When Managers Meet Millennials: How to Avert This Perfect Storm

There’s a perfect storm brewing in the business world and it threatens to be a doozy.

Moving in on one front is a flood of new hires from the generation referred to — with affection, confusion, and terror — as the millennials. The very word causes tremors in the HR world today and who can blame them? 

Millennials will account for three quarters of the workforce by 2025, and have demonstrated an alarming capacity to leave their jobs in droves. Did you know that 50% of millennials start looking for new jobs within the first 6 months of joining an organization? It’s easy to see why so many businesses are bending over backwards, forwards AND sideways to do whatever they can to try and please this critical cohort.

And over there on the corporate horizon waiting to meet this front is a thunder cloud of over-worked, over-stressed, and otherwise overwhelmed managers. Add to this the fact that these managers also often find themselves promoted into supervisory positions despite the fact that they have little to no coaching experience. And now they’re tasked with supervising a group that is demanding more and more of their decreasingly available attention and energy.

This weather report from the Ferrazzi meteorological service is based partly on hard data, but also on anecdotal evidence provided by some of the brilliant youngsters with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working over the years. My findings indicate that many millennials have been raised by well-intentioned, super-conscious, helicopter parents who conditioned their children from an early age to have all of their thoughts, feelings, and interests nurtured and indulged. It’s only natural that they’d expect the same treatment as they move from living with parents to working with bosses.

But the forecast is not all gloom and doom. The good news is, it’s entirely possible to make like Gene Kelly and enjoy the meeting of these two potentially competing storm fronts. That’s right. With the judicious use of the latest advances in technology and the science of how people think and interact in the workplace, you too could be singing in the rain. Don’t believe me? Fine, batten down the hatches and brace for the worst. The rest of you can read on, and heed the three tips below that some of the largest companies in the world are already using to navigate this threatening weather.

1) Make peace with the shifting priorities of this generation. Through their willingness to leave jobs in search of more interesting projects, millennials offer a clear snapshot of the evolution of the workforce. They value adventure over stability; working smart over working hard; connecting with their culture over the relentless pursuit of money. I’m not saying they don’t want to make money, only that they expect the path to making it to have meaning and significance. What this means for organizations is that they must find a way to facilitate greater connections at work. That starts with the primary relationship at an organization, between the employee and his or her manager. Which leads us to tip number two…

2) Managers need to feel empowered, activated, and supported in order to step into the larger shoes they’re now expected to fill. Did you know that 60% of millennials want to hear from their boss at least once a day? That might seem like a tall order until you consider the most current research, which tells us that critical interactions between managers and their newly hired employees are instrumental in helping those hires become productive happily and quickly. These interactions, which can take place in team meetings, one-on-ones, or lunch conversations, can make all the difference where high impact areas of employee engagement are concerned, such as role clarity, cultural fit, and goal alignment with their organizations.

So that’s great, right? We know what conversations managers and millennials need to be having, and we know what topics need to be covered. But when should these conversations happen and, more important, how should they happen? Glad you asked, because the answers to those questions are covered in our final tip of the day…

3) When it comes to managing millennials, the most tech-savvy generation to ever walk the planet, organizations must learn to embrace digital tools. Just as the advent of search engines brought the world to our fingertips, the latest technology brings the best available onboarding practices to the manager’s inbox. Onboarding tools can not only inform managers about what ground to cover when meeting with their hires, it can also offer guidance on how to have these critical conversations and when to take advantage of all the early growth opportunities available to new hires. As data crunching algorithms kick into gear, key metrics can be surfaced to provide managers and organizations with a steady stream of crucial insights, measuring everything from productivity and engagement, to team integration and cultural fit.

None of these tips, of course, should come as a revelation. The fact that a generation raised on technology can be connected to their organizations, their career paths, and their managers through the use of technology makes perfect sense. But it’s on us now — the ones in charge of supervising this generation — to stop telling them to put down their devices and pick up our own.

Otherwise, the perfect storm just might hit us all sooner than we expect.

Image Credits: Zexsen Xie