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Managing Millenials

High Potential Millennial Talent Management

I am lucky enough to work in an office with a large number of high potential Millennials. Meaning I have a good amount of real world experience on this subject, not just source document research knowledge.   Now the first question you may have is, “What is a Millennial (although if you are reading this you most likely know)?”  Although sources differ, a Millennial is usually defined as someone being born between 1982 – 1995, some sources stretches it out to 2000.  So why is this generation any different in value than past generations?  Well there is a very, very good answer to this and it all has to deal with size and economic growth.

The Millennial Generation is HUGE.  Just about as big, if not bigger than the Baby Boomers.  Rough estimates size the Millennial Generation at 120 to 130 million.  This is interesting, but why care?  Well we must care because the generation between the Boomers and the Millennials is Generation X.  And Generation X is SMALL – very small.  Rough estimates on its size are around 80 to 90 million. In order to maintain solid corporate performance and economic growth in the foreseeable future, Millennials will be thrust into significant leadership roles. They will be responsible to drive the strategic marketing, operations and product direction for corporations much earlier than any generation before.  And in this complex global economy, this is a significant challenge.

In some cases, blog post like this might be too late.  The oldest Millennials are turning thirty in 2012 and most likely have already seen this effect and are now fending for themselves.  But I believe the core of this generation is just now entering the workforce and Human Resources and Executive Management still have time to build a plan to successfully implement the training and corporate retention policies necessary to enable high potential Millennials.

This sounds pretty simple. Millennials are needed in leadership roles much sooner than normal because of the size of Generation X and the hole the Baby Boomers are leaving as they retire.  Use standard programs and policies and we are all set – maybe.  The truth is if you use the standard policies and procedures you will FAIL miserably with this group.  This article in Talent Magazine gives a very detailed look at how training programs and retention policies need to change to ensure successful corporate integration of Millennials:

So what is so different about Millennials?  From a real world perspective the first thing I’ve run into is relevance.  Relevance is critical to this generation and it makes sense.  Think about all the data they have been exposed to for their entire lives.  From day one they are connected.  So it only makes sense that their first filter is relevance, in life as well as in work.  So what does this mean?  Basically, in the work world, they want their work to “mean” something.  Not specifically to the world, but to them.  They want their work to be an expression of who they are as a person.  They want to work on stuff they care about and like.  This is very understandable.  We all kind of want this, but with this generation it is critical.  They will forego money and promotions to work on “stuff” they like.  They will walk away from a company without another option if it means working on something that is just not relevant to them.

Some of this will change as they mature and gain responsibility both at work and at home, but for now it is just something that must be managed and understood.  It is easily handled with another business method that is an absolute must for them: Communication.

Mellennials demand communication, feedback and reinforcement.  Gone are the days of giving an employee a loose set of directives and tell them to run with it.  A Mellennial wants to know what they are working on, how it ties to company goals, and then they want feedback on a consistent basis.

So when interviewing Mellennials it is critical to detail their position, the work involved in that position and how that position impacts the company.  They need to see this in order to make a decision, but it also protects you from a short-term hire.  Communication with a Mellennial starts from the very beginning (even before they are hired).  But once hired, the communication must be constant and consistent but doesn’t necessarily have to be face-to-face.

The first challenge with communication is tied to decision making. Unlike other generations, Mellennials like working as part of a team, so they are not used to making decisions “outside” of a team.  They will consistently check in with their manager on decisions to be comfortable.  They will want to discuss their options and hash things out to feel comfortable with their decision.  This is a time issues for managers but it must be done.

The second challenge is around reinforcement.  A Mellennial likes feedback, constant and consistent.  They want to know you know they are doing a good job and working on the “right” things.  For a Manager who was schooled in the art of the “don’t bother me unless you are dying” management style, this is going to be very difficult.  The problem here is you may begin to judge the person as incompetent.  The reality is they are very confident but have never been allowed to fly solo (helicopter parenting issues).  A critical success factor here is to constantly reinforce that they can make a mistake, that a mistake will not kill them or the company.  The more you reinforce the faster they will move to flying solo.

This blog post is just the very tip of the iceberg that Melliennal talent management.  This post doesn’t even get into the stereotypical conversations of social media and texting communication methods that most slap on to this generation.  This issue can take up a blog post on its own. From my perspective It is crucial to continued economic growth that the potential of the Melliennal generation is tapped into quickly.

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