What You Don't Know (But Should) About Managing Millennials

Gen Y-ers' appreciation for work-life balance, affinity for team collaboration and passion for helping their colleagues makes them an important asset.

learn more about Jerry Jao

By Jerry Jao • Jul 7, 2014 Originally published Jul 7, 2014

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Whether they are called Generation Y, echo boomers or even the Peter Pan generation, millennials are becoming more prevalent and weighty in today's business world. This younger generation is expected to comprise 36 percent of the American workforce this year and 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025.

Adapting to the influx of millennials entering the workplace doesn't mean a company must to overhaul its entire environment, but managers may have to make adjustments to their supervisory style. Here are three lessons I've learned from my experience managing a team of millennials:

Related: 6 Keys to Developing Millennials Into Managers

1. Promote a work-life blend and balance. Millennials live by the motto "work hard, play hard." They are not willing to sacrifice their personal lives for the advancement of their careers. As a manager, empower millennials to manage their own schedules, yet continue to motivate them to be diligent about their assigned tasks.

Their contributions should never be measured by the number of late nights spent at the office but instead by the results realized, whether it's producing high-quality work, beating project deadlines or thinking outside of the box to great effect.

At my company, Retention Science, which is teeming with millennials, I and other managers don't clock hours or track vacation days (we offer a flexible and accommodating vacation policy), but set an aggressive timeline for each person to deliver tasks. This promotes a "work smart" approach and ensures that every employee stays focused. We want our team members to enjoy their time at work rather than to constantly feel as if working long hours were the only way to excel.

Related: The Problem With Hiring Millennials Is Their Age, Not Their Generation

2. Spur collaboration. Millennials have grown up working in teams, participating in group projects in the classes, high school sports and group-chat video games. They want an atmosphere that promotes cooperation. A collaborative working environment can foster learning within a company.

At my company, Retention Science, our desks are arranged in an open floor plan to encourage teamwork. No one is confined to cramped, isolated cubicles. Having a group setup lessens the sense of a corporate hierarchy and creates an ambiance of community. The team dynamic in the office is augmented by bonding events through company-sponsored activities, such as surfing lessons, pick-up basketball games and monthly dinners that let employees have a chance to get to know one another personally. A team that is built on trusted personal relationships will lead to solidarity.

3. Set personal goals. Many millennials consider themselves altruists by nature. They want to have a purpose, whether it's contributing to their co-workers' success, company growth or aiding those using the products or services they create. Millennials' can-do attitude makes them mentally prepared to take on challenging tasks. They'll continue to assume those tasks when it's apparent they contribute to their professional development.

Personal goal setting is important for millennials who want to see forward movement in their careers and take ownership of their progress. Allow new hires to spend a few weeks getting a lay of the land before asking them to record their goals – for the near term for their current position and long term to map their career aspirations.

From there, managers should conduct a monthly meeting with each team member to check in on their goals, outline expectations and provide candid advice. A manager's job is to help every employee become more successful , and goal setting, along with periodic check-ins, adds a layer of measurement that's beneficial for the team member and manager.

I'm a millennial myself, but don't know everything there is to know about managing this generation. What I do know is this: Millennials' appreciation for work-life balance, affinity for team collaboration and passion for helping co-workers makes them an important asset in the workplace. I never hesitate to tell each person how much I appreciate her or his work, whether it's closing a deal with a new client, or documenting product updates. At the end of the day, showing gratitude and respect is the best and only way to manage millennials.

Related: What Young People Want From Work

Jerry Jao

CEO and Founder, Retention Science

Jerry Jao is the CEO and co-founder of Retention Science, a leader and innovator in retention marketing. Prior to his founding of two other marketing software companies, he worked at he worked at Morgan Stanley, KPMG Advisory and Clear Channel Communications. He is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and Yale School of Management. 

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