Today, the world is experiencing a new generation of workers called Millennials who come into organisations with new perspectives and ideas.  They are also known as Generation Y and are said to be the generation who became adults around the year 2000 (Oxford Dictionary, 2016).  Unlike previous generations, Millennials view the world differently and have redefined the meaning of success, personally and professionally. ‘They are continuous learners, team players, collaborators, diverse, optimistic, achievement-oriented, socially conscious and highly educated.  They are also the most educated generation in history (Newman, 2010; Rikleen, n.d.).

Business leaders are getting frustrated with this generation because they are risk takers and see career change as normal.  Leaders are looking for ways to harness the uniqueness of Millennials and retain them to their organization’s advantage.  The following are seven (7) ways to fully lead Millennials and maximise their potential:

  1. Make your organisation “Millennial Friendly”: Millennials are generally attracted to organisations who share their products and services with the outside world using technology and other media.  They want the public to know the organization’s culture and its policies on interpersonal communication, work schedules, training and development of staff.  Other attractive features are loans and compensation packages that make life more comfortable for this generation.  Millennials prefer organisations whose leaders are honest, good communicators, confident, approachable and willing to support their growth.
  • Shared Mission: Millennials do not like to be left in the dark.  To lead them effectively, the leader would have to share the mission, vision and goals of the organisation.  They want to know where they fit in these goals and how their contributions impact on the big picture.  Millennials prefer a workplace where structures and systems are clearly defined, their roles are stated and an assessment criterion is attached for effective delivery of results.
  • Teamwork: Millennials collaborate naturally, especially when they understand the purpose and goals of the team.  Collective discussions which encourage initiative and results in innovative solutions bring them fulfilment.  In such environments, they are sure they can contribute without the fear of being criticized.  Leaders can explore making Millennials part of particular projects and communicating how the project fits into the organizational mission to get the best out of them.
  • Growth and Development Opportunities: Millennials are continuous learners.  Leaders have to give them learning opportunities to retain them in organisations.  They appreciate training in their fields of expertise and in relation to their roles.  This makes them play their roles efficiently.  They also appreciate personal development training that cuts across communication, presentation skills, intergenerational dynamics and integration into workplace culture.  Leaders can also provide training in teambuilding, processing feedback, and how to set long-term career goals. The idea of working with mentors is very important to them.  They place a high value on having such learning opportunities because it enables them acquire new skills and abilities that make them more competitive.  
  • Open Communication: Millennials value open and candid communication.  They expect this from everyone within the organisation.  Thus leaders have to work on the nature and tone of organizational communication.  Research has shown that this particular generation have an eight-second attention span.  The outburst of information has made them want to get and give value from interacting with others instantaneously.  Effective and direct communication makes them understand their role and work at achieving results.
  • Workplace Environment: A flexible and relaxed culture which encourages sharing and innovation is good for Millennials.  They like organisations that place value on employees and have mutual respect.  Millennials appreciate a less formal atmosphere with some fun but emphasis on achieving results and in which they are supported, celebrated and corrected where necessary.
  • Technology is Key: Technology and digital communication is a major part of the lives of Millennials.  An organisation that does not use technology or maximise it seems outmoded to them.  They acknowledge that organisations that create or embrace technology in production are more successful.  Having an adaptive workplace with high use of technology through devices or knowledge-sharing platforms at work makes Millennials happy.  Likewise, training and development opportunities using e-learning platforms which offer flexibility in terms of when and where to participate are critical.  Most importantly, Millennials would appreciate technology that improve their work-life balance.

Millennials are expected to reach about half (46%) of the workforce by 2020 ((Lynch, 2008).  Leaders need to acquire skills that Attract, Develop and Retain such exclusive talent and skills for their benefit and that of their societies.

Written by: Linda Boateng – Pobee

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