How to Lead Millennials

Posted on Category: Corporate Culture
Leading Millennials

Leading Millennials at Work | Author: Susan Heim

Leading Millennials at Work

Millennials make up 30% of the Canadian population and within 15 years will comprise an astounding 75% of the workforce in Canada. Raised in a world that has evolved and changed since the Baby Boomer generation, this is a new breed of human beings. They are entering the workforce on terms very different from their parents. Traditional leadership and management styles which guided Boomers through their formative years do not work for millennials. If you want to set up highly functional and effective teams for the future, you are going to have to figure out the best strategies for leading millennials. Many companies are grappling with this exact issue.

Millennials are tech-savvy and connected. With Google at their fingertips, chances are they know more about some issues than you do. Instant gratification motivates them and they love collaborating. In addition, work has to fit in with their personal life. They are young, enthusiastic and bursting into the workforce full of ambition and a desire to change the world. To harness this energy into working for you, “do as I do” is definitely not going to cut it.

Therefore, let’s have a chat on the topic of leading millennials.

1. Empower Them

Enlightened Boomers raised millennials in homes where they were part of the decision making process. As a result, they enter the workforce with an innate desire for transparency from their boss. Instead of telling them what to do, managers should explain the problem to them and then ask them to solve it. Because your millennials are better adapted to using modern technology, they are also capable of coming up with solutions that will surprise you. In order to keep boredom and reduced productivity from setting in, they must feel genuinely empowered and engaged with the process. If you create a culture of empowerment, one that allows their opinion and participation to be valued, your millennials will repay you with enthusiasm, motivation and productivity.

2. Allow Collaboration

Leading Millennials at workThis is the most globally connected generation of human beings, ever. Their world includes communities of groups with common interests. Consequently, they will thrive in a workplace where they are part of a team. You will benefit greatly by setting up the work environment to allow these collaborations to occur easily and naturally. While open work spaces and easy access to meeting rooms are a good start, encourage them to use technology to collaborate. Remember, they are completely at ease with cloud computing and crowd sourcing and will work very effectively with these tools. Teamwork is a fundamental part of their psyche and your job will be to oversee and facilitate these points of contact. Ensure team meetings occur regularly and most of all, keep them in the loop.

3. Set Boundaries

Millennials are hard wired to communicate and connect via social media and texting. In addition, multi-tasking comes naturally to most. As a result, this can leave some easily prone to distractions. Banning social media and cell phones at work did not work for their parents and it will not work for you.

As their leader, you will have to set very clear boundaries to keep the work moving properly. Clearly communicate deadlines and then leave them to complete their job without cramping their style.

Also, do not forget that this generation is obsessed with work life balance. If you expect them to work unreasonable hours and then label them as lazy when they refuse, be prepared for high staff turnover and the risk of losing those productive workers you have invested in. Millennials respond to gratification. If your situation requires tightened deadlines, consider motivating them through incentives and bonuses.

4. Walk The Talk

Canadian millennials are entering the workplace with precarious employment, unpaid internships and unfair work practices not experienced by their predecessors. This has come to define their generation and they know it. If they have not faced an abusive employer already, chances are they know someone who has. Consequently, as the boss, you are in no position to demand their automatic respect. You are going to have to earn it.

Managers who want to learn how to lead millennials first need to work on mutual respect. In order to inspire and motivate them, you must walk the talk. Show them that you work as hard as they do. Nothing will turn off a millennial more than an executive who leaves early on Fridays to play golf, leaving the team behind to meet the project deadline. Demonstrate learnings through your own failures rather than boasting about your achievements. You will earn their respect through your humility but they will shun you for your bravado. Above all, inspire your millennials with authentic leadership.

Today, 91% of millennials expect to stay at their present job for 3 years or less. As corporations traditionally invest in training and developing employees for the long term, this scenario is a nightmare for HR departments. Millennials are here to stay and they will soon make up the majority of workers in our country. Leading millennials is no longer “a nice to have”. We conclude that multi-generational workplaces are simply going to have to adapt to becoming more welcoming to this dynamic group of future leaders. ^


Figure 1*: Many Millennials have one foot out the door. Two in three Millennials expect to leave one job for another job by 2020

Percentage of Millennials worldwide who expect to leave their job in the next…

Leading Millennials

*The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey


Leading Millennials at Work | Author: Susan Heim

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