Millennials

Trying to Manage Millennials at Work? Here's How Facebook Does It.

Trying to Manage Millennials at Work? Here's How Facebook Does It.
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Figuring out how to recruit, retain and motivate millennials – those born after 1980 – can be a fraught exercise. We’re talking about a generation that has been the subject of a million, often-contradictory think pieces – depending on your perspective, millennials are either hard-working, ambitious and clear-headed or lazy, entitled, and delusional. Understandably, building an actionable management strategy on these muddled generalizations can be tough for any company.

As guidance, then, perhaps it’s helpful to examine the tangible ways one very successful company manages its millennial employees: Let’s take a look at Facebook.

Facebook knows a thing or two about millennials -- According to a recent study by Payscale, the median age at the tech company is 28, meaning the vast majority of its employees fall squarely within the generation’s age bracket. To effectively manage its overwhelmingly young workforce, Facebook has adopted a set of somewhat unconventional set of management techniques, The Wall Street Journal reports, one that caters to employees’ thirst for freedom and control as well as their aversion to inertia and top-down leadership.

Related: How to Bridge the Workplace Generation Gap

1. Conversational management style

At most companies, managers tell employees what to do. That’s not necessarily how it works at Facebook. According to the Journal, even entry-level employees are encouraged to question manager’s decisions, and offer up their own solutions and feedback. In addition, the manager-employee relationship isn’t always based on giving orders on one side, and executing them on the other. Instead, managers are tasked with making it easier for employees to achieve their own, individual goals. “Sometimes their role is to help you get the resources you need and to move things out of your way,” one former Facebook sales team employee told the outlet.

2. Shifting roles

Millennials are often characterized as flighty – and it’s true that unlike previous generations, they are comfortable switching employers every few years in search of better opportunities. Recognizing this, Facebook encourages employees to routinely change roles within the company based on their strengths and career objectives. It’s not unusual for a worker to be hired for one job, and then quickly transition to another based on his or her initial performance. Paddy Underwood, 28, was hired as a lawyer on Facebook’s privacy team, but two years in, he decided he wanted to pivot from practicing law to building products, he told the Journal. He sat down with his managers, and they made the job transfer happen. Other employees are encouraged to switch roles based on their skill sets.

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3. Grading on a curve

Instead of measuring employees’ performance against a static list of criteria, they are graded on a curve – i.e. individual performance is evaluated on how it stacks up against everyone else’s. This keeps even the brightest workers on their toes, and maintains a consistently high standard of work. For employees used to glowing performance reviews, an average rating (meaning they are working at the same level as their co-workers) can be “the worst thing that ever happened in their career,” Don Faul, Facebook’s former president of online operations, told the Journal.

Of course, Facebook’s management techniques won’t work at every company, or in every industry. The little value it places on titles may jar older employees, and the fast-paced, mercurial environment can lead to burn-out (which perhaps helps explain Facebook’s young median age). That said, the way Facebook – an incredibly successful company built by millennials, and largely run by them -- caters to its employees’ desires and work-style is a useful template for any company looking to effectively manage millennials.

Related: What Young People Want From Work