4 Mistakes Most Leaders Make When Managing Millennial Employees

— May 29, 2019

In recent years, you will have heard it a hundred times and read it in countless articles: millennials are dominating the workforce. Today, more than one third of US employees are between the ages 18 and 34.By 2020, millennials will comprise half of the American workforce, and by 2030, they will make up 75% of the global workforce.

And, in fact, so substantial is their impact on the workplace (and on the world in general), that they are likely the most studied generation in history.

In nearly every corner of the world, managers, community and civic leaders, marketers and business executives are discussing millennials; their behaviors, their beliefs, and their attitudes.

We need to understand how this generation differs from their predecessors. By applying this knowledge, we create highly engaged employees and consumers. On the other hand, if we don’t figure millennials out, we can barely scratch the surface when trying to recruit and retain them, let alone get the most out of their potential.

And so, as business leaders, it’s time to face the truth: many of us may not be currently well-equipped to manage the mindset and motivations of millennials.

Where We’re Falling Behind

It’s been a while since the approach to management has been properly updated at large, and that is likely why this approach seems to be crumbling in the face of millennials.

To make matters worse, unfair assumptions are made about this entire demographic, with employers branding them as lazy, entitled, and non-committal. Millennials are also called out for being notorious job-hoppers.

Many leaders are struggling to inspire this generation. It appears as though the perks being offered to millennials by companies today are not valuable to them, while the perks that do matter to them are not offered as part of most company cultures.

It seems that the odds are stacked against millennials; many are quick to define them by their weaknesses. But millennials, like every generation before them, have their unique strengths – for instance, they are the most educated and culturally diverse generation so far.

It is up to leaders working at companies of all sizes to manage millennials successfully. And the best way to learn is from our mistakes. Here are 4 potentially costly mistakes you could be making as a leader when it comes to millennials.

Mistake #1: Failing to Motivate Them

Or, this could also be noted as “trying to motivate them the wrong way”. All leaders strive to create a meaningful working environment, with good leaders playing a hands-on role in motivating their employees regularly. But millennials may not be receptive to your current motivational strategies.

So then, how does one motivate millennials? According to Gallup, a third of millennial employees believe feedback is the single most important factor for professional improvement. However, the study found that less than 20% of surveyed millennials received routine feedback.

The key also lies in how this feedback is delivered. Give your millennial employees more face time at work. Regular one-on-one interactions boost engagement and performance. Millennials prefer constant interaction to a boss who meets them only occasionally.

A mentor-mentee relationship could be highly beneficial as well. In an experiment conducted by Sun Microsystems, the company established a program in which senior leaders mentored millennial employees. The mentees were more likely to stay with the company compared to those who did not participate in the program.

Mistake #2: Misunderstanding their Motivations

This may seem similar to the previous point, but it is quite a different mistake that leaders are making at large today. Ask yourself, what drives an employee to go the extra mile?For some, it is money. For others, it is security. For millennials, it is something else completely.

Millennials are motivated by the mission of their company, or rather, by the purpose of their work in the larger sense. A study informs us that 84% of millennials would choose to make a difference in the world over professional recognition.

Millennials greatly value being appreciated, and they seek a positive, enjoyable working atmosphere over financial compensation. As a business leader, it is important to charge the work atmosphere with meaning. Help millennials see that they are working towards a purpose larger than themselves. This enhances employee engagement, leading to greater retention.

Mistake #3: Denying them Professional Freedom

Millennial employees are known to push for work-life balance and flexible working hours. What they’re really asking for is professional freedom, and this term has more to do with how the job gets done.

Millennials are intimidated and frustrated when a boss stands over their desk, micro-managing and telling them to do a job in a certain way. This generation craves creative freedom to complete a task the way they know they can – so long as they have a specified deadline and tools to get the job done.

If it’s a job that can be completed at home, let them do it from home. Once you give your millennial employees the space and freedom to work, you will be surprised to note the high level at which they will perform.

Mistake #4: Overlooking Employee Training

Millennials crave professional development, with 75% of employees showing a keen interest in career growth opportunities. In fact, nearly 87% of millennials rank professional development as a critical desirability factor for any job.

It is equally critical for managers to find the time and funds to invest in the career development of millennial employees. This is not only the key to ensuring deeper engagement, it also helps develop employees who are better equipped to offer value to the company.

Millennials are smart, there’s no doubt about that. Their intuition and self-education helps these fast learners figure out the latest technology and delve into a vast range of interests and activities. In the same way, they are highly capable of learning and adapting new methodologies.

As a leader, you can consider setting a pace for professional development in the workplace. This could involve paying for your millennial employees to attend conferences or seminars, organizing routine training sessions, or inviting outside speakers in for a talk. In fact, sometimes all you have to do for this naturally curious generation is simply provide them the time to “self-teach” and they will learn new methodologies and develop their skills on their own.

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Author: Paul Keijzer

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