Managing Millennials: 5 Quick Tips

There’s a huge shift 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. What must CIOs know to leverage this next generation’s strengths?

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 standâ?¦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, newtrends 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.

4. Share the Why Then Show Them HOW

Millennials are described as the Creative Class. Voluntarily bombarded with billions of bits of data, they have nine-second attention spans and a myriad of stimuli enabling quick, ingenious connections.

How do you inspire these brilliant “connectors” to produce? Define and share the “why” at the core of what you and your organization do. If you want to capture the energy, the passion, the creativity and profitable production of this generation, engagement in the “why” is essential.

The value of smart, hard work for its own sake is meaningless. Purpose, beyond the paycheck, is what ignites them.

That said, the “how” often requires a bit of guidance. Having led a rather directed life of over-protected, over-scheduled days, they admit they are frustrated by their inability to execute. Baby Boomers and autonomous Gen X’ers need to demonstrate how great creative ideas are only sustainable when companies can effectively take those ideas to market, and perhaps make a profit in the process. If you’re a Baby Boomer or X’er and you share workflow processes, supply chain management, and the why and how behind the cool gadget, Millennials will thank you. They’ll thank you even more if you turn the teachable moment into a conversation, let them carry their phones while on a tour of the workplace, and then ask for their feedback on how to improve workplace efficiencies. And, try not to look surprised when they solve a bug you’ve been trying to eliminate for years.

5. Assimilate to a New Normal

“9 to 5” is the title of a 1980 movie that debuted the year Millennials were first born; these are NOT their normal working hours. Millennials, Gen Y, EchoBoomers, Net Generation, Boomerang and Peter Pan Generation are all terms used to describe this next cultural force that demands a new way of being and doing. Millennials grew up with Internet-capable crib computers, and they have lived in a diverse network of interactive media such as text messages, blogs, global positioning and instant messaging. They are normal. It’s just a new normal, and managers need to seek ways to respect and adapt. Here are some ideas:

  • Create opportunities for social interaction like Tuesday morning brainstorms, Wednesday afternoon product innovation scavenger hunts, and Thursday night softball that raises money for a cause.
  • Use technology to build culture and foster multi-disciplinary teams. Ask them to video record meetings and team exercises, edit for bullet points and highlights and then post their creation on the company intranet. It gets them excited and engaged and sustains the “why”.
  • Let them use their tech-tools to advance their productivity, hold them accountable to high standards and publicly praise and encourage meeting and exceeding these standards.

For technology leaders to drive growth and respond to the incredibly fast-paced changing world they must embrace, not resist, new ideas and more technologically creative approaches; innovative products; integrated organizations; open, less private, communication; connected communities; responsible, cause-oriented cultures. Most importantly, embrace these twentysomethings who thrive on technology, change, social causes, teamwork, feedback and a personal life.  The next generation is the challenge and the solution that will take your company successfully into the next era – one, while yet to be revealed, is far closer than you might think.

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