Millennials currently make up the largest generational segment of the U.S. workforce. With millennials becoming more and more prevalent in the workforce (a Brookings Report estimates millennials will make up one of three adults in America by 2020 and seventy-five percent of the workforce by 2025), and with thousands of baby boomers retiring every day, many millennials are attaining managerial roles. This development has put the oft-derided millennial generation in the spotlight, and employers need to prepare these young professionals for successful managerial careers.
Millennial managers are largely viewed as ill-equipped to manage a team. According to a Future Workplace study, eighty-three percent of respondents said they have millennial managers in their workplace managing “older” employees. However, almost half of the older generation respondents felt that millennials managers had a negative impact on an organization’s culture. Further, while forty-four percent of millennial respondents believe they are the most capable generation to lead in the workplace, only fourteen percent of all survey respondents agreed.
It is no secret that older employees often have difficulty taking direction from younger colleagues. The challenge then is to provide the millennial manager with the proper credibility and authority to lead. In order to develop these abilities, corporations will need to help these Millennials grow into their leadership roles through formal training, self-directed learning, and mentoring. The following five tips are ways for millennial managers to develop into reliable leaders:
- Relationship Building and Trust Among the Team. Often times, young managers are not viewed as being as trustworthy as older managers. One reason for this discrepancy is Millennials’ strong preference towards digital communications. While digital communication may be easier and quicker than a face-to-face meeting, these digital interactions don’t create strong impressions as a leader. A manager must instill value and trust amongst his/her team. The creation of value and trust is difficult to accomplish through email and iMessage. Therefore, millennial managers must build that trust with their team through in person, face-to-face meetings. One way to build that trust is to hold periodic meetings with “mature” employees to discuss your expectations of them and what they expect from you.
- Listen to Older Worker’s Experiences. While many new managers enjoy incorporating a “my way or the highway” attitude, that is definitely not the best approach. The older members of any Millennial manager’s team no doubt have a plethora of experience to draw from. Maybe an older worker has been a member of a team that did things differently that can be a benefit to your team. A millennial manager would be wise to listen to the experiences of his/her team in order to create the best, most efficient environment for the team to operate in. Further, millennial managers would be wise to seek advice from older employees when making important decisions.
- Guide and Update the Tech Skills of Your Team. Many mature workers are intimidated by new technology. Millennial managers, most of whom are digital natives, can help develop and grow the older employees’ tech skills through periodic training sessions. This will further advance the trust between the millennial manager and older team members, while also allowing the older workers to remain relevant in a constantly evolving, technology-based workplace.
- Don’t be Defensive: Own Your Mistakes. You’ve heard this saying a million times before: everyone makes mistakes. When it happens, a good millennial manager must take responsibility. Making excuses or blaming others shows a lack of maturity and insecurity. Instead of arguing and pointing fingers, learn from your mistake and ask for feedback about how you can improve in the future. This is a must for any strong leader, but this is especially critical for a young leader.
- Don’t be Afraid to ask for Help. Great leaders are always continuing to learn and evolve as individuals. Asking questions when you are unsure displays initiative and drive, something all employers want in their managers. Millennial managers need to constantly educate themselves and continue to grow as leaders. If there is something you don’t know or need assistance with, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Whether asking for help from your manager, Human Resources, or a member of your team, a strong organization will always be there to assist you. Working together to solve a problem helps develop solid teams that trust each other to get the job done correctly.
Organizational leaders need to have a system in place for developing millennials into managerial roles. Providing training and mentorship for new managers will allow millennials to grow into their leadership roles and become effective managers in a changing workforce.