The One Trick to Managing Millennials

What is it about the millennial generation that still has businesses struggling to adapt?

Even though the oldest millennials are now in their thirties, there are still questions surrounding how best to manage, attract, and retain millennial employees. In a recent interview with Clutch.co, our CEO Christian Vanek shared what he’s learned about managing the millennial generation. And, more importantly, how to help a young team thrive.

The biggest thing Christian’s recommends to managers daunted by their younger employees is to keep calm.

“If you’re a small business and you have a large number of early-20s to early-30s working in your organization, particularly if they’re career oriented but entry-level jobs, be patient and give feedback.”

In this blog, I’ll touch on who millennials really are, and why patience and feedback are key tactics for managers.

Who Are Millennials?

First, let’s talk about who millennials are and what being a millennial means.

The millennial generation spans those born from 1982 to 2004. That means, as of today, a millennial is anyone between the ages of  35 and 13 years old.

This is a huge age gap. A 35-year-old is fundamentally different and needs fundamentally different things than an 18-year-old starting their internship. Because the age gap is huge, every article that talks about millennials relies on broad strokes and generalization.

Broad generational categories can be helpful, but keep in mind that there is a rainbow of variation within any population. With a demographic so vast, there is no one size fits all solution.

Christian’s advice comes from years of managing a young, millennial workforce for the company he built from scratch. He shares what worked for him – and what works for his employees.

(Full disclosure, I am a millennial, too.)

Coaching is Integral to New Millennial Employee Success

Feedback is key to any employee’s long-term success at your company, but Christian noticed a trend that millennials may need more feedback and more often than traditional managers are used to, especially early on.

Christian hypothesizes this is due to the fact that millennials were raised in an environment where everyone received a participation medal, regardless of performance. The problem is less that millennials received medals for showing up, and more that these medals were meaningless. They were junk; what people really need is honest feedback that is based on their performance. This way, they know what they did well and how improvements can be made.

“You’ll probably notice in the first couple of months that when a younger individual encounters a problem, they’re more likely to need to be coached through that problem.”

Don’t let this deter you, however. Christian’s found that his millennial employees are very technical, self-motivated, creative, and great at lateral thinking. Find ways to harness these skills, and both they and your business will succeed.

Don’t take this isn’t an invitation to micromanage. Instead, really focus on becoming a coach. A large part coaching is providing high quality, actionable feedback.





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Casual Doesn’t Cut It: Giving Feedback the Right Way

Checking in with your younger employees can help build trust and understanding, but to get the most out of the working relationship, millennials need to have clear feedback. Seems obvious, right?

In reality, only 23% of millennials in the business world are receiving the feedback that they need to succeed.

This number bothers us, and it should worry you, too. Clutch.co’s study on millennial employees shows a direct correlation between whether or not an employee was receiving feedback and their job fulfillment.

When managers provide feedback, 72% of young employees report feeling fulfilled at their job. When managers don’t, fulfillment drops to 32%. Those numbers aren’t good when you’re trying to cultivate and retain employees, no matter what their age.

Source: Engage Millennial Employees With Feedback and Evaluation, Clutch.co

In many cases, when it comes to feedback, an email is good enough. Even if managers sit down informally with millennial employees, follow up with an email recapping what was discussed. You’ll be glad you did.

“A year from now,” Christian says, “when you’re looking at performance and salary reviews and trying to understand your workforce, you’ll want that email. You won’t remember the casual feedback.”

Feedback shouldn’t be limited to coming from the individual’s direct supervisor, either. Studies show that managers may not always be the best source of feedback. Surveys can be a good, anonymous way to collect feedback on employees from the people most qualified to give it: their peers.

Retaining Millennial Employees

Another criticism leveled on the millennial generation is the perception that younger people job hop more than previous generations. Rather than stick around, millennials seem to change jobs frequently.

This is another moment when Christian reminds managers to keep calm.

“When you’re 18-34… You’re going to make a number of leaps and bounds in order to find the fit that works for your financial obligations, future planning, and what you actually want to be doing with your life. Even if we had asked employees a generation ago whether they were planning to quit their jobs, the percentages may have been a little smaller but probably not by much.”

If a millennial employee does decide to move on to a new position, don’t chalk it up to disloyalty and call it a day. Exit interviews are usually your last chance to get feedback from employees on their ways out. Use them. There’s no better way to understand why they’re leaving and what your company can do to better meet the needs of other employees.

Managing Millennials With Feedback

There’s no magic formula for managing millennials, but honest, consistent, constructive feedback is the place to start. From there, it is possible to create a strong, positive working relationship that improves engagement and fulfillment for employees, whatever their age.

And it’s worth investing in millennials’ feelings of engagement and fulfillment at work. After all, an engaged, fulfilled employee is one who sticks around.

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