Working with Millennials – Get Used to It!

Article written by Phil Spensieri, TAB York Region

With most business owners in the Baby Boomer or Gen X generations, it’s no wonder I am often asked about how to handle millennial employees.

Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce and fastest-growing generation in the marketplace, so unless you and your senior team plan on never retiring, this is the time to learn to adapt your expectations as millennials, according to The Center for Generational Kinetics, do not respond to traditional techniques and strategies.

In fact, Alicia Rainwater, a speaker for The Center for Generational Kinetics, which has been studying generations for 10 years says, “millennial behaviours like looking at their phones when you are trying to talk to them, working flex hours, wanting to leave early; (these) are not going away, they are not a phase that you can wait out.”

The truth is that, like it or not, if we as business owners want to stay and grow in our businesses we have to learn to adapt and open our minds to this massive new generation. This new generation is very adaptive, flexible and craves experience and learning opportunities. You have expertise and experience they crave – now it’s just down to you understanding them better and adopting a few behavioural changes to bridge the generational gap and watch your business grow.

Here are a few things to consider that can help you adjust to your new “millennial attitude”:

  • They have a lot to learn, no question, but they want to learn from you. Provide them with a mentorship-type of relationship where you can teach them new perspectives, or ways of thinking. They want to understand how you do what you do, so it is worth taking the time to show them as it is an investment in them as your employees.
  • Just because they are always on their phones does not mean they are tech-savvy – it means they are tech-dependent. Do not expect them to “know everything about how to fix your computer,” but you CAN ask them for help with understanding Instagram, podcasting software, texting abbreviations and what’s “in” as far as emojis.
  • 42% of millennials expect feedback every week (twice as much as any other generation). For many owners, this may be three times more than you have time for, but you can make it part of your daily/weekly routine to simply walk around the office and make a comment to individuals or make mention of an employee’s project in a team meeting.
  • It comes as no surprise, but they don’t like to actually talk on the phone, therefore don’t make it a major part of their job. Consider talking to them about your expectations about customer communications and work together on how they can achieve what you want, but perhaps with another mode of communication.
  • No matter how many tattoos, t-shirts, or inappropriate footwear, millennials can dress appropriately for your work environment. Give them examples so they know what you want. You can also consider adding a dress code into your on-boarding or employee handbook.
  • You should consider creating a flex-work policy that allows them and all your staff, if they so choose, to work from home once a week or 2 times a month or whatever works best for your work environment.

In considering these changes, you also need to make sure you don’t confuse bad behaviour with what you think is millennial behaviour. Being insubordinate, disrespectful or rude is not acceptable behaviour, no matter what the generation.

If you’re interested in talking to other business owners also experiencing similar growing pains, think about joining a TAB board near you!