Recently, our CEO published an article about working with Millennials. It was entitled ‘’Millennials are awesome’’ (read the interview in Polish here). The title gives it away: Matt loves Millennials and understands how to work with them. This should not come as a shocker, after all, Millennials constitute quite a large share of employees in the IT industry. But when you think about all the things you can read about Millennials, they’re mostly negative. As a ‘’modern’’ generation, they are seen as self-centered, bolshy, disloyal, and spoilt smartasses. How about we turn it around and look at the bright side for once? Millennials are a generation like any other, they have their needs, dreams, and habits, and it really is possible to have a good professional relationship with them. So how do you work with a Millennial? Here are some tips.
Leadership and guidance
Millennials aren’t huge fans of the bossy boss archetype. They don’t fight authority, but they want to remain individuals. Being a good moral leader to them is crucial. If you go wrong, you won’t be able to understand them in the first place. And how can you be off to a good start if you begin with your mind closed?
1. Set goals, don’t send to-do lists
Goals are smart, tasks are boring. Millennials feel a need to be a part of something meaningful. They want to create, change the world in some way. And they can do it. But if you tell them they were hired to do some job and not to think, you will lose their commitment.
2. Give them real autonomy
Millennials need their autonomy. Don’t tell them what to do and how to do it. You’ve set a goal (see: point 1 above), now let them discover how to reach it. Trust they can do it. Generation Y is quite knowledgeable and resourceful, so they will surely find their own ways.
3. Don’t box them
Many articles claim that Millennials need rules, deadlines, and agendas everywhere. In one word: structure. OK, I see the point to some extent: deadlines are important, and so are the rules, agendas are helpful, but why would you want to bind people with so many unnecessary details? Every company needs some structure, procedures, and habits, but setting a deadline for everything doesn’t help. If we expect people to discover things and be inventive, if we want them to work in an autonomous manner, we can’t tell them that they have an hour to do it. Instead, help them check their capacity and learn to estimate how much time a task will take. This feels like an experiment! Well, OK, almost an experiment. If a Millennial sets his own deadline and fails it, the lesson is learned. Next time, he’ll do it better.
4. Let them ask ‘’Why?’’
As a fan of Simon Sinek and his ‘’Start with why’’ approach, I was overjoyed to have received advice that said: always ask why. Millennials want to understand. Why do I have to do it? Why does that matter? Why are we doing it this way? These are important questions but still often seen as inappropriate or disrespectful. When you think about it, though, you realize that transparency in communication will solve the problem. If you contextualize your decisions, it’s enough. They just want to understand.
5. Feedback is the key
It is sometimes said that Millennials are impatient and, used to instant messaging and everything else available to them right here and right now, they want results in a flash. Is it true? Perhaps, but it doesn’t ruin projects. Millennials come up with ideas and want to talk about them. And then get feedback. They don’t want to do things in an old-fashioned, methodical way: verify their ideas, choose the best one, do the job, and bring a finished product to their supervisor. What if it goes wrong? They gather early (and frequent) feedback and then proceed.
Company culture and $$$
It’s important what your company is like. Young people are enamored with images of Google or Facebook’s office. They want to have that. And even though the role models here are some serious players, Millennials are often associated with startup culture: more flexibility, space to experiment, etc. Let me tell you one thing: this is freaking awesome. Workplaces are evolving and employers can mix and match between the serious and non-serious options to find the best model that works for them and their employees.
6. Work-life balance
Millennials don’t like to be bored. They have a lot of things to do in their spare time, be it sports, music, gaming, spending time with friends or family. They want to have time for some fun activities but also for going to a doctor or getting some urgent paperwork done. That’s why they appreciate flexibility at work. According to a 2015 Ernst & Young study, 75% of Millennials want the ability to work flexibly and still be on track for promotion. Work from home, flexible working hours, sometimes even unlimited vacation days – all these things make life easier and give Millennials room for developing in other fields as well.
7. Have some chill
Ping pong tables, PS4s, and other ‘’entertainment corners’’ are relatively new to the workplace. But boy, do they make a difference! Not only do they give employees an opportunity to take a breath while still at the office, but also encourage people to spend time together and socialize. Workplaces are not so uptight anymore. Wearing casual clothes is a standard and now the entertaining additions to offices seem to be here to stay.
8. Money is not everything
Media complain that Millennials have overweening expectations: they want to earn a lot of money, get regular raises, be promoted as soon as possible. The reality is… much more realistic. Millennials do have different expectations than their parents did. They think more globally and don’t want to compromise because “that’s how life is here”. They may have met some exchange students who can easily afford to travel around Europe or just go places every other day. No wonder they want to have the same. They don’t want to wait years before they can go on holiday. Their expectations concerning their salary are not too low but are still reasonable.
Millennials are awesome
Are Millennials know-it-all? Sometimes. But they’re also committed. The need to understand why things happen leads them to a place where they either give their full heart to the project because they believe in it, or they just abort it. They look for engaging, enlightening projects that stimulate growth. They watch the world and want to learn. Are they perfect? By no means. But any workplace could use their energy and the ‘’I can do it’’ approach.