If we stop criticizing millennials, we can instead simply accept that, like every new generation, they are simply different from the ones that have gone before. It then becomes obvious that they will also need different management styles to those of older age groups. We forget that different can be positive. We should adapt and work together.
One central challenge is that expectations of employer and employee are so much higher now on both sides. In this fast-paced competitive world, companies need their new hires to be up, running and earning their keep faster than ever before.
Millennials themselves have acquired higher expectations of what the company they will work for should deliver. Managers, who have worked long and hard to be where they are today, find themselves being interviewed by their prospective hire rather than vice versa – and that can often cause understandable friction.
Just as we see the importance the experience plays in millennial buying choices, so it does in their choice of career. They look for a journey that will deliver both experiences and balance of life. Selecting a career on the basis that it is stable, and will enable house-buying and settling down, is no longer a given.
The economy in the last five years has taught new generations to have no faith in the existence of a stable career. Instead, they want to learn as much as possible, in a variety of roles, so that their skill set becomes as diverse as possible.
Just as millennial buying choices are greatly influenced by the ethics and values of the company behind the goods or service, so too millennials look for an employer with which they can identify morally as well. Jacqui Smith, of the successful West Sussex interior design company Homesmiths, focuses on establishing the core values of her customers in order that they can be transmitted into strong messages to her staff – and that it is this focus that wins her staff buy-in and brings about success.
Just as the clarity of values in the customer experience ensures sales, with employees it increases staff retention and therefore minimises hiring costs. Neither customers or staff will stay loyal as people used to. They will, however, stay loyal and passionate to companies whose ethics they totally buy into.
Millennials want to be proud of the company they work for, and a bad reputation will disengage employees fast. They want to be a part of something worthwhile and ethical, which will improve the world we live in.
A passing nod to company values at interview stage falls way short of what is now needed. Companies have to be seen to be living and breathing those values. Natalie Lewis, of Dynamic HR Services in Cheshire, sees a very robust and lengthy onboarding process integrating company culture and values at every point, as an essential investment for small and medium-sized companies alike.
She believes this will pay for itself in terms of faster returns and staff success and retention. She advises her clients to send out starter packs, prior to joining, that really re-affirm that culture, not just re-stating the values but demonstrating those values at work within the latest company news and in the people they will be working with, whose photographs and descriptions are also included. She then recommends a two week induction programme whereby the newbie caries out supervised work only, and receives at least daily feedback from someone, with their actual manager doing in-depth weekly feedback. Natalie believes that only after that two week period, should some autonomy be gently given. Then feedback needs to continue on a very regular basis, so that the employee is always clear about the plan for their journey and experience. Once or twice yearly appraisals simply will not cut it anymore in keeping staff involved.
Millennials have a reputation as being touchy about negative feedback. This becomes understandable if you take into account their intense dedication to high achievement. They do, however, have higher expectations on the company to provide help when something is not working, coaching or training and support. The millennial will feel let down by a company that does not work with them to sort out the problem.
Feedback is not only needed often, it is needed fast, especially if there is a problem. The messages need to have great clarity and precision. In a company with an old fashioned, hierarchical structure, this will inevitably mean a lot more training of the middle management to enable them to do the feedback right. It also means empowering them with the authority and automation to give immediate rewards and recognition, so that these, too, can be immediate. It is a big strain on manpower and no wonder companies that are very rigid in their hierarchical structures are finding this difficult.
Old fashioned management styles will not work anymore. Staff engagement has to be optimized and so does team work, both in micro teams and in the company bonding as a whole team. Millennials love to work as a team. We are now seeing a direct correlation between companies where the staff regularly intermingles, both within their work and at breaks, to those that are achieving better company results. Teams that work together on shared goals inspire each other, support each other and communicate with each other and inevitably that brings better results.
While which values each company has at its heart may vary, the basic requirements to drive millennial employees are the same; well managed performance, recognition, career opportunities and team work. Badly managed performance, poor company values or poor reputation are the greatest threats. Every company needs to regularly assess their staff engagement, learn how their key drivers are performing and react as needed.
The millennials have different aims and motivations and look for a leader who both cares for them and gives them a chance to grow and develop. Sounds pretty reasonable to me.