How to Equip Yourself to “Employer-Parent” Talented Millennials

You know who they are. The one with his ear buds permanently attached to his ears, or the girl with twelve pieces of jewelry on her right ear alone who refuses to wear what you consider to be “business casual” attire.  Or maybe it’s the nerdy guy with glasses and messy hair whose face you’ve never really seen because he’s always in front of his computer or cell phone; never separated from his tools of technology for even a moment while at work. Oh, and they are always late or right on time. Whatever happened to being on time and prepared? Sitting at your desk at 7:45 a.m. ready to start the 8:00 a.m. day? Does it seem they require attention or tasks at all times, always in motion — on the go, ready for the next thing?

Even if you are a small business owner, among your dozen or so employees, the chances are good that you have at least one Millennial employee. How can you best equip yourself to “employer parent” this individual so that he or she is an undeniable asset to the team, rather than a distraction or irritant to your more seasoned employees?  A starting point is to understand Millennials better. Millennials are loosely defined as ages 18 to 34, with age 23 being the largest demographic within this segment of this population.  Be forewarned that the “catch-all” label of Millennials is not a concept its members strongly identify with.  Yet, credible studies of this age group do reveal the common social, economic, and technological factors that have shaped their lives and forged their values.  Due to the sheer numbers of Millennials and their expected longevity in the workforce, it is essential that employers understand the largest and most diverse segment of our population taking their place in the business world.

[tweetthis]Millennials: Equip yourself to “employer-parent” this talented group.[/tweetthis]

A high percentage are children of immigrants. As a group they are economically stressed, many more of this generation compared to previous ones live with their parents. They have decreasing opportunities at home ownership. They are very educated, but collectively have amassed a trillion dollar student loan debt. They still value education – more so than their European counterparts who have been demoralized by poor economic conditions.  Millennials are masters of technology and social media, value family and work-life balance.  While plenty of employers complain about lack of loyalty and short tenure of Millennials, their feedback often indicates a willingness to stay longer in their jobs given more purposeful work.

One of the most interesting pieces to the Millennial puzzle is the mistaken notion that they hate to be managed. They actually require it. This is due in large part to the way they were parented at home – millennials are essentially spoiled. And it’s ok for me to say this, because I myself am one of those temperamental, reactive, seemingly impossible to manage millennials. We are a generation that was over-parented. We didn’t play outside without supervision, we were raised by the more affluent boomers (who were parented much differently by their Depression-era moms and dads) and were often rescued by our parents when faced with trials or obstacles. Essentially, we are a generation of coddled guys and gals, told that our opinions matter and we are free to express ourselves within boundaries that are much wider and broader than the ones our own parents faced.

Now that you regret hiring millennials even more than you did before reading this, let me tell you the good news! There’s hope! Millennials may require a little bit of parenting at work, but once they are managed and coached correctly, the sky is the limit because along with our spoiling came a sense of pride in our own success, a drive to achieve and a knack for technology. We crave direction, but at the same time, would like a little freedom to make decisions for ourselves. It’s a tricky combo, but one that could lead to great organizational success for small business owners who master the managing of millennials.

Christine Hassler, renowned speaker on the topic of generational differences in the workplace specifically focusing on the millennials, argues that millennials do in fact want to be managed. She writes, “I think it is imperative for managers to be ‘coaches’ to their employees, especially the millennials, as that is what the Millennials expect.” They require validation, crave feedback from their supervisors, and are confused by the world of work in general. Statistics show that the majority of teens during the ’70s and ’80s worked during summer vacation, while only one-third of today’s teens have a paying job over the summer. Instead, they choose to volunteer, work in unpaid internships, and enroll in high school or college courses. All of this looks great on college resumes, but is not practical when it comes time for these millennials to enter the workforce. They have no idea how to set up direct deposit for payroll with their ban

  • Include information on company culture and values in your employee handbook, go over timesheets, employment paperwork, vacation requests and all of the details involved with the company procedures during their orientation.
  • Take the guess work out of the workplace for your millennials and become their coach, and you’ll start off on a better foot with your millennials moving forward.

Keep in mind that Millennials are facing many tough challenges across their long lifespan but their common skills and values make them well equipped to face and overcome these adversities.  Employers who understand and bring out the best of their Millennials will tap into the potentially valuable contribution to the workforce and the innovation they are capable of.

For more on Millennials see 15 Economic Facts About Millennials, 2014 Report of the United States Office of the Presidentl Council of Economic Advisors.