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7 ways to get the most out of Millennial employees


In today’s workplace, many supervisors have to manage people from four different generations, all of which respond to different kinds of carrots, sticks and management styles. The breakdown:

  • Traditional workers: born before 1946
  • Baby Boomers: 1946–1964
  • Generation X: 1965–1979
  • Millennials: 1980–1995

According to anecdotal information and research (see box below), managers in U.S. organizations are having the hardest time managing the newest entrants to the work force.

Millennials—also known as Gen Y or the Entitlement Generation—carry the reputation of being opinionated, tech-savvy multitaskers who were raised on constant praise, whether they deserved it or not. Researchers say the result is a generation of workers who don’t like to take orders and have no fear of job-hopping.

The key to managing this generation is flexibility. Millennials crave it. As long as they produce results, don’t violate company policy and aren’t shown favoritism at the expense of co-workers, it’s wise to try to manage to their strengths.

Here, according to researchers, are seven ways to coax the most productivity out of Millennial workers:

1. Place them on teams. Millennials perform best and are happiest when working as part of a small group. They grew up as parts of social and technological networks with friends and family.

2. Offer a plan for success. Millennials work best when they have timetables and goals that spell out the steps they must take to succeed.

3. Avoid the “my way or the highway” approach. Get-tough approaches send Millennials looking for other jobs. They don’t fear disciplinary action or being fired. One report said Millennials think of themselves as products on eBay, willing to quickly jump to the highest bidder down the street. 

4. Provide face time. Try to offer employees—especially Millennials—some amount of feedback and interaction each day. The Entitlement Generation grew up with constant parental guidance, and they expect something similar in the workplace. Millennials expect to knock on your door and be able to ask questions about any subject almost anytime they want.

5. Don’t motivate with traditional workplace values. Provide fulfilling and challenging work for Millennials, and try to allow them to balance career and play. That’s more important to them than job security, climbing the corporate ladder or sacrificing for the good of the company.

6. Don’t ignore their ideas. Millennials will freely offer opinions on a variety of topics, but they expect bosses to implement at least some—or at least take them seriously. This generation grew up with parents, coaches, relatives and teachers who aimed to nurture their creativity, not say “no.”

7. Don’t be easily ruffled. Millennials aren’t afraid to tell managers or senior co-workers that they are wrong. As long as they do it respectfully, allow them to share their opinions.

Which generation is the toughest to manage?

Millennials               53%

Generation X           17%

Baby Boomers        14%

Not sure                   16%

Source: Atlantic Associates survey