Managers, Not Connecting With Your Millennial Employees? Here’s Why

Posted by: Nate Regier

Millennials bring traits to the workplace that present new challenges to managers. However, the benefits of millennials are vast: fresh thinking, technologically savvy and worldliness, passion and results are only a few of the positives that millennials demonstrate when they enter their careers. The best managers will alter their traditional management styles to capture the best that the millennial generation has to offer, while understanding and accounting for the new ways that this generation approaches its career path.

Office communication is a major function of that transition. Millennials seek alternative types of validation from their managers in addition to the paths of upward mobility and job security. Specifically, millennials seek answers to the following questions:

Can you make it happen? Unlike generations before them, millennials are skeptical of their leaders, and need to know that the person above them can actually make change happen. They don’t want to hear promises of what could happen; rather they want to see the roadmap and examples of how it has happened before.

Is this meaningful/does it have purpose? Part of the passion that millennials bring to the table is the need to see the positive impact that their work is having on the world around them. This is a much different viewpoint than previously insular, self-focused generations that cared primarily about their own and their families’ wellbeing. Managers will find success with millennials if they can articulate the broader reach of the work they do every day.

Do you think my ideas are good? Like other generations, millennials seek approval from their superiors, and validation that they are successful. Just because millennials aren’t necessarily planning to stay with one company for the duration of their careers doesn’t mean that they want to be seen as doing poor work.

Do you care about me as a person? Being part of something bigger than themselves is important. So is being part of a social network that cares about the human element. Millennials will work hard for people they care about and with whom they feel close.

Establishing trust between the generations

Managers and business owners benefit from interaction and mutual trust between members of generations. In a healthy work environment, individuals from each organization train others on their respective strengths. For example, millennials have a tendency to confuse activity with productivity, but older generations can help millennials be more productive at work by refocusing them on outputs instead of inputs. On the other hand, millennials can help previous generations experiment and fail forward as a legitimate and more contemporary method of learning and innovating.

Putting it to action

The best approach to creating healthy relationships hasn’t changed – treat others as they would want you to treat them, but managers need to take the time to understand what millennials need to succeed. Use technology to proactively address the needs of millennials and earn their trust. Project management tools can show them the path to how something comes together and highlights their purpose in the project. Enterprise social networks and employee engagement software can help to validate their work and give them an outlet to express their opinions.

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About Nate Regier

Nate Regier, Ph.D., is co-founder, owner and chief executive officer of Next Element. A former practicing psychologist, Regier is an expert in social-emotional intelligence and leadership, positive conflict, mind-body-spirit health, neuropsychology, group dynamics, interpersonal and...See Nate's full bio.