We're in a time where Boomers and Gen-X'ers are managing Millenials. And, vice versa. Promoting Millennials to management has been known to leave many a manager in a cold sweat. Why? Because passing the torch to the next generation is never easy -- but, hold onto it too long, and you just might get burned.
I'm sure we don't need to tell you about the plethora of stereotypes surrounding Millenials: the differences in communication style, how they lead, how they like to be led. The list goes on and there's no one-size-fits-all strategy to managing millenials effectively and grooming them into rockstar managers. Therein lies the challenge and the opportunity.
At 53.5 million strong, Millennials, adults ages 18-34 in 2015, now make up one-third of the total workforce. They outnumber Boomers by almost 9 million and Gen X-ers by nearly one million -- and they won’t be going away. By 2030, Millennials will account for 75 percent of the workforce. Like it or not, it’s time to take these so-called "kids" seriously.
The Millennial Mindset
Millennials grew up in a different world, one rife with technology and instant gratification, so their expectations of work and home are entirely different.
While Millennials have been rather harshly accused of being pampered and entitled, they can be extremely motivated, productive, and effective in the workplace. Wipe away the cold sweat -- Perhaps all that's needed is a change in perspective and management approach to lead this energetic, forward-thinking group of individuals towards success.
Let’s look at a few strategic HR management best practices that can help turn the Millennials of today into the rock star managers of tomorrow.
Understanding And Appreciation, No Matter The Generation
Every generation brings a different set of core values and experiences to the workplace. In order to succeed as managers, Millennials will need to appreciate these generational differences, find common ground, and collaborate on a level that is comprehensible and efficient for everyone involved. And, this attempt at understanding goes both ways. By modeling this behavior in your own workplace interactions, you can set the tone for tomorrow today.
Strategic HR Best Practices Tip: Provide management and staff with coaching on key generational differences. For example, help Millennials understand why older members of the team expect and value in-office work hours, as opposed to working remotely from the local coffee shop. Understanding what motivates these expectations can help Millennial supervisors better manage a multi-generational team.
Going Above And Beyond When Necessary
On one side, Millennials are used to being told exactly what to do. When they look at a job description, they think of it as a checklist of definite expectations to be followed to the letter. While that’s a great attitude, it can lead to problems when a project calls for them to go above and beyond the call of duty.
Is this the case for all Millenials? Most definitely not. Striving for excellence, strategizing and planning for success even after the end goal is achieved, and working overtime are qualities that are innate to an individual, not just a single generation. If you just so happen to work with Millenials who are self-motivated AND have that rare combination of business acumen and emotional intelligence, then I'd say you have the beginnings of a winning team percolating in your workplace. Lucky you.
Strategic HR Best Practices Tip: Make sure Millennials understand the thought process behind job descriptions as a general guideline. Emphasize that expectations will evolve over time and ongoing communication is key to a smooth and productive working relationship. If you have the opposite challenge of working with highly motivated Millenial strategists, then your management style may need to be directed towards managing those high expecatations and, wherever possible, supplying your team with the resources they need to thrive and achieve your organization's goals. It truly is a fine balance.
The Importance Of Independent Decision Making
Millennials often expect mentorship and direction -- especially from leaders they admire. They’re used to working in teams and understand the value of consensus and collaboration. Unfortunately, they’re not always known for being independent thinkers especially if they shoulder a lot of responsibility in their role. But, just because they’re not used to making big decisions on their own doesn’t mean they’re not capable.
Strategic HR Best Practices Tip: By putting Millennials in a position of responsibility and giving them the room to think on their own, you can encourage independent thinking and help them develop their decision-making skills. This is essential to their future success as business leaders. Make yourself available to hear them out and be a sounding board when needed during this learning process -- A little bit of support goes a long way with this group.
Understanding The Organization As A Whole
Milliennials aren't exactly content to sit in a cubicle and play the role of a cog in a meaningless machine. They’re big picture people, and they want to understand why they’re doing what they’re doing.
Strategic HR Best Practices Tip: Provide Millennials with a plan that shows the organizational workflow of the company in terms of who answers to who, which roles perform which jobs and -- most importantly -- WHY. The goal here is to connect your ENTIRE team -- not just your Millenial employees -- back to your overall strategic plan. Engage your staff, let them know where they fit in the organization, and why they’re important to the end goal.
Setting Boundaries For Sharing
Millennials have grown up with technology and social media channels that encourage a constant state of connection. They’re used to sharing everything and may not understand when they’re crossing the line in terms of what’s appropriate professionally -- at least to Gen X-ers and Boomers who are often perceived as being more, shall we say, conservative.
Strategic HR Best Practices Tip: Boundaries and acceptable behavior are organization-specific. Depending on the level of formality apparent between managers and staff within your company, it may be a good idea to brief your Millennial employees on the importance of professional relationships and boundaries, especially in a managerial position. Without these social mores in place, leadership becomes difficult, engagement flags, and collaboration and productivity may fail.
Achieving Work-Life Balance
Millennials, like Gen X-ers before them, value work-life balance. They prefer not to have work seep into their play time, and they don’t want to force that problem on anyone else. This means they somtimes have a tough time enforcing deadlines and pushing their teams to work extra hours when necessary. And, it's not uncommon for motivated Millenials to take on more of the work themselves to meet a deadline rather than inconvenience team members.
Strategic HR Best Practices Tip: Let Millennials know that you understand the importance of work-life balance. Emphasize that there will be times when that balance has to shift more toward work in order to get things done. Let them know that by making such sacrifices and leading by example, they’ll not only be more successful, they’ll also earn the respect of their team. On the flip side, for those leaders that have the opposite problem of too much work, limited resources, and a team made up of self-motivated Millenials with a do-whatever-it-takes mentality, it may be a good idea to support your young team with whatever they need to continue their fast pace: the flexibility to work from home, a little bit of time off when things slow down (80-hour work weeks can be tough, don't you think?), and a pep talk when responsibilities start to weight heavily on their shoulders.
With your guidance, Millennials of today can be the rock star managers of tomorrow. What strategies are you going to use to help prepare your future business leaders for the managerial spotlight?