Millennials: What’s All The Fuss About?

There is a lot of noise out there from leaders who have trouble leading “these millennials”! Stereotypes abound with common themes like:

  • Needy – always needing feedback and annoyingly curious, ask millions of questions.
  • Weak work ethic – more concerned about time off and work-life balance than getting the job done.
  • Narcissistic – it’s all about them…starved for praise and recognition for everything they do.
  • Awkward communicators – regardless of the topic, they default to communicate via technology, even when the most appropriate approach is either face-to-face and voice-to-voice situations as they are not good at reading social ques.

Generation whY !? card with colorful background with defocused lWhile these characteristics may be true for some, just like other stereotypes, they are dangerous because the reality is that no generation shares all the same characteristics and behaviors.

So why is there such a buzz and concern about leading millennials?

First, this generation is tech savvy, highly educated and will make up the majority of the workforce in the next several years. Secondly, they are willing to walk away from a job where they cannot find satisfaction in work-life balance, meaningful work and opportunities to learn and grow. According to Washington Post writer, Brigid Schulte, nearly 40% of millennial workers would move to another country with paid parental leave benefits because the U.S. has none.

So what can leaders do to keep millennials engaged in the workplace?

Here are a few thoughts:

  • Share the big picture & explain WHY the work you ask of them is important – this will help them understand how their work contributes to business objectives and add meaning to the work. Offering them opportunities to play a role on a meaty project can also go a long way in keeping them engaged and allow them to contribute fully.
  • Offer opportunities to learn & provide guidance/mentoring – they love a challenge and learning from others, doing research to help solve a difficult problem and sharing what they learn with others. Allow time for them to attend training, assign a mentor and conduct weekly check-in meetings with them.
  • Offer flexibility in work hours and options for telecommuting – allowing options for them to control where and when work gets done can boost engagement quickly. This is huge in terms of work-life balance. They don’t compartmentalize between work and personal life so they need to have the ability to flex between the two throughout the day.
  • Allow them to contribute with their skills/ideas and recognize results – ask them for ideas or to gain their perspective on a topic/issue (e.g. ask them to do some technology mentoring for others). Encourage collaboration with team members. Be specific in your feedback and praise – let them know precisely WHAT they did well/not well.
  • Offer accessibility in both information and leaders – they are accustomed to having access to information in the click of a mouse and are curious. Promote open discussions/debate in team meetings, take time to make introductions with others in the organization and share your personal experiences and lessons learned.

When you look at this list you may think…wait a tick.

If I do these things, it will probably improve engagement for anyone on my team, regardless of generation!

…and you would be right!

Don’t you love being right?

Here’s to multi-generational engagement!  Yee-Haw!!

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults.  Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at