Managing Millenials without getting burned in the process.

millennial workforce, millennial management
Reading Time: 7 minutes


Managing talent used to involve at least a few certainties.


  1. You knew what roles you needed to fill and how you would fill them.
  2. When people worked for you, they came into your building in the morning and left at the end of the day.
  3. You could see them and interact with them during every moment. And they could see you.


Today, things are different.

Changes on a global scale have upended these familiar patterns, and both talent and employers now seek each other out on more equal terms – from anywhere in the world.

People move more freely than ever before from role-to-role, across geographic and organizational boundaries.

These changes have undoubtedly came about due to the rise of the internet-bred millennial generation entering the workforce at an exponential rate.

A July report by the Futurestep division of consultancy Korn Ferry looks at what matters most to Millennial workers.

According to this survey, nearly 1,000 executives from around the globe were asked what their Millennial employees value from an employer. The largest percentage of respondents (28 percent) said the “ability to make an impact on the business” matters most to Millennial employees.


“It’s clear that Millennials want to know what their organization stands for and how they can impact the company’s mission,” said Jeanne MacDonald, President of Global Talent acquisition solutions at Los Angeles-based Futurestep. “It’s often difficult for older managers to find or take the time to offer the feedback that Millennials crave, but it is critical in helping them understand how their role fits into the greater organizational strategy.”


The survey also revealed differences in work styles, with nearly two-thirds of respondents saying Millennials are less likely than other generations to work long hours.

“Bosses of other generations who feel they show their own worth by working long hours need to understand this is not the case for Millennials and respect their time on and off the job,” said MacDonald.


With these millennial needs in mind, let’s take a look at four specific management strategies and how to execute them:


1. Give Millennials Feedback.

Feedback is one of the most overlooked and neglected activities by Managers today (this is not limited to millennials, but particularly well-received by them).

Most managers get promoted to management because they do their job well, not because they are good at managing people.

Most managers simply don’t have the emotional intelligence, sense of autonomy, or self-awareness to execute effective and meaningful feedback.

Additionally, as humans and we simply aren’t good at being vulnerable. There are signs written all over our past – take a look back at how archaic the feedback process was just 10-15 or even five years ago. It was often called a ‘performance review’, and they happened once or twice a year – maybe once a quarter in a company ahead of the curve. The manager would mostly read off statistics that fell on deaf ears due to the meaningless nature of these meetings. Unfortunately, many managers still deliver the same kind of feedback that lacks both meaning and actionable insight.

The millennial workplace eats purpose for breakfast, and they seek immediate and frequent feedback. If you give feedback proactively and consistently, you can reap the benefits of motivated employees and a more productive workforce.

What you can do right now: Feedback is an ongoing activity – not a yearly, quarterly, monthly or even weekly event that you put on the calendar. It feels odd at first, but a good way to get into the habit is simply asking about clear tasks in a casual way and offering your help. Start off with something casual but clear like, “How’s it going? Anything I can do to help?”. If they say no, re-assure them you just wanted to keep in touch. In this way, you set a precedent of openness and clarity – clearly stating the purpose and intention behind your question. The most challenging part of this easy-to-understand but hard to practice concept is actually starting it from the beginning, and maintaining consistency. Good employees care about their work. If you establish a healthy environment for feedback at the very beginning, your employees will expect this type of interaction. If you wait, they will likely draw many more, undesirable conclusions about your reasoning due to their emotional attachment to being appreciated.


2. Allow Millennials to Work for Multiple Companies.

This is a touchy subject, but in 5-10 years working for a single company will be a thing of the past. This can be a little hard to swallow, and may make company leaders feel a bit vulnerable.

But it’s too late to worry, you’re already naked. At any given moment, your employees have access to thousands of jobs that match their exact preferences and qualifications via  LinkedIn. On their way back from the lunchroom they can apply and schedule an interview on their smartphone.

For most people, the first action you can take right now is to educate yourself on how technology is changing the world of work, and how the nature of jobs has fundamentally changed.

The evolving workforce is a blend of full-time employees, contractors, and freelancers and – increasingly – people with no formal ties to your enterprise at all.

This demands implementation of a talent management model that can be quickly, constantly configured and re-configured. Traditionally, companies have focused on the talent and workforce within their organizations and on their balance sheets.

