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5 top tips for managing millennials

5 min read | 3 March, 2020 By Laura Sands


Is managing millennials really any different to managing Baby Boomers or Gen-X?


Millennials are now said to account for 50% of the workforce, and that proportion will grow as more baby boomers retire.

Millennials have proven themselves as an entrepreneurial, principle-driven bunch - and that’s great news for any potential employer.

But here’s the thing.

Their desire for flexible working and their reliance on technology can make them look flaky and work-shy, especially to managers who are used to dealing with industrious 'Gen-X-ers' and job-for-life 'Boomers'.

But managers who ignore millennials’ preferences could be missing a trick.

Strong principles and a desire for a work/life balance makes millennial job satisfaction a key measuring tool for company culture.

If you’re struggling to retain millennials or you’re noticing a low number of millennials applying for roles in your business, it’s unlikely to be because they can’t hack the pace. It’s more likely to indicate that your culture is unhealthy or that you have a weak employer brand.

But managing millennials doesn’t need to be a mystery - which is why we’re covering five things employers should bear in mind when managing millennial employees.

Get it right, and we promise it’s not just millennials who benefit - everyone in your business will.

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Five tips for managing millennials

Recognise that purpose matters

Millennials need a strong purpose when it comes to their work.

As consumers, they want brands that demonstrate strong ethics, and it makes sense that they want their working lives to reflect this too.

But before you start thinking that purpose is a “new” demand that only applies to millennials, consider this study which points out that all generations want purpose – they just express that need for a purpose in different ways.

Unconvinced about the need for a clear purpose? Then consider this comment from Elon Musk:

“Putting in long hours for a corporation is hard. Putting in long hours for a cause is easy”.

A purpose helps unite your employees and gives them – in Simon Sinek’s words – the 'why'.

Why are you running your business in the first place? Why does it even matter?

Clarify your “why?” and communicate it clearly and you’ll see the difference with improved employee engagement.

Give them the right technology

Also known as 'digital natives', millennials have always had digital technology in their lives.

They don’t recall a time before the internet and see letter-writing as old-school.

They don’t even need to wait to watch the next episode of their favourite show - they can watch it on their phone during their morning commute.

It’s for this reason that tech-shy companies fail to engage the millennials in their ranks. This love of tech isn’t about being spoilt or lazy, it’s just that they see it as a more efficient and effective way of doing things.

Start incorporating more tech into your business and you’ll benefit. From cloud-based accounting and HR systems to messaging apps, choosing the right technology will improve the way you do business and make you a more attractive employer to younger candidates.

Be flexible

Flexible working isn’t a like-to-have for millennials. It’s a must-have. And with increasing numbers of millennials now firmly in parenthood, that flexibility is even more important.

As it happens, incorporating flexible working into your business does more than make millennials happy. It’s equally beneficial to your older employees and benefits your business too.

Flexible working has been shown to improve employee engagement, reduce stress and absenteeism, helps you attract a broader pool of talent and can help narrow your gender pay gap.

One company even started advertising all vacancies as a ‘part-time, job share or full-time working opportunity’ and saw a 45% increase in senior female applicants in just 3 months.

Unsure how to introduce flexible working benefits? A flexible working policy is the best place to start. You can also find extra HR support in our list of HR partners.  

Show them you’re interested in their development

Only 48% of millennials view pay as their main driver in a role.

As much as money is important (we all have bills to pay after all), millennials often have one eye on the future and want to develop professionally.

Building your millennial employees a full development plan will help prevent the itchy feet millennials are renowned for and improve your retention rates.

A strong training plan also means you can promote from within and improve your employees’ skill sets to improve your competitiveness.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking a generic development plan will be enough. Millennials want to you to be interested in their development. Regular career conversations and subsequent support to achieve their goals will show them you’re genuinely interested in their progress and career in your company.

Give them a full onboarding

Millennials are famed for their love of instant gratification. And this need for immediacy becomes apparent when they start a new role. They don’t want to spend 3 months getting up to speed, they want to get stuck in from the start.

A thorough onboarding process makes good business sense when you consider that research suggests it can take up to 2 years for an employee to become fully-productive.

It also helps to acclimatise millennials to your company far more quickly and breeze through the mandatory training.

Make sure your onboarding process covers the nuts and bolts, too. Adding new employees to your HR software, making sure the rest of the business know they’re starting and giving them a starter set – including of course all the tech they need – makes them feel welcome and appreciated.

And everyone – millennial or otherwise – appreciates that.

Key takeaways

In truth, managing millennials isn’t much different to managing any other generation.

We’re all human, after all.

Treat your employees well and respect their differences. You’ll soon be on the way to a happier team and a more productive business.

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Posted on 3 March, 2020

By Laura Sands

in Employee Engagement

Tag Employee Engagement

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