Managing Millenniums

Grace and I are both getting some white hairs in our head, but we are still young at heart. Managing different generations requires that we appreciate the general themes that are prevalent for an age group, but each person is unique and managing well requires that we understand the variations that work best for each individual.
Grace and I are both getting some white hairs in our head, but we are still young at heart. Managing different generations requires that we appreciate the general themes that are prevalent for an age group, but each person is unique and managing well requires that we understand the variations that work best for each individual.

The increasing number of grey hairs in my head, along with my blurry eyesight, are the daily reminders of my aging. Yet, I don’t feel old. And when I listened to the panel of impressive millenniums at a seminar I attended on Wednesday, I felt like a kindred spirit to the panelists who represented the generation born between 1980 and 2000. For the record, that’s approximately a few decades away from my birth year…. Nevertheless, I resonated with a several priorities for this younger crowd, though not all. The conversation during, and following, the session entitled “Leveraging Millenniums to Lead Your Company” was lively indeed.

Today’s manager needs to be aware and alert to the needs of every generation. Regular readers know I advocate being in tune with every person on your team. So as tempting as it is to generalize, we can’t put millenniums into a pocket and treat them all the same and expect stellar results, anymore than we could any other generation.

However, there are absolutely some trends that I believe are helpful to managers who are interested to hire, manage, and retain this generation. The key takeaways for me:

  1. Leadership is about collaboration and leading from where you are, not because of your position in the organization. This has been a mantra of mine for a long time. Everyone — even a cat! — can be a leader. It’s not about your title. It’s about how you move through life. Are you able to get what you need from yourself and others, no matter whether the situation is personal or professional? If the answer is yes, you are a leader. Parents, siblings, friends, pet parents, and managers all use the same skills to achieve successful leadership. You don’t have to have a grandiose title or humongous salary  to qualify as a leader. You just need to influence people. We all are in positions to do that. The panelists voiced this sentiment. Everyone is (or can be) a leader.
  2. “Millenniums are looking for a coach/mentor, not a boss.” This was stated by one of the panelist, and I think it accurately reflects today’s progressive workplace environments. The days of “command and control” managers are long gone and effective managers are ones that support and serve their teams.
  3. Work/life balance is more important than money. This message was reinforced throughout the day, multiple times, multiple ways. Millenniums are looking for challenge, career advancement opportunities, companies that are focused on social responsibility initiatives, and are not making career choices based solely on financial decisions. This should be a message to companies where to put thir resources.
  4. Don’t confuse wanting feedback with being needy. It’s a common sentiment that millenniums are a bit self-absorbed, but I think they want what all of us desire — honest and respectful feedback that lets us know where we stand and how we can improve. Perhaps the millenniums will help inspire managers to be better in this regard.
  5. Frequent job changes is not a red flag. My parents’ generation stayed with a job for a lifetime. That’s just not the way it works anymore. Millenniums are willing to move along to get what they need out of the relationship. As one person at the session said, “millenniums won’t work for a fool.” Another reason given for the frequent job changing is both interesting and true: highly-desirable employees are sometimes poached to move along to where te grass seems greener. Maybe the employee wasn’t even looking, but was recruited and seeing a better opportunity, took it.
  6. Millenniums want to work for a company that understands technology and how to use it. No discussion of millenniums would be complete without acknowledging their comfort with technology. They grew up with it, know how to use and fix it, and would be lost without it. If you’re going to market to millenniums, or communicate with them, go to where they are. If you aren’t tapping into technology solutions appropriately, you are going to lose the interest of millenniums.

So while Grace and I count our white hairs, we enjoy finding ways to enjoy feeling young. With age comes wisdom, with youth comes vitality and spunk. Both are needed. Let’s not resist the changes brought about by younger generations, but instead learn from them.

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