Millennials cannot be managed, but they can be led

Cubicles are old hat to millennials; they prefer more wide-open workspaces.

Cubicles are old hat to millennials; they prefer a more wide-open work space.

By Chloe Taylor

Millennials, the newest heavily scrutinized employee cohort, have brought a lot of changes to the way we do business today, and integrating them with the boomers and Gen Xers in your small business is one of the biggest challenges managers have. George Bradt, founder and chairman of executive onboarding group PrimeGenesis, wrote that instead of being managed the same way as the previous generations, millennials “must be inspired and enabled through brave leadership.” How that does look like when translated into real actions?

Start from the beginning

Leading the millennials starts from their recruiting. If you present your company as an employer who understand their concerns from day one, it is more likely they will be highly motivated to make positive changes in your organization. According to PWC’s survey, the most important factors that impact millennials’ choice of employer are (in this order) opportunities for progress, financial incentives, trainings and development programs, pensions, healthcare, flexible working arrangements, international experiences, good reputation, etc.

The importance of constant learning

Baby boomers taught their children that education and knowledge are the only possible roads to success. For millennials, then, learning is a lifelong obligation, and opportunities for learning should be provided by employers. Employee training, tuition reimbursement, and expert seminars are just some of the ways of doing it. To make those trainings effective, you have to understand the habits and preferences of millennials. They are born and bred on digital technology, so there is no reason for their training not to be mobile, gamified, and performed in a social media environment.

Dethrone the cubicle

At some point of the history, the cubicles might have seemed as a good idea (but so did feudalism). Now, it is time for them to step aside and make room for the new and improved office design preferred by millennials. This generation favors open spaces and collaborative workplace, with the possibility of moving around. An ideal millennial workplace will have its own nicely designed lounge, a coffee bar, outdoor space, socializing area, etc. One of the most important perks, however, is the relaxing nook that can be “homey” with comfy armchairs, bean bags and vibrant floor rugs, or it can be fun with video games, foosball, etc.

Work/life balance

Millennials put their friends and “me-time” before business, which is not necessarily a bad thing. When they are at the workplace, they can be very dedicated and productive, but they like to have the possibility of adapting their working hours. For them the amount of the tasks they have completely finished is more important than the amount of time they have spent in the office.

Can-do attitude and respect

Millennials will come to your organization with a self-confident, can-do attitude, and it is up to you to constantly nourish and inspire it. Never try to squash their ambitions; instead inspire them to aim for more. That way they can really excel. It is very important to respect them as persons and professionals. Even if they are 20 years younger than you, they have many skills you do not own, but you have much experience to show. Instead of undermining each other, you can learn from each other.

Give them a purpose

To be able to work well and be constantly motivated, millennials need a clear purpose. Although money plays an important role, it is not the main factor for their productivity. They will perform their job, sure, but they will not be at their best if they lack a clear purpose. To truly get the most of them find a meaningful cause they can commit to. For that, of course, you need to consult them and respect their ideas.

Workplace relationships

It is very important for the employees to get along and have great relationships, which results in better workplace atmosphere, and thus better performance. Those relationships must extend beyond the formal meetings and be encouraged with social hubs, casual Fridays, monthly dinners, adventures (e.g. hiking) and team-building exercises. All of this can make your employees feel more comfortable, engaged and happy with their workplace.

As you see, millennials are impossible to manage, but easy to lead – just give them respect, flexibility and a chance to grow, and they will make your business thrive alongside them.


Chloe Taylor is an art historian, environmentalist and a young blogger. She is learning and writing with passion about design, business, success and productivity. Chloe is a huge fan of social media, photography and dark chocolate and DC comics. You can find Chloe on FB or Twitter.

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