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Generation next: How to manage millennial talent

Managers and their young employees have much to learn, and gain, from each other

IESE Business School
Published: Mar 12, 2019 05:01:16 PM IST
Updated: Mar 12, 2019 05:03:50 PM IST

Generation next: How to manage millennial talentImage: Shutterstock

Millennials have plenty to say. And given that by 2025 this generation will make up 75 percent of the world´s working population, the rest of us would be wise to listen.  

With that in mind, here are five steps senior employers should take in order to not only attract those born between 1980 and 2000, but also build successful professional relationships with them.

1. Offer a balance between personal and professional life.
Many millennials grew up with parents who were perpetually stressed out by work and often forced to sacrifice time with family and friends. They’re unwilling to endure the same grind.

Today's constantly connected young workers are multitaskers who expect workplace flexibility and a certain degree of autonomy. They don't want to be tied to a rigid eight-hour office schedule and don't share previous generations' valorization of marathon work sessions within the confines of an office. They just care about results.

2. Communicate that money isn't everything.

It's not that millennials don't understand the value of money; it's just not their primary motivation. What they value most is being engaged in and motivated by the work itself, mobility (both geographical and between assignments), the opportunity to meet people, and a more relaxed atmosphere than traditional offices provide.

They love being able to "customize" their compensation packages with things like additional days off, flexible hours, telecommuting options and cafeteria discounts.

Although their professional motivations and objectives differ from those of their predecessors, millennials are nonetheless ambitious. They may not aspire to a lofty job title, but they are interested in reaching positions where they can have a positive impact on the world.

Millennials are especially motivated by dynamic, cross-functional positions. For this reason, their career paths should offer a wide range of experiences and not just vertical promotions up the totem pole.

3. Be mentors, not bosses.
Millennials have a not-entirely-underserved reputation for disregarding traditional power structures. Their upbringings have been much more lax and permissive, and they tend to dislike rigid hierarchies or showy displays of power. They prefer their leaders be approachable while encouraging and guiding them.

Managers needn’t coddle millennials, but should take care to avoid flaunting their authority. They will better gain the respect of millennials through consistent actions and professional expertise.

4. Create a strong company culture.
Millennial employees are attracted to companies with values that align with their own. They need to feel that what they do is worthwhile and meaningful. They are motivated by being part of something important that positively affects their environment.

If the company culture does not follow a set of clearly defined ideals, millennial employees will quickly take notice and seriously consider leaving the organization.

5. Don't disconnect the digital natives.
Technology is second nature to “junior millennials” born in the ´90s. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are a daily part of their lives, and that includes work. They simply cannot conceive of an unconnected life, to the point that 56 percent of millennials would turn down a job that denied them access to social networks.

Companies shouldn't hinder the use of technology and social media. In fact, they should take advantage of it to help build competencies across the entire organization. For example, inverse mentoring programs can help older employees learn from millennials' technological skills. Identifying social leaders (or influencers, if you must) among millennial employees and turning them into brand ambassadors can also be very effective. This can be done by including them in employer branding activities or internal focus groups, taking them to job fairs, or making them spokespersons for the company on social media.

To be sure, the millennial workforce boom presents challenges, but also opportunities. Managers from previous generations stand to learn more about the world they live in and to make better decisions accordingly. Millennials are here to stay: let's make the most of it together.

By Guido Stein, Professor of Managing People in Organizations, IESE Business School.

[This article has been reproduced with permission from IESE Business School. www.iese.edu/ Views expressed are personal.]

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