Man­ag­ing mil­len­ni­als

Mil­len­ni­als, those born be­tween the early 1980s and the late 1990s, are much ma­ligned. In truth, they can con­trib­ute a lot to your busi­ness, if man­aged well.

Finweek English Edition - - ON THE MONEY MANAGEMENT - By He­lena Wasser­man

“the world is pass­ing through trou­blous times. The young peo­ple of to­day think of noth­ing but them­selves. They have no rev­er­ence. They are im­pa­tient of all re­straint. They talk as if they knew ev­ery­thing.” Add in a ref­er­ence to selfie sticks, and the quote above could be the gen­eral ac­cu­sa­tion of mil­len­ni­als to­day. In fact, it comes from a ser­mon preached in 1274AD and is part of the cir­cle of life: ev­ery new gen­er­a­tion irks the one that came be­fore.

To the Great­est Gen­er­a­tion, who lived through two wars, ev­ery­thing came too easy for the “en­ti­tled” Baby Boomers. The Baby Boomers them­selves had no pa­tience for the angsty, “en­ti­tled” Gen­er­a­tion X. Cue the mil­len­ni­als, who are ac­cused of be­ing self-ob­sessed and, wouldn’t you know, en­ti­tled.

Stereo­typ­ing a whole gen­er­a­tion is dan­ger­ous. For ev­ery im­ma­ture mil­len­nial nar­cis­sist, there’s a mini Mother Teresa in the same age group. Across gen­er­a­tions, in­di­vid­u­als are all unique, driven by unique mo­ti­va­tions. Still, there are a num­ber of new forces – like the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion and he­li­copter par­ent­ing – that have shaped mil­len­ni­als. Man­ag­ing your younger team mem­bers ef­fec­tively will re­quire new skills and a dif­fer­ent out­look.

As mil­len­ni­als started en­ter­ing the work­place in re­cent years, they brought a lot of good – they are tech­no­log­i­cally savvy, tol­er­ant, in­no­va­tive and they don’t fear change. They can see dis­rup­tion from a mile off, and can help you strengthen your busi­ness. They com­mu­ni­cate and ex­press them­selves well, and if they be­lieve in your com­pany’s mis­sion, they can be pow­er­ful brand ambassadors. On the down­side, they are ac­cused of be­ing im­pa­tient, ob­sessed with their own per­sonal “brand­ing”, in need of con­stant re­as­sur­ance and al­ways on the look-out for bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties else­where.

“Re­tain­ing and man­ag­ing mil­len­ni­als are all about cre­at­ing a strong com­pany cul­ture that they can re­late to, giv­ing them mean­ing, and al­low­ing them to thrive,” says Nokubonga Mbanga, founder and prin­ci­pal con­sul­tant at Self In­sights. As an HR spe­cial­ist, she has done a lot of work with younger em­ploy­ees, es­pe­cially as part of grad­u­ate pro­grammes, at com­pa­nies like Nike SA, TFG, M-Net and Tiger Brands.

Here are some ideas on how to man­age and re­tain younger staff:

Pro­vide pur­pose to their work. They may be very self-aware and am­bi­tious, but mil­len­ni­als also have a de­sire to make the world a bet­ter place. They grew up know­ing that the planet is un­der threat and life is short, and they want their work to have mean­ing beyond money. Your job as a man­ager is to add mean­ing to their job, says Mbanga. You need to con­stantly paint the big­ger pic­ture: how your com­pany is adding to the greater good, and how their ac­tiv­i­ties can con­trib­ute. Con­nect them to cus­tomers and help them un­der­stand how they fit into the busi­ness. “For a mil­len­nial, it’s not only about con­tribut­ing to the com­pany’s legacy – it’s also about build­ing their per­sonal legacy,” she adds.

Let them cus­tomise their ben­e­fits. Al­low them to put their own stamp on re­ward pack­ages and work con­tracts by in­clud­ing things that are im­por­tant to them, for ex­am­ple a month-long sab­bat­i­cal af­ter a fixed pe­riod, or flex­i­ble hours. In ad­di­tion, con­sider al­low­ing them to work on their own projects on a Fri­day af­ter­noon, for in­stance, says Mbanga.

Add va­ri­ety to their work. Many mil­len­ni­als com­bine short at­ten­tion spans and an ea­ger­ness for new ex­pe­ri­ences with a rag­ing am­bi­tion to ad­vance. As a man­ager, it is crit­i­cal that you help make their job in­ter­est­ing, says Mbanga. In multi­na­tional com­pa­nies, mil­len­ni­als should be moved around to dif­fer­ent coun­tries.

A re­cent re­port by PwC also sug­gests that man­agers give mil­len­ni­als spe­cial ro­ta­tional as­sign­ments to give them a sense that they are mov­ing to­ward some­thing and gain­ing a va­ri­ety of ex­pe­ri­ences. “Chal­lenge them to come up with new ways to stream­line pro­cesses and to ex­er­cise cre­ativ­ity,” the re­port states.

Also, con­sider adding more rungs to the cor­po­rate lad­der: cre­at­ing and award­ing them new job ti­tles will help sat­isfy their am­bi­tions.

Be very clear about what is ex­pected.

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