6 Reasons Why Millennials Can’t be Managed

Millennials come in for some stick and scrutiny and I believe that one of the factors that challenges us the most is that we have to change the way we lead in order to fully engage the potential of millennials. 

For most of us in leadership positions this means that we are the ones who need to change and change feels uncomfortable.

Millennials have a different set of expectations, shaped by the world in which they have grown up. Here are 6 reasons why you can’t manage a millennial and ways we need to motivate and lead them differently.

  1. They demand greater purpose in the work they do.

Recession has impacted upon their progress through life and has driven a need for greater self-reliance, the re-forming of future hopes and dreams, the re-assessment of what they expect materialistically and the demand for more personal purpose.

This drives a need to align their personal values with the values of the organisation they work for. They will see through the ‘poster on the wall’ values that many organisations pay lip service to. They know what values mean and they expect to be living them personally and professionally.

Or to seek this elsewhere through self-employment, start-ups and more flexible, fulfilling ways of working.

2. They see the bigger picture and the impact of their small actions

The millennials world is more widely connected than any baby boomers and generations Xers could ever have anticipated. How can they not be aware of the bigger picture?

They understand that their actions as employees and consumers will make a difference once linked to the actions of other employees and consumers in their global community, and they are more mindful of the impact they may have as a small part of a collective.

They are cautious of shareholders and suspicious of investors – they’re the ones who stitch up the public and help the rich get richer right? So, what is their incentive for achieving their KPIs, when ultimately the benefit of their successful delivery will be for shareholders and investors?

This means Millennials are demanding and expecting greater integrity and authenticity from the organisations and leaders they will commit to.

3. They understand that they are the change they most want to see in the world

They see a world which is in economic, social and environmental turmoil. 

In his book ‘Fast Future’ David Burstein describes Millennials approach; “They have a deep desire to make the world a better place and they understand that doing so means working within the existing system, whilst trying to challenge and change it” (paraphrased).

They see a world which needs to make a change and they understand that they are responsible for the change they most want to see in the world.

They seek people who inspire them to make these changes.

They have the ability to network with like-minded people and the desire to collaborate.

They demand leaders who understand this too.

4. They demand a compelling vision for the long term

Millennials are part of an environment where change is happening exponentially – one change leading to another and then to another.

How can you identify the steps for a plan, when you cannot anticipate what will happen next because you need to learn something new first? This means Millennials are more comfortable with ambiguity, but what drives them forward in the absence of structure is a compelling vision.

Organisations and leaders need to communicate and re-iterate a compelling vision to continually engage millennials. This vision must be purposeful and authentic.

5. They need to evolve the ability to find answers for themselves

Millennials want to be inspired and given the opportunity to contribute the best of themselves to the world (as we all do).

Exponential change and innovation means that answers and solutions are often evolving, rather than known. It’s essential that all team members evolve the ability to solve for themselves, because if they wait for leaders to provide solutions progress will be slowed.

Teams require leaders, but not the hierarchical ‘I’ve got all the answers’ kind, leaders who enable and facilitate. Leaders who provide the space and environment for Millennials to solve problems themselves. Where trust and authenticity is encouraged and they are challenged to stretch, grow and evolve, rather than being challenged to deliver and meet measures driven by shareholders and investors for their benefit alone.

6. They want feedback, not appraisal

Millennials are used to a world of immediacy. Google, Apps, on-line games – they ask a question and they have their answer within seconds. They play a game and see their result straight away.

Exams are part of their on-going assessment as schools test more frequently to feedback and address learning gaps throughout the school year.

Millennials need and demand more frequent, specific feedback, enabling them to immediately reflect, learn and adapt. Not annual appraisal against KPIs or out of date comments on past outcomes.

If we want to fully release and utilise the talent and commitment of our future workforce is it time for us to re-think the purpose of organisations? The influences on culture, such as structure and measurement and ultimately our leadership approach?

Inspiration taken from research by Howe and Strauss and Yu & Miller about workplace attitudes of millennials.

If you would like to develop your leadership team and your approach to linking purpose and vision with your objective setting and review process contact Lyn to discuss what you’re currently observing and where you would like to be: 07950 914328, Lyn@evolveyou.co.uk