Managing Millennials

Anyone born before the mid-1980s knows that Millennials - those who were born afterwards - in the main are fundamentally lazy, self-centred, disloyal snowflakes who think that the world owes them a living.

Right?

You know that. Everyone does. Why even mention it? The reason is because it’s not true. (If you just choked on your coffee, then take a few minutes now to recover.) 

 

It turns out that millennials are no different from anyone else.

If you want to blame anyone for promulgating this myth, then look in the mirror. You’re the one who has believed all the rubbish in the media. Maybe you wanted to believe that it was true regardless.

 

What do Millennials want?

Millennials want what everyone wants: fair pay for their work; job security; opportunities to grow personally and professionally; to be promoted; recognition for what they’ve achieved, and a good boss - someone who trusts them, is honest, and who won’t take advantage of them.

These aren’t demands; rather, they’re desires. What may make them seem like demands is subsumed under what some regard as disloyalty.

 

What does disloyalty look like?

Among other things, it’s the propensity to change jobs frequently.

A survey by Deloitte in 2016 showed that 25% of Millennials expect to change jobs the following year, 44% thought that it would be in two years, and more than two-thirds in three years’ time. That’s a lot of turnover.

 

Why are people seemingly in such a hurry to move?

Two reasons.

Maybe you’ve forgotten them.

First, the opportunities for promotion are slim.

Remember the Horizontal Revolution? That period about 20 years ago when organizations en masse deleted its middle management. Hierarchies flattened. Three jobs became one job. And even though more people are now employed in the country than ever, hierarchies are still quite flat compared to what they were. That means that if you want to advance your career, that you’ll have a better chance of doing it if you keep moving.

Companies used to do this routinely. You’d work someplace for a few years. Then you’d be given a promotion and have to move to some other part of the country to take it. That doesn’t happen so much anymore.

 

The second reason is that there is no job for life.

There used to be, but there isn’t now. And so it means that if people aren’t getting the things that we would all like, then they’ll look for a job with someone else in the hope that they can get it there. Can you blame them?

Before companies broke the psychological contract, changing jobs was frowned upon. If your CV suggested that you moved around a lot, you had to have a really good reason.

When organizations told people that they couldn’t expect to work for them for 20, 30, or 40 years, as their parents had done in the past, employees quickly realised that it was up to them to figure out how to manage their careers.

When that happened, the game changed. Now organisations had to give people reasons to stay.

 

What do you suppose is the fastest way to persuade your employees to leave voluntarily?

  • Low pay, or at least a large disparity between what ordinary workers earn and those at the top? (Perception is everything. The only value employees are interested in is what they think they give. Most of them have no idea what you do.)
  • A boss who takes the credit when things go well, but blames his subordinates when things go wrong?
  • No chance of promotion unless someone dies?
  • Managers who lie to them?
  • Managers who are never satisfied with their work or who micromanage them?

 

How many of these is your organisation guilty of? How many of them are true of you?

 

There’s something else you should be aware of.

Maybe it even scares you a little. Millennials are digitally savvy. Most of them are too young to remember when the first desktop computers were sold. A sizable percentage have never known life without the Internet. Almost all of them have been given a mobile phone by the time they’re teenagers, and many get them before their 10th birthday. They care about your organisation, and the veracity of whatever it is that you’re telling them - instantly.

 

Millennials are intelligent.

They may not have qualifications that you have, but they know how to use most technology better than you do. What does that mean? It means that traditional work bores them. If you’re honest, then you’ll probably admit that you’re bored much of the time, too.

The difference is that this generation has known from the beginning that it was in their power to find and do meaningful work. All things being equal, if you knew you could change jobs and do something more interesting and which allowed you to use all of your skills, wouldn’t you probably leave your current employer?

Millennials will.

 

That brings us back to the title of this article: Managing Millennials.

How do you do it?

You give them all the things that any reasonable employee would expect and should expect. That’s all. Millennials are no different than you.

They have the same work ethic. They simply do things differently. You’ll get your best from them by giving your best to them. Isn’t that true for all of us?

 

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