Known for being self-centered, entitled, and technology obsessed, the Millennial generation seems to be characterized by nothing but negative stereotypes, including those in the workplace.
Baby Boomer managers have long scratched their heads about how to best manage and communicate with Millennial workers, sometimes for good reason: Millennials prefer 24/7 chat, social intranet, and video conferencing over the traditional 9-to-5 phone calls, in-person meetings, and annual performance reviews.
But the differences between Millennials and their Baby Boomer managers don’t have to be a bad thing, and they certainly don’t have to disrupt your business. Quite the opposite, in fact: you can harness Millennials’ passion for technology and social communication to streamline your employee management processes.
Be honest and transparent
One of the workplace features Millennials care about most is an honest, transparent environment. Dan Schawbel, a Millennial entrepreneur and author, says
Millennials “want a very transparent workplace with honest leaders. The number one leadership trait they are looking for is honest leadership. Honesty is very important, and vision, then transparency.”
Millennials were raised on a steady diet of ads and marketing campaigns. Because of that ad-fatigue, they crave authenticity and honesty from companies, including the ones they work for.
While honest leadership might come naturally to Baby Boomer managers, transparency might be something new. But transparency is something many Millennials grew up on and expect in the workplace:
According to one reporter, “parents of millennials talked about everything in front of their children, from finances to sex, so millennials are comfortable with the same approach from businesses and managers.”
There aren’t any tools that can draw honesty out of a manager, but transparency is another matter. Managers with Millennial workers should strive to make their processes and decisions transparent in order to gain their workers’ respect. Managers should use social collaboration and planning tools to share processes – like the standard procedure when someone calls in sick before an upcoming shift. Doing this will give Millennial workers insight into how their workplace functions, which creates trust between them and their managers.
Use social communication tools
Millennials are digital natives; they grew up on Facebook and Twitter, so communicating on social platforms is second nature to them. According to author Andrew Hoffman, Millennials “are used to constant connectivity and access to Internet, cell phones, tablets, and computers. That makes communication an ongoing, interactive experience for millennials. Communication and collaboration are no longer limited to the hours someone is available to meet face-to-face.”
One way you can utilize this is by using a social intranet or communications platform. Using a social tool allows managers to accomplish two things: 1) they can efficiently update employees on any schedule or business changes, and 2) by nature, a social tool allows employees to engage more with each other and the business (both great for retention!).
To ensure Millennial employees take full advantage of a social tool, make sure you engage with them and make it worth their time. Use a tool like Planday that has chat, text, and email features so you quickly send updates, answer questions, and ask employees to cover empty shifts. This keeps communication with employees more agile and digestible than long email threads.
Create a sense of teamwork and purpose
While Millennials have a long wishlist of things they’re looking for in a workplace, there’s one characteristic Millennials want above all else: to feel like they’re apart of something larger than themselves. According to Deloitte’s 2015 Millennial survey, younger workers are just as focused on people and purpose as they are profit.
And yes, that sounds lofty. But managers can use that to their advantage. Try scheduling workers in consistent groups, so they build a sense of camaraderie and teamwork. Beyond that, encourage employee groups to figure out the rhythm of how they work together best – maybe they’ll discover that the usual waiter actually works better as their shift’s bartender.
Beyond creating strong team bonds, managers can also create a sense of company vision by holding collaborative meetings about service or business goals. For example, invite your employees in early to discuss the 3 main experiences or feelings they want customers to take away from their time at your business. Do they want customers to feel inspired or relaxed? Or maybe cheerful and well-cared for? Inviting younger workers to take part in creating this business vision allows them to feel like they’re a part of something larger than themselves, which is key for Millennial workers.
Ditch traditional work hours
Most Millennials have never known dial up internet or phones that weren’t smart. They grew up in a world where information and people are accessible 24/7. Because of that, it’s clear that Millennials are moving away from traditional work hours. They want the ability to work flexible hours and communicate with coworkers and managers when they need to.
As a manager, you can take advantage of that by using a system that allows employees the flexibility to take work on (or not) when it suits them. Using a collaborative and transparent scheduling tool allows employees to pick up open shifts or drop a shift if they prefer not to work that day.
Likewise, a mobile communication tool allows employees to talk with each other and managers beyond typical work hours, and is less clunky and time consuming than email. They can easily access information and ask questions even if they aren’t at work, which Millennials see as an important workplace component.
Yes, Millennials might seem like a self-absorbed riddle to Baby Boomer managers, but there are ways you can use Millennials’ habits and preferences to streamline how you manage your younger employees – making your business operations smoother and more efficient. Try using social or collaborative tools, creating a flexible workplace, implementing transparent policies, and fostering a culture of teamwork and collaborative vision.
Who knows, maybe you’ll end up learning a thing or two from the selfie-generation.