Talent Management

Managing Millennials: Leveraging Their Strengths to Benefit Everyone

The recession has changed the attitude of many members of the Millennial generation when it comes to work.

Millennials have out-sized expectations for their careers.

They have been told they can be anything and do anything according to their terms. They are conditioned to expect trophies for participation. Their work is to be both financially rewarding and soul-fulfilling. They’ve been reared on examples of college dropouts turned instant CEOs.

Feedback is interpreted as less about their performance and more about their context or environment.

Living life through The Facebook Fallacy

Compounding this carefully constructed cocoon of parental safety is compounded by something I call the “Facebook (or Instagram/Twitter) Fallacy.”

Facebook is a projection of everyone’s perfect world. It’s like the 20-year high school reunion magnified over social media. Facebook “realities” are contrived narratives where no one takes a bad picture, receives negative performance feedback, or gains weight.

For Millennials, the message is everyone else is getting promoted, has six weeks of vacation, and is busy solving world hunger while they are compiling quarterly customer acquisition reports on Friday night. The vacuum between expectation and reality can lead to disenchantment and chronic disengagement.

So, while we have defined engagement largely by how employees talk about their employer and give discretionary effort, we may have to re-think engagement for the Millennial.

1. Let’s give ‘em something to talk about

No Millennial would dare reveal his/her plebian status doing entry-level work at unexciting company XYZ. So, be diligent at providing the talking points and the photo-ops.

Celebrate publicly your company’s success in creating a best workplace, commitment to giving back to the community and fostering employee recognition.

2. Skin in the game

Millennials are not shy entrepreneurs. Their ideas have been encouraged since the womb, so give them a voice and hold them accountable for following through.They could form an advisory committee on everything from entry-level orientation to cafeteria offerings.

3. Recognize their unique abilities

Yes, their high-maintenance personalities can give their Baby Boomer managers fits. But, their unique blend of self-importance, idealism and expectation can be a force for good.

No one knows about how to appeal to the Millennial like one of the tribe. Millennials are the most affiliated generation in history. They need to identify with a brand, cause or a position.

Let them help you develop your value proposition for employees, recruits and clients.

They need lots of feedback and recognition

They know their way around social media, so give them a voice in developing your business case, strategy and training for employees of other generations.

Regular feedback and recognition is like air to them, so have them help institute a culture of both in your organization – not just demanding it, but coming up with a business case, plan design, and implementation strategy.

As parents, we created these Franken-workers and foisted them on the world, but as employers we can leverage their strengths in ways that are mutually beneficial.

This was originally published on PeopleResult’s Current blog.

Barbara Milhizer, CCP, SPHR is a partner at PeopleResults, a human capital consultancy focusing on change, organization, talent and communications/new media. Barbara’s background includes over 15 years of HR with key leadership roles in rewards & recognition and talent strategy at both Accenture and PeopleResults. Contact her at bmilhizer@people-results.com.
  • Patti johnson

    Great post, Barbara. Agree – use their strengths to the organization’s benefit!

  • Michele Polo

    It sounds like millennials are some kind of mythological creature, but overall I really like the article, it has some undeniable points. Besides Facebook fallacy, that is indeed something peculiar to millennials, I guess that everything else could be applied, with success, to any employee.
    I think that desire for a blazing fast career is something related to being young (and “hungry”) not to being part of abstract category.
    (Yes, I am indeed a millennial, but from the depressed part of Europe :) )

  • John Ludike

    There are so many young graduate Millennial out there so key message is perform, prove yourself or move on . Take time to assess and select correct ones but if no impression left within 90 days best to not confirm permanent appointment

  • Ara ohanian

    In the next couple of years Millennials will form the majority of our US workforce. They are great people to have on board, that said, I think it’s difficult to generalize across half your workforce. My view is that we should try to ensure everyone has skin in the game, is recognized and gets feedback. I don’t think Millennials are unique in this approach to work and by recognizing their traits as common to us all we can benefit the whole organization.

  • Alex Corrado

    Good to know there are some decent people out there who don’t think Millenials are the scourge of the Earth. There’s also no question that the reality of entering the workforce and managing your relatively young career has radically changed in the last decade or so, and that everyone’s trying to get on with the times