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Managing the Millennials

Although there are no precise dates for when this cohort starts or ends, demographers and researchers often refer to them as individuals born between the years 1982 and 1993. Millennial characteristics vary by region, depending on socio-economic conditions. However, the generation is generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies.

Companies have begun to evolve to facilitate needs for this generation. Considering this the largest generation segment of the workforce, it is stated that more than one-in-three American workers today are millennials, and by the year 2025, seventy five percent (75%) of the world’s workforce will consist of this cohort. What makes this generation special is the level of connectivity into which they have grown. Millennials are the most connected generation in the history of human civilization.

While one should not generalize, millennials do have some key features and characteristics which make them stand out. Understanding a millennial can help managers get the best of this generation.

Working in Groups

Millennials have the reputation of ‘crowd sourcing’. They prefer to work in groups. According to the latest IBM study of millennial workers, most of the respondents agreed that they make better decisions being in a group where people provide diverse opinions.

Managers need to understand the significance of group dynamics when it comes to effectively managing millennials. They seek to be a part of the decision making process where opinions of the entire group is valued and evaluated.

Provide Opportunities for Learning and Development

Millennials tend to identify chances for learning and to continually develop themselves. For them, learning something new and building on current skills is a major driving force.  In any given situation where they do not see opportunities to learn something new, they often feel disconnected. They are eager for new experiences, and they thrive for short-term goals with tangible results. Managers must identify this need and look for individual development opportunities that provide a scope for continuous learning.

Provide Structure

Working in abstract scenarios is not the style of this generation. Structure helps them to plan their work and themselves. They want to work where goals are clearly stated and progress is assessed with pre-defined assignments and high success factors.

Provide Leadership, Guidance and Feedback

Millennials tend to look up to their seniors. That being stated, it is often observed that they do not respect a superior based on their position, they respect their work, personality, and achievements instead. This is the generation who seek leaders instead of bosses. Being bossed around will only result in dissatisfaction of workforce often resulting in high employee turnover ratio. Lead them towards goals, guide them, work together for solutions while providing constant feedback – this could be the best strategy while dealing with millennials.

Technology Adaptation

Often regarded as the ‘most tech-savvy generation’, millennials tend to be most familiar with technology and its advances. Learning and adapting to new technologies has never been optional to them, it has been natural. Millennials often come up with new ideas for inculcating technology in the existing process, to make them simple, if not productive.

However, ironically enough, they often prefer in-person interaction than a virtual one. According to the Cornerstone study, 60% of millennials prefer in-person interactions and collaboration  compared to using remote technological solutions.

Different Motivation

Millennials have a different motivation, the opportunity to be creative and the sense of what they do matters, is a key driving factor for them. It is important for the millennial workers to have a clear career path with constant incremental career progress; mid-level job titles could be used to motivate them.

Millennials are motivated if they know that they can be part of company’s overall vision strategy, this generation is just not happy in punching time cards and working for a few hours a day; they want to know that their work matters and that they are a part of something larger. Explaining and making them understand the value they will bring to the organization with their work, helps stimulate them; as they often seek prospects with high creativity and challenge where their ideas could be implemented.

Flexibility and Balance

Millennials believe in a dynamic work day with high flexibility, which gives them time to do the job, as well as, manage their own personal projects and a regular 9 – 5 job does not fit the bill.

research report by Griffith Insurance Education Foundation found that millennial workers are willing to sacrifice their salary to have a better work-life balance. They prefer flexible work schedule with frequent vacation time and the ability to work from outside the office. Companies have started to design block times, during which they want the workforce available, with the flexibility of coming late and leaving early or vice versa, thus, giving them the ability to design their own work hours.


Millennials are constantly looking for meaning in their jobs as they strive to provide value to the business with their work; they often push towards automation and simplification of process. ‘Working smart, not hard’ could easily be their mantra. However, in real terms, they are not all that different from the Generation X, a study conducted by IBM on ‘Millennials in the workplace’ revealed that they aren’t all that different from the previous generations, and are quite similar to Generation X, encompassing similar aspects of work, including ethics, habits, and teamwork. However, there is still a sharp contrast between these generations and analysis of behavioral patterns will better help companies take a holistic approach in managing their physiologically diverse workforce.

The next article will focus on the generation arriving to the offices soon – The Generation Z, (also known as The Founders, the iGeneration, Post-Millennials, or the Homeland Generation).

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