Managing Millennials: What You Need to Know

February 3, 2015 | Jennifer Goodwyn

Whether you refer to them as Generation Y, echo boomers, or millennials, the bottom line is that millennials are becoming more prevalent in today's business world. In fact, millennials made up nearly 40 percent of the workforce in 2014 and are expected to make up 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025. Although they have a reputation for being entitled, lazy, and difficult to manage, millennials can be excellent employees when managed and nurtured properly. Here are some tips for managing, leading, and directing the most connected generation in history.

Promote a Work-Life Balance

Millennials live by the motto “work hard, play hard.” Although past generations were willing to sacrifice their personal life for career advancement, millennials understand the importance of personal time. As manager you should encourage millennials to manage their own schedule or work from virtual offices, yet continue to promote diligence and dedication. Flexibility isn't just important to millennials – it's the most important incentive, behind cash and benefits, to all generations. Explore work models based on outcome and production instead of counting how many hours are spent behind a desk.

Get Personal

Traditionally, personal issues were off limits in an office environment. Managers were told they couldn't ask about an employee's personal life; doing so could upset an employee or land managers in legal hot water. In a traditional office structure, the line between personal and business had to be maintained at all times – but, millennials are anything but traditional. Millennials expect their managers to treat them like a friend, not just another cog in the machine. By asking personal questions, such as what movies they've watched recently or their weekend plans, you'll show millennials you actually care about them.

Take Advantage of Electronic Literacy

If you're a Boomer or an early Gen-Xer, you can learn a few things from your millennial employees. After all, they grew up at the height of the Internet age – most had access to cell phones before they could drive, knew how to operate a computer before they were old enough to vote, and spend a considerable amount of time on social media networks. They're connected, ahead of the curve, and love trying out new technology. If your workforce is lacking in the technology department, hire a millennial and encourage them to educate the rest of the team on everything from Pinterest to Tumblr.

Feed Them Feedback

Millennials have grown up with tons of feedback: when they play video games, they get a score. When they send a text, they hear a sound confirming it was sent. Millennials have lived their entire lives in a world that's rich with feedback, so don't let it stop in the office. Recognition in an office setting can come in many forms; everything from verbal praise to cash prizes and bonuses. If your company doesn't allocate a percent of payroll for recognition programs, you may wish to reconsider – especially if you plan on having a millennial-heavy workforce in the near future.  

See Beyond the Stereotype

Millennials might have a negative stereotype surrounding them, but this doesn't mean every millennial is selfish and lazy. When acknowledged and explained, a millennial's behavior could actually make the company stronger and communication smoother. If you avoid hiring millennials at all costs, you'll be missing out on their out-of-the-box thinking and unique skillsets. If you see beyond the stereotypes of entitlement and laziness, and you might be surprised at what millennial employees can do for you and your company.