Business owners with only a decade or so to go before retirement are hiring more and more millennial-age people to work for them with every year. While it can be tough for those in their 50s and 60s to develop a successful method of managing those of a younger generation, this phenomenon is hardly new. The age gap between upper management and employees is a time-tested dynamic every business owner will need to factor into their operative practices.
While every generation is a little different, millennials aren’t so special from other age groups as to be impossible to manage. To improve their relationship with younger workers, older business owners can utilize the following ABCs of managing a mostly millennial workforce:
Account for individuality
There is more diversity in the millennial age workforce than in those of previous generations. While this includes things like race, religion, and gender, it also includes things like lifestyle and dietary choices. With this in mind, business owners who wish to better manage a millennial workforce will want to account for individuality as best as possible, but simultaneously avoid drawing too much attention to it. For instance, when it comes to handing out holiday offerings to employees, a turkey gift certificate is a sure winner nine times out of ten, but what about Jim the vegetarian? Having a comparable alternative is a nice way of saying you acknowledge and respect him as an individual without making a big deal out of it.
One of the biggest complaints business owners have about millennial age employees is how they don’t seem to respect work schedules, break time rules, and other clock-oriented aspects of employment. As an owner-manager, you have two options: become more strict about enforcing set schedules, or switch to a results-driven model. By placing an emphasis on the results i.e. the quality and quantity of work an employee produces in a given amount of time, employers can let millennial age staff move at their own pace but still hold them accountable. Start by developing mid-week and end-of-week goals for workers, coupled with a mid-week and end-of-week review of their productivity.
Capitalize on their tech-savvy
Some people look at how often millennials are on their smartphones and in cyberspace and shake their head at the apparent waste of time and energy. Those with an innate entrepreneurial spirit, however, look at this and see an untapped source of digital expertise. Most millennials are naturally gifted when it comes to finding reliable information online, managing a social media presence, and troubleshooting various glitches and hiccups with software and apps. Business owners ought to incorporate this into their day-to-day operations to better harness the talents millennials are bringing to the table.
Don’t “Fellow Kids” them
If you’ve thought about using memes to reach out to your workers, note that what you’re doing is itself already a meme. Rather than trying to fit in with your millennial employees by seizing on the eccentricities of internet culture, focus on the organic common ground. There’s more of it than you or they probably realize. A mutual appreciation for professional sports is one example. Another would be a shared fondness for a particular book, movie series, or TV show. Even food is something people of multiple age groups can.
Express displeasure appropriately
In addition to being flaky about work schedules, millennials also have a bad rap when it comes to taking criticism. But rather than treating them with kid gloves and consequently preventing your business from improving, older managers of millennials ought to focus on the appropriate means to express their displeasure with a person’s performance. Begin by understanding the difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism. Follow up by delivering the critique in person one-on-one rather than through email or in a meeting. Do not mince words, but do not end the conversation without outlining a clear path for improvement. If you genuinely feel like your employee is capable of making the necessary changes (which you would if you are choosing to keep them) make sure they know your feelings on the matter.
Business owners nearing retirement age are probably managing a workforce of mostly millennials. If you’ve been having trouble finding the best way to lead employees belonging to this generation, you’re not alone. Fortunately, there are a few relatively simple ways to improve your management of millennial workers without sacrificing the values and techniques which led to your success in the first place.