4 point guide to managing millennials

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Your 4-Point Guide to Successfully Managing Millennials
About The HRIS World Millennials Series™ #thwGenY

We are going to summarize a video provided by Simon Sinek, who has said and shared a lot of things we have already discussed in our newsletters and blogs...

Born 1984 and after, Millennials are accused of being entitled, narcissistic, unfocused, lazy. They do, however, want to work with a purpose, they want to make an impact, they want free food and bean bags (not necessarily the last two, just seeing if you are paying attention!). Yet, give them everything they want, and they are still not happy (truthfully, has anyone really been happy about getting anything, never mind everything, when always easily gained?).

This unhappiness has roots in their upbringing, in their use of technology, their impatience, and our environment...

  • The failed parenting strategies in which they were raised provoked more long-term problems than resolved. Let's face it, the parenting styles used to raise this generation tried to circumvent several principles everyone knows is true, some of which are: You reap what you sew, you can't sharpen a knife on a sponge, facing the pain you are going through today will minimize an even greater pain later. Instead, the parenting styles that were chosen focused heavily on issues that mostly could have been resolved over time that would have provided lessons learned early on in life. Those early lessons would have provided opportunities to build character which would have prepared their children for life after school, for the real life. This costly mistake has resulted in a generation that has, as far as we know, the lowest self-esteem than any previous generation. This means there are a sufficient number of Millennials, who are now the largest portion of the workforce, are going to need direction and guidance in overcoming an inhibiting lifestyle from what has essentially not been their fault.
  • Next on the list of root causes of the Millennials unhappiness is the lack of balance in using technology. This imbalance has allowed Millennials to filter nearly everything around them. This filtering process has kept them from really conversing which would lead to developing meaningful relationships, has kept them from learning how to work in teams, and has kept them from learning how to develop trust. They do this filtering via technology as it feels good. A Harvard study, completed in 2012, has shown that dopamine is released anytime one talks about themselves through social media (if not familiar, dopamine is the same chemical released when we smoke, drink, or gamble and the release of dopamine forms an addiction when it is not tempered). As the use of social media can provide a high level of dopamine, it makes social media and cell phone usage highly addictive. Truthfully, it is comparable to being provided all the smokes, alcohol, and gambling they wanted at a very young age. Yet, we have restrictions on smoking, alcohol, and gambling and none on the smartphone and social media usage. As a result of what amounts to a full access to a quick fix during the childhood and adolescence, what has been permitted in their childhood and adolescence has created an entire addictive adulthood generation that is numbed by a chemical called dopamine. And they are addicted in their personal lives, their work lives, their social lives, every level of their lives. Like ANY addiction, this dependency has deprived them of learning how to form deep meaning relationships as well as how to cope with stress that comes into their lives. Like ANY addiction, they are not turning to a person but to a device. This has lead to a higher rate of depression in a young generation. These addiction traits, however, can be stopped when one sees the value of a life outside of their addiction -- only now there is a higher level of pain involved as a habit needs to be broken, and new disciplines formed to develop new habits. The good news is they will be all the better for it.
  • Millennials are an impatient lot. Any time they want to do something, it is almost always immediately available for their participation - watch a film, read a book, ask someone out on a date, even ordering something on Amazon. This results in the failure to learn the life skill of being patient. This has minimized the social coping mechanisms all previous generations had to learn. Everything is instant gratification... except for job (or career) satisfaction and strength of relationships. Millennials have not learned that social coping skills are slow, meandering, messy processes. They have also never been taught that the most treasured and valuable things in life are arduous, long, and difficult in gaining. All this amounts to never having learned how to build joy into their lives.
  • Lastly the traditional company environment of short-term gains and funneling employees into positions where they either sink or swim will, with Millennials, result in a labor shortage never seen before. As Millennials want to learn, want to perform, want to make an impact, the traditional environment is not only unnecessary but minimizes the honing and growth of these desires. And their willingness is half the corporate battle, as many who have the hard skills do not have the proper soft skills that are necessary to carry out the hard skills successfully and fully. Companies need to learn how to teach Millennials how they can build confidence, how they can learn the skills of co-operation, how they can learn to overcome the challenges of a digital world while also finding a sense of balance, how they can learn to overcome instant gratification. All this will provide everyone -- the older generation, the businesses, the Millennials, the joys, impacts, fulfillments, and trust that one gets from working on something for a long time. We can not correct the problem we have created with the Millennials by using the same thinking that created the problem in the first place -- we have to think differently, which means actions must be different as well.

