Millennials have a reputation for being entitled, lazy and – worst of all in the workplace – difficult to manage. While these Gen Y stereotypes are getting tired, a lack of understanding between employees of certain age groups can turn the office into a generational battlefield.
A recent panel in New York celebrating the publication of Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success (St. Martin's Press, 2013) by Dan Schawbel, addressed how to manage the generational mix. The multi-generational panel, which included executives and professionals from American Express, Johnson & Johnson and EY, highlighted ways that managers can work with millennials to enhance their companies.
Here are six tips you can apply to your own office:
1. Create a flexible work environment
According to Schawbel, “the future of work is not a one-size-fits-all model.” However, flexibility in the workplace is not specific to millennials; it ranks as the most important incentive, following cash and benefits, to all generations. Explore work models based on outcome instead of hours spent at a desk to allow everyone from the new hire Gen Y to the family-centric Boomer to produce higher quality and faster results.
2. Practice “reverse mentoring”
While you may have years of experience on your young employees, they may have a few things to teach you. Notable areas of expertise, according to a recent EY survey: tech and social media skills. EY Americas Inclusiveness Officer Karyn Twaronite advises managers to turn to millennials for assistance in online collaboration and teambuilding as the digital workplace grows.
3. Offer opportunities for formal training
While millennials are more likely to have degrees of higher education, employers have been less likely to provide formal training on the job. Managers can get greater outcomes from millennial employees through formal training, not only in hard skills, but also in soft skills, where both millennials and their employers feel Gen Y needs improvement. Kathryn Minshew, founder & CEO of The Muse, said that her career-advice site had filled a niche for a generation lacking substantial formal training.
4. Create micro-moments for mentorship
Kendall O’Brien of Johnson & Johnson advises managers to substitute a business lunch for 12 five-minute breaks to chat with millennial employees. Encouragement doesn’t always need to be a substantial time investment. Even a few minutes can help make employees feel valued and strengthen company ties.
5. Provide purpose, not perks
Startups have developed a reputation for revolutionizing the traditional office with add-ons like weekly massages or wine on tap. Minshew says what millennials are really looking for is a chance to grow in the position and a sense of purpose, not trendy perks. In other words, you can cancel the foosball table purchase, unless it will actually provide a playing field where employees can connect.
6. See beyond the stereotypes
Are millennials really that different from previous generations? They may have different skill sets and priorities, but ultimately, the end goal across generations at work is to make money in a way that is meaningful and exciting. However, perceived differences can result in disconnect. The panel discussed a company meeting in which managers were miffed by younger employees’ incessant texting. When a manager breached the topic with employees they were aghast – they had been taking notes on their phone, not ignoring the discussion. When acknowledged and explained, differences can make communication smoother and a company stronger. See beyond stereotypes of entitlement and laziness, and you might be surprised what millennial employees can do.