Much has been written about the difference between Millennials and preceding generations in the workforce. Typically, these pieces mock certain behaviors of the group that will make up 75 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2030, and lament the "good ol' days" of managing people who "get it."
Initially, managing Millennials was a significant challenge for me that I did not relish. However, I began to embrace and enjoy the experience because I found that it greatly enhanced my management style in many ways.
1. Continual quarterly review.
Millennials tend not to accept tradition as compelling rationale for proceeding on a given path. No, they question everything. "Because this is the way we've always done it" means nothing to them. Nor does the rationale that I, the manager and boss, prefer that we do it this way. To a Millennial, that is just the starting point; they will object, suggest other ways, or just flat out tell you they don't want to do it that way. So, to lead them effectively, I found it necessary to explain my rationale. In doing so it seemed, every time I spoke to them, I questioned my own strategy and whether the tactics I was asking them to pursue would contribute meaningfully to attaining the goal. Basically, working with Millennials is like a continual quarterly review of operations, and it is very healthy. It reduced wasted activity and made me focus on the high-value/probability efforts.
2. Flexibility necessitates better management.
According to PwC's "Reshaping the Workforce" report, Millennials' second priority is flexible work hours. I once tried to impose on a group heavily dominated by Millennials that we have core hours, for example, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., during which everyone must be present. I had an instant revolt! If there were a reason they needed to be in a place at a specific time (for example, a meeting), no problem. But, just for "face time," as they called it, no way. I tried to explain this was not for face time, but they did not accept it. So, I had to obtain a much better handle on the work that was being done and by whom; I had to develop tighter and more structured tracking controls; and I had to conduct meetings with very specific deliverables. In short, I necessarily had to have much better command of the operations. It worked out for all -- the employees worked in a way that suited them (I often received reports in the middle of the night), and I ran a much more efficient team.
3. Delivering feedback.
The first priority of Millennials, according to PwC, is their personal learning and development and moving up the ladder quickly. Well, someone with two-and-half-years of experience cannot be made director, so how do you let them know this without demotivating them? You need to give constant actionable feedback on their performance and lay out a plan for them to obtain and demonstrate mastery of the skills and experiences they need to get a promotion. Most managers do not enjoy performance reviews; thank god they are just once per year! Not with Millennials -- they demand constant feedback, so I learned how to give it appropriately. I also learned how to critically examine the needs of each position with an eye toward the future demands of the position within the company.
In summary, managing Millennials is much more work than managing Generation X and Baby Boomers, however, if you do the work, you will be a much better manager and leader. Millennials force you to develop new skills, which is the "seventh habit" of highly effective people.
I think Stephen Covey would have liked Millennials.