How can we, as leaders for the Millennials, do all this? Well, we ourselves have to relearn, and in some cases learn anew, the principles, laws of life, and the means that builds character. This is not something that should ba balked at -- there is a blessing to be had by us as people, businesses, as well as the Millennials as all will become stronger as a result, and that blessing will be in direct proportion to the effort put forth. This is a principle of relationships that transcends cultures, generations, genders, even IQ levels.

If you are interested in seeing the entire conversation by Simon Sinek, just click here.

Feel free to reach out to us if you wish to contribute some of your thoughts via a post by clicking the contact us button on the lower right of any page. Feedback, debates, discussion, collaboration and conversation are always encouraged in the comments section below... For more information about this series, use the blue contact us button on the lower right of your screen to contact us -- or if you are reading this by our newsletter, then hit the reply button to get back to us!

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As an HR professional, you’ve probably experienced (or heard) the horror stories when managing the ethics of Millennials, or “Generation Me” — individuals born in 1980 or later.

You know full-well about the constant texting and using cell phones, the sense of entitlement, and the constant need for praise.

Every generation has its own quirks, however, it’s important to acknowledge that your own biases could color your approach to managing any generation.

Do know from the get-go, this post is not about work ethics, business ethics, or any other descriptive ethics — this is about ethics, period.

Whenever we maintain a separate set of ethics for anything, we have already opened the door for confusion, bias, and the need to remember from which box we are operating — as a leader, you need to create one set of ethics and stick to it, they are meant to be tested not meant to be something slick as butter.

Like any generation, any culture, anywhere, not all Millennials embody their supposed cultural characteristics — they are, after all… people…

Just as you, if you are not a Millennial, probably did not embody everything of your own generation.

For the Millennials who do embody their supposed cultural characteristics, it’s important for you – not them – to learn to work with their strengths and not enable their weaknesses but to empower Millennials to build up their weaknesses.

Failure to do so will not only distance you from them, you also appear inflexible and are making yourself unavailable to learn.

The best leader is one that finds common ground, guides, directs through principles – not dictates through rules, regulations, and position.

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It is a principle that won’t go away — you are giving Millennials recognition for who they are as well as mentoring in matters that will assist them in making better decisions as they grow.

Here are a few tips to consider…
4 tips for managing generation me

Structured versus Unstructured Environment

With Millennials, always start by being very explicit about all rules and expectations.

The reason for this is simple: everything during their childhood was laid out for them mostly in the form of written rules by what they considered as authority figures, many of them do not really understand the concept of unwritten rules.

Many Millennials (not all) never learned to operate outside the box as they weren’t permitted to do such – conformity was expected and lack of such usually resulted in some form of discipline.

Most likely, you get the same defensive posture from Millennials when they did something wrong: “Well, I didn’t know!”

When you are very explicit about the rules and all the expectations from the very beginning, you should run into fewer problems later.

However, this is only a starting point for them – those that make themselves available to learn can be guided on how to think and act whenever there are not rules for a particular situation, or several situations happening simultaneously as such does in everyday business life, even in personal life.

Guide the Millennials to Self-Dependency and Self-Approval

One of the ‘trademarks’ of Millennial behavior is being motivated only through constant praise – remember, this is the generation that was given an award or trophy for participating in any event, many times, they are accustomed to something, anything, being present whenever they took on even the smallest task.

All this in their upbringing has created an addiction to feedback and is understandable, however in a business environment it can also become an obstacle to all companies now are working with fewer resources, a fast-changing technology environment, the need to remain informed in such an environment to remain competitive (so they can pay everyone!), as well as globalization.

All this requires a lot of time and energy in the first place and no offense to the Millennials, you need to remain focused on building and managing the business as much as possible.

However, they are the fruits of the misguided upbringing they received and like any generation, most are willing to learn to find out what works best instead of what feels best.

For both Millennials and you, there are old habits that need to be broken through new disciplines — be sure those disciplines are formed from sound principles instead of something trendy or convenient.

When a Millennial first starts working with your company, feel free to begin by giving consistent feedback on their work, both positive and constructively negative — guide them with insight as to why (if possible) as well as how to think through a situation.

