Managing the Millennials: Some Approaches
Who are the Millennials and Why are they so Important ?
The Millennials or the generation of youngsters born between 1980 and 1995 and so called because of they came of age in the New Millennium is now either entering the workforce or are already part of it. This means that organizations, governments, and managers need to have an understanding of what makes the Millennials tick or what makes them motivated and perform to their potential.
Indeed, while earlier generations including the Baby Boomers (who were born in the aftermath of the Second World War and are so called because the end of the war in the West sparked a boom of people and wealth) as well as the Generation Xers who were born in the late 1960s and the 1970s) viewed work and professional life more or less in the same manner, the Millennials are perhaps the generation in history who not only have radically different attitudes to work and careers but are also shaped by several intersecting trends in business and society that have made them the way they are.
A Generation Shaped by Technology and Social Media
For instance, the Millennials are the first generation who grew up with the internet and mobile phones as well as entered the workforce with the Smartphones and are the first generation for whom print and written communication primarily takes place through the Digital medium.
Indeed, the Millennials might even never had to use pen and paper except when they were in their childhood and early education since most universities and colleges, as well as the modern workplaces, are devoid of such media.
Instead, the Millennials have been so influenced by technology that they perhaps understand it intuitively and in a more sophisticated manner than previous generations.
This means that managers and organizations have to ensure that the intersecting trends of technology and media are harnessed to the brim without affecting either the productivity of the Millennials or wasting their potential.
This calls for innovative approaches such as not banning social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter in the workplaces and at the same time regulating their usage so that not much time than necessary is wasted. In addition, organizations also have the responsibility of monitoring social media so that trade secrets and other Intellectual Property Rights and material do not find their way out.
Thus, this calls for a nuanced and balanced approach towards social media wherein the Millennials is also encouraged to express their creativity while adhering to strict organizational norms. Apart from this, they can also be encouraged to what is known as BYOD or Bring Your Own Device which means that they can use their personal Smartphones and Tablets to work while adhering to security protocols and standards. Indeed, perhaps the biggest challenge that managers and contemporary organizations face as far as the Millennials are concerned is to understand the symbiotic relationship between this age cohort and Social Media and hence, formulate appropriate strategies.
Shorter Attention Spans and Productivity
Next, all the effect of the accelerating technological changes had on the Millennials is that they have relatively shorter attention spans when compared to other age cohorts and this presents its own set of challenges to managers and organizations.
With compressed attention spans and shorter awareness times, the Millennials have to be managed in such a way that their focus and productivity are not affected adversely due to communications failures and mishaps.
Indeed, with ever decreasing attention spans, the Millennials should be neither pushed too hard to attend long and winding communications spaces nor should be left to their own devices (both literally and figuratively) as this can impact their productivity and professional fulfillment as well as motivation and consequently, performance.
Extreme Polarization and Workplace Culture
The third most notable aspect of the Millennials is that they are often liberal or right-wingers in their political and social affiliations to a degree that earlier generations were not.
To explain, while earlier generations were indeed polarized and had pretty strong political and social views on the issues of the day, the Millennials have come of age during times when extreme polarization is the norm in addition to a period where expressing extreme views is facilitated through social media and such channels.
In other words, while polarization among the workforce was always a given, the Millennials have dropped the pretense of political correctness which was the hallmark of previous generations and hence, are prone to vent their views openly.
This creates challenges for managers and especially the Human Resource Staff as they have to ensure that such views do not vitiate the culture at the workplace and at the same time also have to make sure that there are no violations of ethical norms or rules concerning discrimination and gender and sexual harassment.
Indeed, with the rise of hate crimes and cases of sexual harassment, contemporary organizations have their hands full regulating and managing such behavior before it gets out of hand.
No Long Term Commitments: The Rise of Job Hopping and Freelancing
Lastly, but most importantly, the Millennials are also the generation that does not view their jobs as lifelong commitments or something that is long term in nature. While the Gen Xers started the trend of job hopping frequently, the Millennials are taking it forward with more freelancing and part time work is the norm rather than the exception. This is a double edged sword for organizations as they can indeed save costs by hiring Temps and No Benefit Contract Workers but at the same time, cannot invest in longer term human capital building since they really do not know how long the hires would stay and whether the investments would pay off over a longer duration.
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