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Managing MillennialsBy the year 2020, Millennials — the generation born between about 1980 and the year 2000 — will make up 46 percent of the workforce. These young people are ambitious, educated, and like most workers, eager to find their place in a meaningful career. But if you’re a Gen-Xer or a Baby Boomer, you might be feeling the generational divide when it comes to managing these optimistic and tech-savvy, if inexperienced, young professionals.

It’s true that most Millennials grew up with doting parents who constantly told them they were capable of doing anything they set their minds to. Most members of this generation spent their childhoods in structured activities, instead of simply going out to play as members of previous generations did. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot to offer their employers, as long as you keep in mind that Millennials are very different in their attitudes and perspectives than Baby Boomers and even Gen-Xers.

Millennials like a flexible working environment, because they typically have very busy lives. They like structure and guidance, but they also have tech skills that can be valuable to older workers. They appreciate chances to grow professionally and build skills through formal training. Above all, they like variety and are always ready to rise to a challenge.

1. Millennials Need a Flexible Working Environment

If you spend any time getting to know your younger workers, you’ll soon find that they’re pretty busy. They like to make time to spend with their families, time to socialize with friends, and time for volunteer work and hobbies as well as time for work. As a result, they may blur the lines between work time and personal time — a Millennial employee may think nothing of answering personal emails or sending personal texts while at the office, but he or she will also think nothing of sending work emails or taking work calls while at home.

Nevertheless, work-life balance is of the utmost importance to Millennials, who don’t see the point of working 60-hour weeks like their parents did. Millennials will appreciate perks like flex time and telecommuting — but so will your older workers, who also have personal lives to live. Younger workers expect their employers to offer them great benefits, and while they’re loyal, they won’t hesitate to use their Web and networking skills to find another position if they aren’t happy with their current company.

2. Millennials Need Guidance and Structure

The majority of Millennials had childhoods filled with structured events, and they got more attention from their parents than any previous generation. As a result, they need and want a great deal more feedback, structure, and guidance from their managers than you may be accustomed to giving older employees. While older workers may be happy with a “no news is good news” situation, Millennials — especially the younger, less experienced members of the generation — want frequent feedback about the quality of their work. They want to know what key business skills they should develop, and how they can develop them. They want meetings, corporate events, and deadlines to occur on a regular schedule. Most of all, they crave mentoring from older coworkers.

Managing Millennials3. Millennials Want Formal Training

Millennials are among the most highly-educated professionals in the workforce, but they have the fewest opportunities for additional formal professional training once they enter the working world. Formal training in hard skills can help these younger, often inexperienced workers to succeed.

Many of them can also benefit from learning soft skills, as can their older co-workers. Formal training in soft skills can help every member of your team improve.

4. Millennials Love a Challenge

If there’s one thing you can say about Millennials, it’s that they’re confident in their abilities and optimistic about the future. They’ve always been told that they can do anything, and they definitely believe it. Your Millennial workers will multitask all day long, and they love variety in the workplace.

Make sure they’re always working on something different; they’ll be happiest and most productive if they’re not bogged down in repetitive tasks. Don’t be afraid to challenge them — they’re always looking forward to the next challenge.

5. Millennials Have a Lot to Teach You

Your Millennial employees may be young and inexperienced, but they’re the first Internet generation, and they know a thing or two about computers and networking. You can leverage both of these skill sets to your advantage. Pragmatic managers set up reverse mentoring programs whereby Millennial employees can show Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers the ropes of using text messaging, Skype, and social media to stay in touch with traveling colleagues, recruit new hires, and network with other professionals. Millennials are the perfect employees to take charge of company social media profiles and recruit new employees.

Millennials already make up more than a third of the workforce, and they’ll soon make up the majority. If you’re like many older managers, you’re baffled by these young workers’ attitudes and lifestyles. But once you take the time to understand what your Millennial employees need, expect, and want, you’ll be in a much better position to bring out the best in these desirable young workers.

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