This may sound like a tall order but there is a blessing to be had when both of you are learning — after a short while, like any new habit that started out as a discipline, you’ll be guiding them with habitual yet principled habits.

Keep doing this and both of you will notice that the need for constant feedback is no longer expected nor wanted. and more work will get done.

Reward Their Improved Weaknesses While Recognizing Their Strengths

For the most part, Millennials need to learn ethics as it was not part of their upbringing — ethics has fallen by the wayside to make way for agendas, policies, as well as rules and regulations.

Along with being brought up in a structured environment that gave out rewards that soon lost their luster, they were never taught much of anything about ethics.

With each generation since World War II, ethics became less and less of a child’s upbringing and most recently is nearly non-existent — instilling ethics in them as adults will help turn that tide only IF both you and your Millennials make yourselves available to learn what they are.

If this is new for you, then you better get cracking and find a mentor to guide you quickly — there are plenty of willing mentors to assist, however, qualify whom you are considering not only with their credentials but their references as well.

Returning to the Millennials, while in college, they more than likely got along with only their talent – they’re used to leaving assignments until the very last minute, so they just don’t know how to consistently work throughout the day.

In other words, they have become masters at improvising – a strength that can be honed to better decision making.

Some will say not to reward your Millennial employees based on their perceived intelligence and rather, praise their hard work — this only encourages hard work with anyone.

What good is hard work if they are not producing? not being effective? not using discernment? unable to think on their own?

Instead, I recommend that each Millennial be treated individually — some may need to recognized for hard work as well as guided to better decision making and learning to work wisely, effectively, and productively.

Others may need to be recognized for strengths other than hard work while simultaneously guiding them through their weaknesses and not helping them but assisting them to strengthen their weaknesses.

Give them a sense of purpose as they go about their daily tasks

More so than generations before them, Millennials tend to closely align their sense of self with their work – if they don’t find purpose and meaning in their work, then they easily become unmotivated.

With an emphasis on ‘easily’ – you will or probably already have found yourself dealing with some of their unreal expectations. – give where they have come from, this is expected and needs to be confronted with reality….

Not hit-them-over-the-head reality as that never works with anyone but by talking with them, not at them.

As such, make sure that they understand the bigger picture as they complete daily tasks – it is a great time for them to learn that success is not one big giant step, but a series of wins of shorter and smaller steps.

As with anyone, you can best make them feel valued by showing them exactly how they contribute to the company’s goals and their part in fulfilling the company’s vision and mission.

The Last Word

Millennials are talented and passionate, however – like any generation before them – they do guidance, mentoring, as well as encouragement to shift from their personal protected space to the realities of the workplace.

Every leader, with every new generation, has to remember they are dealing with seeds that were planted in each generation long before they became employees, and those seeds always come to fruition once they are in the real world.

What we succeeded — and failed — to do as parents in out children’s upbringing falls into the laps of the leaders that arrived before them.

Once you harness their strengths and talents as well as mentor and strengthen their weaknesses the right way, managing Generation Me can prove to be your most valued employees – every employee wants to do more when they know their leadership is listening and cares.

Video: Millennials In the Workforce

The video below provides some excellent background and additional tips on managing, mentoring and honing your Millennial workforce – we do not agree with everything they provide but they do provide a lot of great tips.


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Garrett O'Brien

CEO, Chairman, Publisher, Editor at The HRIS World Research Group

Garrett is the publisher, editor, writer forThe HRIS World Research Group, which includes The HRIS World, The HRIS World Research, The HRIS World Jobs, The HRIS World News, The HRIS World NewsMagazines, and The HRIS World Videos

With more than 20 years in roles as a client executive sponsor (#thwCES), project manager as well as functional/technical lead, Garrett is sought for his expertise for project insights, thought leadership, and team management globally.

He has been involved in large-scale and complex implementations since 1991 and has recently moved his operations to be with his wife in Brazil.

Garrett has had the pleasure of working with some of the greatest talents in the industry, and constantly shares his experiences and knowledge through content and webinars.

He maintains his fluency in Portuguese, German, French, and English with his various endeavors and contacts..

When not working, you will have to be adventurous to stay up with him as Garrett loves motorcycling, gunnery, boating, sailing, flying, and sports fishing -- and accompanying his wife on her various likes

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