As recruiters in the digital field, our clients speak frequently of management struggles involving the newest generation in the workplace. Millennials have a lot to offer, but generational differences require a new approach to management that is effective and ultimately successful.
When I was a young man, I loved to race cars. My parents were less than thrilled about this pastime, but my experience in racing has provided valuable insight into my career as a digital recruiter. Success in drag racing is achieved with a big engine and a lot of horsepower. The concept of horsepower may seem challenging at face value, but in truth, it is fairly straightforward. The key to success in street racing lies in overcoming the challenge of horsepower. How can I get all this power to the road without the wheels just spinning in place? Managing millennials presents a similar challenge. Millennials may carry a lot of horsepower, but how can you get that power to the road without your wheels just spinning in place?
Interactions with thousands of candidates and dozens of clients, as well as our own team-building endeavors, have granted us key insights into effectively managing millennials. The following five tips are keys to successful management of millennials in your own workplace:
- Be Worthy of Following. Millennials will not follow you because you are older or because you hold a position of authority. Millennials will follow you because you are worthy of being followed. Don’t expect to just have respect, rather, expect to earn respect. You will not be followed for the seat in which you sit—you will be followed for who you are.
- Be Future-Leading. Active career development is important to millennials. Millennials want to know where their careers are going. Managers are most effective when they help millennials develop a vision of their future and then actively assist in leading them towards that vision. An important part of future-leading is helping millennials understand that what they do today will help them tomorrow.
- Explain Why. Millennials work best when they understand how their own work contributes to the big picture. They want to know the impact that they have. Being a taskmaster will not work—instead, help millennials understand why their task is important.
- Develop Self-Managers. Millennials do not work well under a lot of oversight. However, early in their careers, they do not have the ability to effectively self-manage. Intentionally equip them with the tools, tactics, and education they need to be successful in their task. This can be a slow process. It is critical that you “explain why” and “future-lead” during this process. If you “explain why” and “future-lead”, millennials are more likely to engage in the process of becoming self-managers.
- Cultivate a Culture of Accountability. If you have developed self-managers, then you are one step away from management mecca: an accountable culture. Once you have self-managers, you can start to manage by outcomes. Be clear on outcomes and timing, then get out of the way.
Like drag racing, managing millennials can seem challenging. However, overcoming this challenge builds better managers. If managers can help millennials transfer all their horsepower to the road without everyone just spinning their wheels, then both millennials and their employers have a great chance at success. Happy drag racing!