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8 best practices for managing millennials

What is the most important thing you can do to improve your relationship with your millennial employees? Understand them and work with their strengths. Today, millennials make up a huge percentage of the workforce, and so it’s essential to both appreciate how to effectively manage them and understand how to encourage their leadership skills.

If your company isn’t effectively managing millennials, then even the most impressive list of benefits won’t keep them at your company. They will be looking elsewhere—and will leave as soon as they find something better.

A strong company needs strong management practices that play to the strengths of their employees. Here are some tips with easy-to-implement practices that will help your organization get better at managing millennials.

First of all, it’s important to make sure that you understand who your workers are and what matters to them most. Millennials play an increasingly large role in the workplace, and they bring unique attitudes, experiences, and perspectives.

  • Millennials are less likely to stay in a job simply for a paycheck. According to research we did in partnership with The Ladders, they tend to choose a job for a certain work experience, and if they do not get that expected experience, they are likely to look elsewhere.
  • They are looking for jobs that provide meaning and purpose. They are drawn to brands they connect with—and will stay with and advocate for companies that honor their promises and make them feel like what they do matters.
  • They want to use their individual talents and strengths to achieve their best. If they aren’t given opportunities for personal and career growth at their company, they are likely to move on.
  • They prefer real-world, practical actions that actually show results. Clearly defined goals and regular feedback are essential to them.

Managing millennials is like managing anyone else—you’ve got to find the tactics that make it easier to drive their development and enhance how you communicate:

  • Offer ongoing feedback. An annual performance review just isn’t enough for this generation. They want regular feedback and regular assessments of how they are doing.
  • Give them opportunities for professional growth. According to research by Cone Communications, 93% of millennials are motivated by the ability to take classes, learn new skills, and advance in their careers.
  • Incorporate meaningful personal experiences. 90% of millennials in the workforce are motivated by chances to explore new places and meet new people.

Be sure to establish and share clear and consistent goals for individual employees, teams, and your overall company.

  • Collaborate on goal-setting. Allowing your employees input on their personal work goals motivates and engages them more than simply having goals assigned to them.
  • Make the goals clear. You should be discussing these goals frequently with individual employees, your entire team, and your corporate leadership.
  • Set milestones along the way. Be sure to celebrate all achievements—however small. We found that 87% of millennials are motivated by personal recognition.

Millennials can be strong team players, but like anyone, they like to feel a sense of team spirit and want to feel like they are part of their company’s success. This means that as part of managing millennials, you need to offer them opportunities to work as part of a group with others.

  • Provide mentors and/or team leaders. Millennials are the kind of employees who will check with others before starting a project, are eager to offer their own ideas, and willingly listen to the input of others.
  • Let them work together. Because teamwork has been cultivated in their schooling, sports, and play, millennials work much better together to accomplish clear goals.
  • Create communities. Millennials love to advance the welfare of a group—even over their own individual success. They have grown up creating both virtual and real-world communities focused on shared interests, values, and goals. Managers should nurture this sense of community in order to attract, engage, and retain millennial employees.

Millennials tend to want to make a statement with their lives and with their jobs. They need to feel that what they do is meaningful and actually makes a difference in the world. This also serves to increase employee engagement—which in turn improves employee retention rates.

  • Initiate recycling programs at work, and enable employees to pursue philanthropic causes affiliated with your company. Research by Cone Communications indicated that 75% of millennials are willing to take a pay cut in order to work for a socially responsible company, and 89% expect their employers to provide activities for environmental responsibilities in the workplace.
  • Allow them to dedicate part of their talent, energy, and time to social and environmental issues. We’ve found that 83% of millennials want companies to help them contribute to social and environmental issues, and 89% want to be active participants in helping their company improve its responsible business practices.
  • Provide opportunities and resources for them to make positive social and environmental changes at home. 83% of millennials want this support from their company, and 84% want their company to help them find ways to get more involved in their communities.
  • Let them share. 76% of millennials want to be able to share their personal photos, videos, and work experiences on their own social channels. 75% want to use designated company hashtags to do this.

Most millennials grew up in an environment where they were almost constantly tuned in to electronic devices. This has impacted their overall skill set in both positive and negative ways.

  • Give them access to new equipment and programs. For millennials, navigating internal as well as external communications comes naturally, and multitasking is an art form. They thrive with new technologies.
  • Provide them with data to organize, synthesize, and arrange. Most millennials can easily organize and understand immense amounts of data and compile it into easy-to-use, organized formats.
  • Consider two-way mentoring programs. One of the best ways to help millennials with their weaknesses is to take advantage of their strengths. Let baby boomers and Gen-Xs who struggle with new technology learn from your millennial workers—and have them in turn coach your millennials on how to improve their in-person interpersonal communication skills.

Do your employees feel that their job allows them to utilize their strengths while improving on their weaknesses? Send them a survey to find out! Create survey→

Millennials, with their interest and attention to social media, are in the perfect position to become excellent brand ambassadors for your company. Job seekers today still turn to family and friends, as well as a company’s current employees for information—and so do potential customers.

  • Make sure that they begin with positive experiences. During recruitment, hiring, and onboarding, millennials are already developing their feelings and attitudes about your company—and its promises. Gallup polls show that only 12% of employees strongly agree that their company does a great job of onboarding new employees. Positive experiences at this stage can help them turn into brand ambassadors. Consider using a recruitment satisfaction survey template to evaluate your employees’ feelings about your recruitment, hiring, and onboarding processes.
  • Encourage them to use social media to offer their insights and feedback. Because the use of social media comes naturally to millennials, it is more likely to inspire potential new job candidates. They are ready to speak out on your company’s behalf and encourage those they know—and don’t know—to apply for positions or buy your products. You can count on frequent, sincere sharing about your company, its products, and services—and their personal job experience.

Millennials want more out of their life than simply sitting for eight hours behind a desk. They care most about jobs that offer them flexibility, a sense of autonomy, and a better life. In order to motivate millennial employees, offer flexible benefits that will ultimately lead to more productivity. Here are some ways that they prefer to work, based on our research and that of Gallup’s:

  • Let their work and personal lives overlap. More than a third of adults say that staying in touch with their personal life while at work is important, and this number rises to 48% among male millennials. The top three activities they see as appropriate at work are texting, personal phone calls, and using social media.
  • Count on them to be constantly connected. The upside for managers and employers is that more than any other age group, millennials believe it’s reasonable for you to expect them to answer work-related emails outside of business hours (43% vs. 39% overall), and millennial men are even more likely to agree (47%).
  • Consider allowing relationships inside the workplace. One-fifth (21%) of millennials admit to having had a romantic relationship with a coworker. Prevent secrecy and discomfort by giving employees the option of making their relationship known.
  • Make telecommuting and flex scheduling possible. More than any other group, job flexibility matters to millennials. Flex schedules and telecommuting come naturally to them—and they actually offer you optimal work engagement if they are allowed to spend 60 to 80% of their time working outside of the office.

Whatever changes you choose to incorporate as you continue managing millennials, remember that employee feedback is essential to improving performance and job satisfaction. Consider using a management performance survey to find out how your employees really feel about their supervisors and the job they are doing.

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