include access to technological solutions and flexibility in working arrangements.
Communicate your core purpose
Employers should invest time in making sure their millennial employees understand the business’s purpose, and if it is something they can believe in and get behind, then you will find no employees as loyal as your millennials. Something your business will need to do is be able to articulate the core purpose of the business, and it is only then that your millennials will decide whether it is a purpose worth getting behind and investing in.