Generation Gap: A Crash Course in Managing 'Millennials'
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Generation Gap: A Crash Course in Managing 'Millennials'

Millennials provide a unique challenge for businesses today. Many business operators are struggling to understand this generation and how to get the most out of the employer-employee relationship. Here is a quick guide to those born after 1980 and how you can turn them into some of your biggest fans and assets.

Communicating: They do it differently than you. Let's start there. Veterans like face-to-face meetings, Boomers like phone calls, Generation X prefers email and Millennials do most of their communicating via cell phone, text messages and social media. Interpersonal skills and presentation skills often need work, so be prepared to explain what is important to you and expected in your line of work. But be open to letting them develop relationships through the channels they're most comfortable with. Their informality can often lead to more frequent contact and much faster relationship building.

Recruiting: When you set out to hire younger workers, consider your employer brand. What does your company stand for? What are your values? Young people want to work with people they like and companies that they believe in. Lead with that to make a strong impact and find better candidates. Also know anything they find - from LinkedIn, your website, to customer reviews on Yelp - will shape their opinions and interest.

Inspiring: Don't assume that the job itself, let alone a paycheck is enough to keep them working at their full potential. You have to motivate them to want to give you their all. That concept bothers a lot of business owners, but this generation has a different work ethic - they have to be inspired. Show concern for their happiness and wellbeing and that attention will go along way.

Training: Turn over rates are higher with younger workers, so consider breaking training programs into segments that you deliver over different intervals of time. Correspond them to increased responsibilities and compensation or benefits so you both see ROI from the investment. Also integrate as much experiential learning as possible - like going to meetings or conferences together and talking about what worked and what needs to be worked on.

Rewarding: Money is important to Millennials, but it is not what drives them. Before you start writing checks, find out what motivates them. Maybe it's starting a 401k, gym membership, flex time, a chance to travel, opportunity for advancement. Ask the right questions and you may find creative ways to cut the costs of keeping your staff inspired.

Mentoring: This generation has been coached more than any other. Be aware that they require attention and frequent communication. Focus instructions on what you need done, and suggest how, but give them the freedom to try new ways of achieving your goals. Review and judge the results more than methods and you'll probably end up learning from one another.

Parenting: Millennials are extremely close with their parents. What is appropriate for them to be involved in (interviews, discipline, contract negotiations, etc.) is a very gray fuzzy line these days. It's up to you to set boundaries, but making "helicopter parents" your allies can pay off too.

Retaining: Don't expect Millennials to be lifers. They typically change jobs every 1-3 years. But there are exceptions. Show them possible career paths, milestones to different levels in your company and how staying with you will build their career. Give them big goals to achieve, then big rewards if they deliver.

Jennifer Kushell is the founder of Young & Successful Media,, and is author of the New York Times best-seller, "Secrets of the Young & Successful." A globally recognized thought leader on the next generation workforce, she speaks around the world and helps organizations and governments inspire and leverage young talent. Contact her at or 310-822-0261.

Published: February 13th, 2013

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