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The Number One Secret to Managing Millennial Employees

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If you are a Boomer or Gen X leader tasked with managing a team of millennial employees, there is really only one thing you need to know – they aren’t that different from you.

Much ado has been made in the media about the differences between generations, but there is also ample research on their similarities. One such study, conducted by Ben Rosen, a Ph.D. and Professor of Organizational Behaviour at the University of North Carolina, reveals that the top motivators for all four generations are:

  • To work on challenging projects.
  • To receive competitive compensation.
  • To have opportunities for advancement and chances to learn and grow in their jobs.
  • To be treated fairly.
  • To maintain a work-life balance.

The main difference between Millenials and their older colleaugues – especially their managers – is that millennials’ ideals regarding what work can and should be are still intact. They have not bought into the “work is a necessary evil” mindset and still – possibly naively – expect that work should be about more than a paycheque. Rather than seeing this as a sense of entitlement, managers and colleagues would do well to welcome their youthful enthusiasm and learn to provide the necessary guidance to channel it without squashing it all together.

Instead of investing time and energy in courses and books on how to manage Millenials, look at what all workers want across the board and put those foundations in place first. The philosophy of managing younger workers effectively is the same as the skills and knowledge required to engage the performance, potential and commitment of workers of all ages.

To be sure, there are some needs and interests that will differ as people move through their lives. Boomers, for example, value a manageable workload because they might be dealing with aging parents, being grandparents, and addressing their own health issues. Millennials’ value work-life balance so that they can pursue hobbies, start their own business ventures, and have an active social life. Gen X ers want the extra time available to spend it with their young families. Regardless of why balance is important to them, the best leaders understand that bringing out the best in people is about respecting and valuing differences, understanding their personal strengths, cultivating their career aspirations, and aligning all of these with the interests of the company.

At the end of the day, we are all busy. If you are a leader with limited time to develop your skills and knowledge, I would suggest that investing your time in studying more widely beneficial topics like employee engagement, effective communication, conflict resolution, systems design, and time and energy management techniques would give you far more “bang for your buck” than focusing too heavily on Millenials.

(If you really can’t resist reading just one more article about managing Millenials, the following is a great source of the similarities as well as differences they have with other employees.)


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