Business publications, marketers, and even the White House Council of Economic Advisers seem to be obsessed with decoding the Millennial worker--what perks to provide, how much to pay, and how to motivate, coddle, and cater to the so-called spoiled generation.

But a new study from WorkplaceTrends.com and leadership training firm Virtuali support the idea that this us-versus-them mentality is exactly the problem with today’s workplace dynamic. Findings suggest that there may be a way to motivate Millennial workers and all of your employees with one simple tactic: Talk to them.

The Communication Disconnect

According to WorkplaceTrends.com founder Dan Schawbel, different generations lead in different ways, and it’s causing a gap in how we communicate and train in the workplace. Older generations tend to favor autocratic leadership styles, meaning they use policies and procedures to control workflow.

Millennials, on the other hand, don’t connect with these methods. They gravitate toward transformational leaders who use purpose and excitement to challenge and inspire followers. And as workers, that’s the motivation they’ll respond to best.

“Millennials want to collaborate and support one another and not have rigid management structures that slow them down,” Schawbel told Inc.com.

The study’s findings are helping to debunk the notion that Millennial workers are entitled know-it-alls who lack a certain self-awareness about their abilities. In fact, they're probably more aware of their shortcomings than you might think. Forty-three percent said their biggest weakness was a lack of industry experience--not surprising, since they are the youngest in the office--and, more surprising, 41 percent said they lack technical expertise.

But the employees surveyed said they want to remedy that--68 percent say online classes would be the most effective for leadership development training and 52 percent said mentoring is the best method. Schawbel recommends using mentoring, shadowing, and an online component to develop Millennial leaders.

The Importance of Personal Relationships

When asked what they believed to be the most important leadership skills, 58 percent of Millennials surveyed said communication and 55 percent said relationship building. However, 39 percent said their company suffers from poor leadership, citing managers’ inability to develop others and ineffective communication as the main problems. 

It's worth keeping in mind that Millennials--and their communication styles--have been shaped by the internet age. They're used to personalized, on-demand information, and seek personal connections with bosses who explain the work and expect a mutual accountability.

Management Layers Smother Motivation

According to the study, an overwhelming majority of Millennials--83 percent--would rather work for a company with fewer layers of management.

A complicated management structure fragments Millennials’ work and attention. It’s confusing--whom to listen to, which work to prioritize, what politics are at play? Managers can fix this by openly communicating among themselves and then passing down clear information.

Let Millennials Sit at the Big-Kid Table

Millennials don’t need handholding; they just want to be included. So, talk to them, share the bigger picture of the company’s goals, and give them clear direction and a single person, with whom they regularly work, to whom to be accountable. In return, Millennials will contribute new ideas to help you reach your goals and form a sense of loyalty to their boss, motivating them to work harder and not let the team down.

“Millennials respond and aspire to this type of transformational leadership," says Sean Graber, Virtuali’s CEO and co-founder. “If companies want to build engaged and productive work forces, they will need to find a way to tap into the Millennial outlook.”

The good news is, there's no need to do an in-depth study of the behaviors of an entire generation. Clear and open communication is a simple way to inspire loyalty not only in your Millennial employees but also with the rest of your staff. 

Published on: Jul 21, 2015