Managing Millennials: 5 Quick Tips

Which scenario best describes your current management frustrations with the twentysomethings entering your organization?

  1. You just explained appropriate corporate protocol only to then discover their questionable comments and postings sprinkled throughout Facebook, FourSquare and Twitter.

  2. You are perplexed by their informal communication style, both written and verbal, with seemingly cryptic acronyms and expressive emoticons.

  3. You spent thousands of dollars on new technology…for them; trained and accommodated them, but they end up leaving for the seemingly cooler company with a younger culture.

  4. You keep seeing ear-buds when they’re hanging out in the office…actually, why does it look like they’re hanging out as opposed to working?

If any one of these scenarios, maybe all of them, resonates, you understand the shift that is taking place inside organizations as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 75 million Millennials  (individuals born between 1980-1999) have joined the workforce. While many of today’s leaders are frustrated with the new generation’s demands, the Millennials’ introduction of a changing work dynamic isn’t new.

What must CIOs know to leverage the strengths of Millennial IT workers?

1. Integrate Your Workforce

The next generation has much to offer and gain from integrating with their predecessors.  The Center for Creative Leadership has predicted there are 7 critical skills Millennials will need to be successful future leaders.

  • Leading people.

  • Strategic planning.

  • Managing change.

  • Inspiring commitment.

  • Resourcefulness.

  • Doing whatever it takes. Digitally.

  • Being a quick learner. Digitally.

Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers, while diverse in their own rights, are often highly competent in the first three skills; Millennials are experts in the last three. When organizations leverage these skillsets by creating cross-generational teams, companies launch over barriers. For example, a Baby Boomer can teach a Millennial how to make a well-reasoned, strategic decision (not a Millennial forte). In return, a Millennial can share how digital marketing — including a Facebook account to share cool videos with consumers — will build a more engaging brand and consumer following in whole new communities on the Internet (not a Baby Boomer’s forte).

Millennials are confident navigating the Web, but may confuse being tech savvy with having true information literacy. When Baby Boomers and X’ers respect Millennials’ ability to search for data, they can then teach them how to verify statistics, confirm stories, ask critical questions and improve search strategies to yield valuable results.

2. Swap out Your Dashboard for a Leaderboard

Millennials want and expect frequent feedback — they like knowing where they stand. But unlike Baby Boomers who preferred Quarterly Reports for Shareholders and X’ers who preferred personalized Performance Reviews, Millennials want to know where they stand…in comparison to other Millennials, minute to minute. Enter this generation’s version of a Leaderboard.

While similar to golf and poker where a player’s standing is listed by strokes or money, Millennials want to know their standing inside the organization. They want performance to be a game, and it’s even more fun when you ask them to design an app for that type of feedback. Whether it includes filling out LinkedIn profiles to build an organizational presence online, increasing followers in social media and impressions to landing pages, completing management training, or meeting project related deadlines, Millennials want to track, keep score and reward all players. Yes, all.

3. Teach Leadership

Millennials crave opportunities for advancement and are demanding that companies invest in their ability to grow. Embrace this passion and dedication and you will increase their loyalty and performance levels.

Unlike the Dilbert generation, today’s college graduates are more motivated to excel and embrace working hard. But they want to be surrounded by other hard working team members, thriving on new knowledge, new technologies, new trends and new friends. Help them help themselves by investing in their leadership skills. Conflict resolution, critical thinking, decision making, problem solving, communication skills are all areas wherein this generation lacks expertise and experience. By 2014, 50% of employees will be Millennials and almost all of the Baby Boomers will have left their leadership positions. Unless the Millennials are ready to be promoted, organizations will face a daunting leadership gap.

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