Today companies are expanding their talent into diverse and far-reaching networks including “partnership talent” (employees who are part of joint ventures), “borrowed talent” (employees who are part of contractors or outsourcing relationships), “freelance talent” (independent and individual contractors), and “open source talent” (people who don’t work for you at all, but are part of your value chain and services).

This is a trend that will ultimately rewrite what the term “workforce” actually means.

You already have very limited ‘ownership’ of your employees, and your control will exponentially lessen.

What you can do right now:

1. Stay focused on results: the main benefit of the future of work finally arriving is improving the quality and efficiency of work – don’t let it pass you by. Many executives who are having trouble adjusting to working in the cloud, fail to see that focusing on results is easier than ever. The marketing and advertising world moved to the internet, Google’s digital advertising revenues amount to $60 billion per year – because of the value digital brings to tracking meaningful results and/or data.

2. Set proper expectations: working multiple jobs isn’t for every employee or every manager. As the new world of work evolves, you can further optimize your efforts by being selective about to which jobs you apply ‘new work of work’ concepts. As always in business, work to minimize your risk.


3. Include Millennials in Company Strategies.

With instant access to information since they were old enough to cross the street, millennials have an eye for authenticity. Millennial engagement strategy aside, authenticity today is more important than ever.

Today, leaders in business face a lack of trust as evidenced by Edelman’s 2016 Global Trust Barometer. The study, which has been conducted annually since 2001, found that recently there has been an “inversion of influence.” It elaborates and provides more data showing that those in leadership positions at NGOs, companies, and in government are less trusted than those who were employees, academic experts, or outside analysts.

In order for companies to earn the trust of a millennial generation that communicates, shares, reads and consumes media at far faster and higher rates than any previous generation – you must walk the talk.

Being transparent about the details of your organization’s high-level strategies and goals is the only way you can start.

What you can do right now:

1. Make sure you define touch-points (how, when, where, how often) with your millennial employees early and often, even if they are small.

2. Include millennials in performance related communications (emails, meetings, etc.). Be sure to keep them updated on the performance of your team. This can be as easy as a descriptive email with screenshots. However, this task can vary in difficulty depending on the function. If you’re working in the marketing department for example, this will be much easier because everything is measurable. If in a different, less tangible function – you need to make sure an effort is made to inform them in a meaningful way – even the entire company revenue for the month can be shared with all employees.

3. Include them in cross-functional activity whenever possible (or start implementing cross-functional activity if you haven’t). Remember, the whole point of this strategy is being inclusive and genuine – the feedback millennials need internalized to be motivated and perform.

4. Ask for input on all things digital (after all, it is a skill they were practically born with). This can be as simple as asking what they think about the recent company Facebook posts. Or, for some of you older folk out there – maybe they can help you finally figure out how to get Slack working on your iPhone.


4. Give Millennials Flexible Work Hours.

Millennials always want instant access to their work, from anywhere – this is a good thing – ideas and inspiration doesn’t always come from 9-5. It is proven, that some of our best ideas come when we get out of the shower in the morning, or maybe some of us like to crank out some work when we feel energetic before bed at night.

Most millennials are ‘always on’ their smartphones, checking them on an average of 43 times per day. They’re not only looking at their Facebook feed – ambitious millennials are checking their email (probably multiple), responding to messages on Slack or Skype, even outside of typical 9-5 hours.

Would you give up the “when” of completing projects if you could get more done in less time?

What you can do right now: Again, focus on results. You should have noticed by now that this is a re-occurring theme in the new world of work. Technology gives us abundant opportunities to visualize data, so you have to take advantage of it. Less in-person collaboration is OK as long as you capitalize on the opportunity to utilize technology that improves communication efficiency. Taking into consideration the available technology, and the exponential rise in computer-based work – it is extremely likely that you can already benefit from using collaboration platforms by getting more out of the hours your employees work.



In conclusion, some of these strategies might some odd to you, or even borderline negligent and unethical.


But remember, above all, millennials want to be entrepreneurial. As millennials continue to change and break the rules, the same may be necessary within your organization as well. The evolution of the internet allowing the most necessary business intelligence to be available instantly, on-demand, has given a new meaning to the word entrepreneur. Your leverage is depleting and shifting to your employees. Millennials have the power to influence your company’s perception among thousands of people from a single post to their social network.

Make no mistake, the responsibility to retain millennial employees is solely in your control as a company – it’s up to you to decide to proactively manage it and act now.



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