Millennials, commonly but not exclusively defined as people born between 1981 and 1996, occupy a complicated space in today’s workplace—predominantly because they’re the youngest generation in it. While many consider this group “ambitious” and “tech-savvy,” others understand it to be “whiney,” “distracted,” or “entitled.” As with any stereotype, this is a flat, un-nuanced version of a partial truth. The most important thing to remember, says Brad Karsh, CEO and founder of JBTraining Solutions, is that each generation in the workforce—from Boomers to Millennials—has been shaped by their upbringing.
For example, says Karsh, many millennials grew up with working parents, the privileges of after-school activities and clubs, and constant individual mentoring. In a work environment, this translates to a desire to be told what to do, to be monitored while doing it, and then to receive praise for doing everything successfully. While not every work environment is able to supply such a structure, for any number of good reasons, it’s important to remember that the desire for it is rooted in generational factors, not necessarily selfishness or weakness.
A solid compromise, offers Karsh, is to provide concrete explanations from the start, so that millennials always have a structure to return to when they desire it. At the same time, it is best practice to “ween them off structure,” for example, reminding them that a supervisor might not check in every day, and that this isn’t a bad sign. Often, he says, millennials respond well to direct communication. Of course, everyone is an individual no matter their generation, and over time, most new structures can be learned and put to effective use. Other best practices that have proved effective for millennials are future-focused credentials, real time conversations, and microlearning.