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Guest Post: Why Managers Need to Support Their Millennial Workers

The workplace is one of the areas we most often see generational clashes in action, which is why we see so much ink dedicated to Millennial workers and how Xers and Boomers feel about them. There are even comedy videos devoted to the many supposed flaws of the Millennial worker. But for those who are dedicated to looking beyond the stereotypes about the generation, the story of Millennials in the workplace is more complicated. Today Dan Schawbel, Millennial workplace expert and the author of the new book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success, is encouraging a deeper look at the clashes between Millennials and their managers, and making the argument for Millennial workers to be accepted and supported.  

Millennials are the most diverse, most educated, and largest generation we’ve ever seen. They will comprise 75% of the global workplace by 2025. The problem I’ve found is that the media gives Millennials a bad rap, calling them “Generation Screwed,” “The Me, Me, Me Generation,” and “entitled,” to name a few. The reality is that they were hit the hardest by the recession, and collectively have a trillion in student loan debt. More than 60% have degrees, but they’re graduating with waitressing and bartending jobs.

Managers view Millennials as entitled, yet Millennials are more focused on giving back to the community, and value work flexibility over more money. They think they should be paid what they deserve and promoted when they earn it, and that neither should be based on age. But because most managers don’t understand how Millennials operate, they become frustrated and lash out. In a new study I conducted in partnership with American Express, we found that while Millennial employees have a positive view of their managers, managers have the opposite view of them. Millennials feel that their managers have experience (59%), wisdom (41%) and are willing to mentor them (33%). On the other hand, managers feel that Millennials have unrealistic salary/compensation expectations (51%), a poor work ethic (47%), and are easily distracted (46%).

Many managers view Millennials as being needy because “they need constant attention and feedback,” and it may be true— but what’s the problem with that? The new economy calls for continuous learning, but in our research we found that some companies don’t give performance reviews at all, not even annually. This is a huge issue, and one that will make Millennials leave your company. It’s also bad for business: if you provide the constant feedback they crave, they can keep improving, which will increase productivity and results. Then, because they’ve learned along the way, Millennial workers will grade well in formal performance reviews. By giving feedback daily and weekly, Millennial employees are not only more prepared for success, they will feel like you care about them—and as a result will stay longer.

Managers need to support Millennials by giving them freedom and flexibility. We live in a 24/7 world where people continue doing business even when they come home from work. The majority of professionals answer work email during vacations. It shouldn’t matter when and where work gets done, just that it gets done! Millennials see no need for a nine to five workday. Companies should allow workers, not just Millennials, the freedom to work from home, or a co-working space, or even the corporate office as long as they hold them accountable for their work and set goals and expectations. Aside from flexibility, managers should focus on promoting employees who are delivering real results instead of how long they’ve been at the company. In the old days, the older you were, they higher up you were. But in today’s world those age limits make little sense. 15% of Millennials are already managers and that number is going to grow year over year.

When Millennials enter the workplace, they are lacking true mentors. Millennials see the world differently and can bring creativity to the workplace. They grew up with technology and can help older generations learn about the latest tech tools, how to use them and apply them to work initiatives. One of the things I always stress to managers is to pair them with older workers and help facilitate reverse-mentoring. Executives can teach Millennials about how to be successful at work, navigate office politics, and can help them network across the organizations. Millennials can get them up to speed on technology affecting their jobs and the company overall. These win-win scenarios aren’t created enough at work, yet they are essential for bridging the generation gap. The more you support your Millennials, the more engaged they will be.



Dan Schawbel is a Gen Y career and workplace expert, the Founder of Millennial Branding and the author of the new book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press).