Members of gen Y — also known as millennials — have been getting a lot of bad press. People born between 1982 and 2000 are currently pouring into the workplace, but not all employers are happy to see them. Rather, many are seen as a spoiled generation with an over-inflated sense of self-worth, a social media addiction and an unwillingness to do a hard day’s work. Last year TIME magazine wrote a controversial feature describing millennials as “lazy, entitled narcissists.”
If you find yourself nodding along to these descriptions, you may need to reconsider how you’re managing your Gen Y teammembers. While some tension between generations is inevitable, everyone suffers when it’s not overcome. Here are three important questions managers should ask themselves when working with millennials.
1. How can we balance enjoyment and productivity?
A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that 50% of millennials rank enjoying their work as their top professional priority, which is significantly higher than any other generation. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your young team members expect literal fun and games in the office. Rather, millennials want to be happy in the workplace, to work on challenging and interesting projects, to build strong social relationships with colleagues and to work in offices that allow for some humour and silliness.
While this may horrify some of us who grew up in a more strait-laced time, the evidence does show that happy workers are better workers, so try to organise regular social activities, like post-work drinks or teamlunches. If you’re worried that you’ll lose productivity, remember that once millennials enjoy what they’re doing they are more than happy to go the extra mile. So consider organising brown bag lunches, film screenings or book clubs that are relevant to your industry. This is a clever way to develop your team’s skills while increasing their workplace enjoyment and engagement.
2. How can we tap into social media opportunities?
You probably have a niggling fear that your younger staff members are mucking about on Facebook rather than doing their work. However, imposing bans on social media will give your staff the impression that you don’t trust them. It’s reasonable to ask your team to minimise their social use of the web, but you should also remember that Y-ers are a generation of natural marketers and tapping into that is good for your bottom line. Ask your staff to share details of important events or projects with their online networks and allow them to create new professional relationships via Twitter or LinkedIn. It may produce surprisingly positive outcomes.
3. How can we instil confidence in young workers?
While some people believe that millennials have received nothing but praise and affirmation throughout their lives, that idea doesn’t stand up to further scrutiny.
Twenty-somethings are attempting to start their careers in the wake of the worst recession in 80 years. With such high unemployment, young people are insecure in the workplace and unfortunately many workplaces have exploited their desperation.
By rewarding good work, communicating expectations effectively and clearly outlining opportunities for professional advancement you can alleviate such feelings of insecurity. This allows your team to work more confidently and creatively, which is good news for your bottom line.
Till next time,