Who would choose to manage a millennial?

Neil Ryland
Who would choose to manage a millennial?

Well, I would and do!

The term ‘millennial’ is a buzz word used in almost every conversation I have. I am always quizzed as to how I keep control of my team of millennials. Control? I don’t believe that’s a term any manager should use about their team, yet for some reason it is commonly associated with managing millennials. Yes, they have different demands and needs than a worker ten years ago, but this isn’t a bad thing. As a leader and manager of a team of millennials, I’ve learned a lot. Mainly, the real issue- it’s not them that’s the problem, it’s you!

The problem is that many managers simply don’t know how to manage ambition. The younger generation have always typically showed entrepreneurial spirit, ambition and determination; they’re aware the workplace is more competitive than ever, and will go above and beyond to prove themselves. But why wouldn’t a manager want this kind of ‘can do’ attitude? True, the younger generation may wish to progress at an accelerated pace, but it is up to the manager to manage their expectations from the get-go.  

There has always been a correlation in people’s minds that more money equals more recognition. When an employee is unsure about their progress, or wants to be taken more seriously, they ask for a pay rise. But this is an unhealthy, and ineffective way for companies to measure the growth of their staff. Managers should instead be looking for their employees to demonstrate behaviours at that salary level, and a desire to make an impact, before they reward them with promotions or increase in pay.

The millennial generation, in my opinion, are more clued up to the fact that they need to make a significant impact to be recognised and rewarded. However, rather than being praised for this initiative, they are often mocked for their desire to “make an impact”. Admittedly, there is less opportunity to considerably make a difference when at a junior level, but once again, this is up to the manager in question to manage expectations. I believe it is far easier to rein in an ambitious employee, than to find ways to motivate a lazy employee.

It’s time to look in the mirror. Rather than blaming a generation of workers that care about their careers, we need to become better managers and mentors for the younger generation.

How do you manage people with motivation?

Freedom- Give them the freedom to figure out and understand what will make them successful, and help them achieve that.

Failure- Allow them to fail fast so they can learn. Guiding people and steering people to do the right behaviours and problem solve is the first step in creating a successful team.

Change- Create an environment where you facilitate and accept that what worked yesterday, may not work today and challenge them to find alternate methods.

Listen- Step up as a manager and put the time into regular 121’s. Make the 121’s the most important meetings in your diary, and take the time to hear what they have to say.

It’s not easy to change your mindset as a manager, but it has immeasurable benefits. At Peakon, we are succeeding in our goal at being an effective and collaborative team. When I joined the Peakon team, I knew how important it was to start as we meant to go on. So together, we created a team framework and set of values that we should adhere to, and we make it our goal to live by them. Rather than following my rules, my team have worked with me to create a clear set of processes that will help us become ‘world class’. This approach helps drives innovation, purpose and recognition opportunities for the team, and creates a work environment where everyone ‘pulls their weight’. True, it’s a different way of working, but it’s worked for us.

It’s not about managing difficult members of a team. Millennials aren’t difficult, they’re ambitious. They’re not entitled, they’re keen to prove themselves. Before we roll our eyes and mock their enthusiasm, it is important to reassess ourselves as managers. Sometimes, a shift in attitude is all that is needed. The change you implement now as a manager, may be a leading factor in your company’s success in years to come.

Who knows, this generation of millennials might just make the greatest set of leaders the world has ever seen. I wouldn’t mind having some of them on my team, would you?

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