SumTotal Blog

How the heck do I work with a Millennial?

Disclaimer: I’m a Millennial.


That the demographics of the workplace is radically changing is a popular subject and one that despite the huge amount of books and articles on it, hasn’t lost steam. Which is why I’m a little surprised that even with all this coverage, many employers and managers are still not getting it, and  are still grappling with the managing of the Millennials on their teams. In fact, 68% of corporate recruiters say that it’s difficult to manage millennials! It does make me wonder how the next generation will fare, but we’ll leave that for another day’s post!

As a Millennial I can honestly say some of the adjectives thrown our way have caused me and my peers to grimace, but  I’ll also say that sometimes the stereotyping was pretty spot-on and I found myself chuckling as I recognized the traits and more importantly, the ways to handle, said traits.

To further help and in some instance to clarify the best ways to deal with your Millennial worker, I have put together a cheatsheet of sorts, with some of the top traits of my generation and how best to use this trait to your organization’s advantage.

1. Give us a mission.

Have you noticed that a lot of Millennials have a “ride or die” mentality? This is a purpose-driven group with 84% saying that making a difference is more important than professional recognition.Employers should leverage this and let Millennials use their energy for the betterment of the company. Let them get the team excited, give them a “cause” to solve, or the underdog project to pull across the finish line.

2. Review us and regularly.

We’ve talked about this before. Millennials, and to be fair non-Millennials too, don’t like to wait  365 days just to be told they are doing a great or poor job. No, that mindset needs to go. Instead what we should be seeing are continuous and regular “check-ins” ongoing discussions around performance, expectations and perhaps even recognition of work well done.  Concerned that such a process might not just be too time-consuming or costly? Consider the following.Thanks to more frequent and regular reviews:

  • GE was able to “drive a fivefold productivity increase in the past 12 months” and sourced a number of very profitable ideas for improvements inside and out of the organization from their conversations with employees.
  • Adobe saved, “approximately 80,000 hours of our manager’s time in the annual review process; and saw a 30% reduction in voluntary turnover3

3. Let us learn.

ManPower Group’s recent survey of 19000 working millennials across 25 countries revealed that:

  • 93% identified ongoing skills development as important to their future careers
  • 80% rated the opportunity to learn new skills as a primary factor in considering a new job
  • 93% want lifelong learning and would spend their own time and resources on further training.
  • Enough said.

4. Help us become leaders.

More than six in ten Millennials (63 %) say their “leadership skills are not being fully developed.”  While 71% of those likely to leave in the next two years expressed unhappiness with the way their leadership skills are being developed.

We’ve already said we are happy to learn, so give us the opportunity to learn, to train so we can be the new leaders of tomorrow, we can fill the many spaces that will soon be vacant as the current leadership vacate the spots.

5. Mentor Us

Where it exists, mentoring is having a positive impact and six in ten (61%) of Millennials are currently benefiting from having somebody to turn to for advice, or who helps develop their leadership skills.

I believe history will set the record straight on some of the less flattering traits of my generation; in the meantime I suggest we look to what we do well and what we need to do even better, and ask that companies meet our needs so we can be the best version of ourselves.

Check out our latest webinar on working with a multi-generational workforce to discover how even something like absence management can be optimized across generations.

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