Bringing Out the Best in Your Millennial Employees

By Katherine Spencer Lee

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The Millennial Generation (those born roughly between 1979 and 1999) is entering the workforce, bringing with it new expectations that affect the way these professionals are managed. To keep Generation Y employees productive and engaged, employers may need to make adjustments from the way they’ve led previous generations.


The good news is that most companies won’t have to make significant changes. For the most part, Millennials want the same things as their predecessors: competitive pay and benefits. This is among the findings of a new report from Robert Half International and Yahoo! HotJobs, What Millennial Workers Want: How to Attract and Retain Gen Y Employees, which was based on a national survey of more than 1,000 adults 21 to 28 years old and beginning their careers. Here are some other ways to help managers get the most out of their Gen Y staff:


Communicate Openly and Frequently


Managers should make an active effort to keep Millennials informed about company developments and provide regular feedback about job performance. Thirty-five percent of Gen Y respondents said they want to communicate with the boss several times a day, while only 10% would be happy with weekly communication. Leaders may need to take their employee relations up a notch, stopping by employees’ desks and sending e-mails to staff more frequently than with previous generations.


Millennial professionals want managers who give advice, provide support and let employees take charge of their own projects. They also expect honesty and candor, so be upfront (don’t let these workers find out news through the grapevine) or try to cushion criticism.     Just as important as sharing information readily with these employees is listening to them. Like other generations, they want to feel comfortable bringing up new ideas and knowing that their supervisors will give their input serious consideration.


Make Work Challenging


Millennial workers also are eager to apply their skills and want to receive more immediate recognition for their achievements than their predecessors. When asked how long individuals entering the workforce should have to “pay their dues” in entry-level positions, more than half of Gen Y professionals surveyed said just one to two years. However, they also recognize that they play a role in their own career prospects and are highly committed to keeping their skills sharp. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of respondents said they expect to go back to school to obtain another degree during the course of their careers.


Make sure you offer plenty of on-the-job challenges to these workers. While entry-level assignments may not always be exciting, try to balance out their basic responsibilities with projects that allow them to apply their technology skills in new ways. You may want to assign more experienced IT professionals to serve as mentors, helping Millennials expand their knowledge, succeed in their current positions and prepare for advancement. You’ll show this generation that you care about their future at your company.


Make it Personal


Generation Y professionals have a strong desire to be seen as individuals, with managers acknowledging that they have lives and concerns outside of work. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Millennials polled said they’re worried about balancing job and personal obligations. Firms that address these concerns by offering perks and programs that support work/life balance can boost motivation and loyalty. Job-sharing, compressed workweeks, telecommuting or alternative scheduling are some ways of meeting individual needs.


Managing the Millennial Generation requires walking the fine line between offering plenty of professional support and micromanaging. Supervisors leading these workers need to be supportive coaches who take more of a collaborative, personalized approach to leadership. They’ll bring out the best in these employees and make them valuable contributors to the organization in the years to come.


Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multiplatform systems integration to network security and technical support. The company has more than 100 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at www.rht.com.