Engaging with Millennials in the Workplace: Key Takeaways

Workplaces in every industry always have to make changes to accommodate a new generation of employees—those who see the world a bit differently than the previous generations. The Millennial generation, defined as people born between 1980 and 2000, has been the subject of much hand-wringing as employers attempt to utilize the many strengths of this generation, while accommodating differences not always easily understood by older coworkers. Let’s review some of the main themes that we’ve discussed in our series of posts on Millennials in the workplace.

Communication, Recruiting and Retention


As in all things, communication is key. But Millennials, unlike the preceding generations, are accustomed to what is known as a “flat” communication model: This means that, while older workers are comfortable using the established hierarchy (direct supervisor to middle management to upper management to C-suite), to communicate needs and complaints, Millennials are more likely to go straight to the top with their issues. They don’t hesitate to engage celebrities or authority figures directly, and they don’t always understand why leaders won’t give them rapid, personal feedback.


Likewise, much has been made of the Millennial generation’s greater need for encouragement and a more inclusive leadership style, but Millennials give what they expect to get: They are also more likely to be inclusive themselves and give encouragement to their peers. This makes for a more collegial, cordial workplace—which, incidentally, is something Millennials value almost as much as money. Study after study has shown that millennials are very motivated in job choices by quality of life. However, they’re not totally different than their elders. Benefits still lag behind pay in terms of attracting Millennials to a job.


And you’re not imagining things—the Millennials on your staff probably really do prefer text messages to phone calls. And they’re far more likely to rely on technology and web-based communication platforms than older workers. The upside to their reliance on technology is that Millennials are so-called “Digital Natives”—born and raised in a fully wired environment. When you need to implement new software, Millennials will be your early adopters and can help train and familiarize older workers with new platforms.


It all works out in the end


Millennials tend to be more risk averse than older generations, but managers can help them “fail forward,” by tamping down the fear of failure by implementing some affirming practices.


And recent research has found that, while Millennials do indeed behave differently than previous generations in early adulthood, they begin to look a lot more like the previous generations as they age. With the oldest Millennials now in their mid-30s, research has shown that they tend to act … like other middle-aged people. Many generational traits that previously set Millennials apart fade as they settle into their 30s—even that constant need for praise thing. At the same time, the positive traits tend to stick around.


Though every workplace will have to make some changes to accommodate the generational differences of Millennials, these changes don’t have to be unpleasant or especially drastic, and some might be for the better.

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