Leadership Management

The Project Leader’s Guide to Managing Millennials

As the clock ticks on, millennials, or people born between 1982 and 2000 are primed to replace baby-boomers as the defacto work population. In fact, by 2025, millennials will represent 75% of the world’s workforce. But does an age-based label really mean anything vis-a-vis productivity and work ethics? As many managers have found out the hard way, managing millennials is not the same as any other age-group. It’s not uncommon to find older people at companies defining millennials as “entitled,” “narcissistic,” “wanting a trophy for just showing up” and “disloyal.”

Whether or not such “analysis” is accurate is anyone’s guess. But the truth is generation gap plays a large role in organizational behavior. A whitepaper by Robert Walters says that 59% professionals experienced intergenerational conflict at work, so, the challenges of working with millennials are not to be underestimated.

You will find on this article:


Who are the Millennials?

Millennials like any other group, are a product of their times. A lot happened between 1980 and the new millennium which shaped perceptions and ideas like never before. The explosive growth of IT and internet meant more information was suddenly available to everyone. Internet based services created a culture of immediacy, where need fulfillment was only a click away and everything could be delivered at home. Indeed, millennials are called the most impatient generation ever as they often expect incredible results way too fast.

Since most millennials were in their formative years when affordable IT was going mainstream, they willingly embraced new ways of thinking and working. In doing so, they saw worldwide trends and issues firsthand in their bare, un-censored state which until then were always presented by news channels and publications in certain contexts only. Consequently, millennials have vastly different career priorities and ambitions than their older peers.

For example, a Pew Research survey found that millennials are more likely to identify themselves as politically independent. Similarly, a survey by Deloitte found that millennials want companies to focus more on people and purpose rather than profit alone. Since such expectations are going to become the norm, managing millennials will be an art you must master to stay ahead of the competition. Here are a few tips…

Make Your Organization’s Impact its USP

Millennials are drawn to ways of working that make a difference in the world. By providing them with an opportunity to be a part of something bigger, you will not only attract high quality talent, but help them focus their efforts more concertedly as well. Jamie Gutfeund, Chief Strategy Officer of the Intelligence Group, says in a Forbes article:  “Millennials are, in essence, ‘venture consumers’. They’re not looking to fill a slot in a faceless company, any more than a good venture capitalist is looking to toss money at a faceless startup. They’re looking strategically at opportunities to invest in a place where they can make a difference, preferably a place that itself makes a difference.”

However, doing so is far from easy. Millennials often struggle to trace their day to day actions to the larger good they identify with. Helping them make such connections by having weekly meetings, rewarding performance and reminding them why they joined can go a long way to making them feel valued.

Onboarding can make or break your recruitment drive. Here’s how the onboard process can work properly with millennials.

Create a Company Culture that Fosters a Sense of Community

Being the only one to drive change maybe a very motivating thought, but it helps if there are other, like-minded people besides you. Millennials are drawn to workplace culture that inspires them to achieve great things. Focus on creating a workplace where encouragement, positivity and learning thrive.

As millennials consider being treated as a person (and not just an employee) as one of their highest requirements, engaging with them on a personal level will help greatly. Allow them to approach you with questions and feel free to engage with them outside of work.

Similarly, recognizing their work will help them get the validation they want. Remember, millennials for the most part are not after trophies or even a large paycheck, they want to be seen as drivers of positive change.

Learn more on employee engagement and, specially, how to engage with millennials at your office.

Consider Flexible Work Arrangements

It’s not uncommon to find baby boomers accusing millennials of being lazy, which isn’t (necessarily) true. Since millennials are tech savvy and are aware of trends such as BYOD, digital nomadism, telecommuting and working from home, they can’t help but ask why a company can’t use them to its advantage. Offering flexible work hours, remote working options and creative financial perks can help you retain millennials better.

Cloud based productivity tools like Runrun.it can help you offer a fun way to work and interact with team-members. Jobs can be assigned, scheduled and tracked through completion and feedback can be sent to teams or individually on the tasks themselves making it an ideal platform to carry out remote work on.

Millennials are especially motivated by dynamic, cross-functional positions that allow them to evolve as professionals and persons. Giving them access to role-models, interesting professionals and leaders will help them fine-tune their skills.

Give Them a Voice

While no one likes to have decisions made for them, millennials have special disdain for such things. Part of managing millennials is understanding that they grew up in a world where they have a say, either at home or on social media. So, stifling their voice and forcing workflows onto them can backfire.

Instead, use their enthusiasm to solve problems to come up with innovative new solutions. As millennials represent a sizeable portion of the consumer market, your younger team members may be more aware of what problems exist out there. They can  also speak the same language and help your brand identify with your target audience better. Also, being very tech-savvy, they can introduce your organization to new ways of enhancing productivity.

Be a Coach to Them

At this stage, it should be a foregone conclusion that a boss-like approach is not the best way to be managing millennials. Social psychologist, Douglas Mcgregor had famously proposed Theory X and Theory Y as two opposing management models in the 1960s.

Theory X states that people are inherently lazy and therefore need a boss who can direct their every move. Theory Y on the other hand states that people can be motivated to perform better if they find meaning in what they’re doing. The manager’s job in a Theory Y situation is to encourage a participative work-culture where they are more like mentors rather than bosses.

Most companies today favor a Theory X approach to productivity where orders are passed down a hierarchical chain that demands obedience. However, this model is not ideal for managing millennials who are looking for role models to follow rather than bosses to obey. A Theory Y based strategy that encourages collaborative, trust based leadership will help with managing millennials far better than a Theory X based approach.

Good coaches and mentors are also inherently drawn to a Theory Y type leadership style which favors a lead from the front attitude. Investing in your employees to help them become the best versions of themselves will help instill trust in your leadership and can also help reduce attrition rate.

Learn more about millennial leadership and how it can transform your company for the better.

Concluding Thoughts

It’s easy to start thinking of millennials and their ways as an issue when they are an opportunity. Millennials are highly passionate people who are motivated by an ideal rather than the need to accumulate more wealth. This doesn’t mean there aren’t millennials who’d rather work for money only, just that their numbers are lesser than those who’d rather make a difference. They are also inherently good at engaging their target audience as they are not only aware of the latter’s issues, but relate with them as well. The fact that they are digitally engaged also means that they can leverage the latest technologies to get things done.

All of these (and numerous other) traits are significant advantages that can help drive organization-wide change for the better. Managing millennials becomes a very rewarding experience when you acknowledge their strengths and help them overcome their weaknesses.

At Runrun.it, we help create tools that power progressive companies. Our time tracking and task management solutions are designed from the ground up to enable telecommuting and remote working, keeping your team motivated, well informed and engaged at all times. Let’s just say Runrun.it was designed by millennials for millennials 🙂


Leave a Reply