7 tips for managing millennials

Maureen Collins

There are some new kids on the block - the millennials. You might even be one... managing others!

Millennials are the twenty something’s who have come of age online. Everyone's a computer expert; they are connected all over the world by email, instant messages, text messages, video clips and the Internet. They're positive and confident, ready to take on the world, believing they're entitled to, and convinced that they can.

They're restless, get bored easily and typically handle multiple tasks simultaneously. Notice them talk to you, send texts and watch TV all at the same time. They want challenge, flexibility and a life outside work.


They're ambitious, need to know what they have to do to achieve their goals and demand constant feedback on their progress. They show little respect for formal structures or authority and are quite likely to head straight for the CEO's office when they want an answer to a question.

You might be tempted to think that nothing you learned about managing people applies to millennials. But look at the seven tips below and see how similar they are to some familiar principles.

Tip 1: Tell them what the goals are and how you'll measure success.
Millennials want to know what they must do to be successful. Tell them what's most important and why. Be clear about the standards you expect, responsibilities, communication channels, and the feedback you need. Assign work so people feel challenged.

Tip 2: Make sure they have the skills and support to get the work done.
Millennials are smart and determined. Without guidance they can become dangerous unguided missiles. You'll get their respect if you're there to support and coach them. They're used to the best and expect that from you.

Tip 3: Engage with them
Millennials have endless opinions and don't take kindly to being ignored. Ask what they think and show respect for their ideas. It's time to finally understand that you don't have all the answers. Don't bore them with your war stories. Don't ignore them, or trivialize their contributions, even when they seem way out. Expect to be surprised, and sometimes delighted, by their contributions.

Tip 4: Encourage them with positive feedback
Millennials are positive and self-assured. Encourage them; don't squash them or contain them. Old style managers spend lots of time watching out for people doing things wrong so they can criticize. Watch people bloom when you focus on giving them positive feedback; sincerely and regularly.

Tip 5: Put them in teams
Millennials aren't lone rangers; they connect, share and network all the time. Unlike earlier generations, millennials believe that teams can accomplish more and do it better than individuals working alone. Put them in teams, the more diverse the better, and capitalize on their skills. You can also mentor, coach, and train them as a team

Tip 6: Hold them to account
This rule may be one of the more difficult to enforce as children of over-indulgent parents are not often used to being held to account for their behaviour. But you must create accountability so millennials see the link between their performance and their results. Then you have to reward good performance and sanction poor, to close the loop.

Tip 7: Be flexible
Millennials play hard and are prepared to work hard too, but have not bought into the 60 or 70 hour work week of their parents. Having time for friends, activities and family is important to them. You'll get along with them more easily if you are clear on what you need them to produce but allow them flexibility, within agreed limits, on how and when they do it.

Limiting your communication to giving instructions, criticizing and assuming that you know what's right, isn't good enough for millennials. They are determined to get ahead, they're impatient, and expect the best from their jobs and everyone around them. They don't need any new management or leadership style, just that we apply familiar principles with a lot more skill than we've typically used in the past.

Maureen Collins has a B.Sc. degree in Psychology from Edinburgh University and over 25 years of management and consulting experience. In her coaching and workshops she shows people how to deal with conversations that are difficult, sensitive and potentially disastrous for careers and relationships. She has two published books: Conversations at work that get results shows how to give feedback and improve performance; How to handle conversations that scare you takes the Straight Talk principles into families and personal relationships. Get free Straight Talk Tips. http://www.straight-talk.co.za


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