An Abbreviated Guide on How To Manage Millennials(click to Tweet)
Millennials have been on my mind a lot lately, so I’m rolling out a series of posts about them and their leadership skills.
You can read the first part in the series here: Social Consciousness and Why Millennials Prove Invaluable
In my career I have ONLY managed Millennials. At this point I’ve managed hundreds, and when it comes to motivating them the things I’ve seen are often counterintuitive for most traditional managers. So this post is aimed at helping you understand how to get the best out of your best people from this emerging generation.
1. Structure Projects Made for Teams
Collaboration is the life’s blood of nonprofits, whether it takes the form of sharing resources, co-hosting events, getting the benefit of help from another organization’s personnel, etc.
Many people have an “ugh, group projects,” attitude, thinking of them as a necessary evil.
But research—and people love studying millennials—shows that this generation finds social collaboration to be natural and comfortable.
A while back, I read an illuminating article by David Borelli of the Huffington Post, in which he explained, “A recent study shows that a culture of collaboration is one of the top things millennials are looking for in an employer.”
“Team work makes the dream work.” (click to Tweet)
He adds that millennials want to “use technology to connect with the world and their peers in ways that allow them to have deeper and more globalized connections.”
Global consulting firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) conducted a study of its thousands of millennial employees worldwide and found “Millennials place a high priority on workplace culture and desire a work environment that emphasizes teamwork and a sense of community.”
The study authors add that millennials value giving input into projects. But what types of projects are preferred and how will a Millennial most engage?
2. Crowdsource Data and Inputs
The previous generations was raised to think of strict hierarchies in organizations.
Traditional approaches state that projects are designed by the bosses with work then parceled out. I’ve witnessed firsthand a phenomenon that is increasingly being recognized—millennials don’t really think this way.
I’m not sure we usually know whether a music review on the web is coming from someone hired by a professional music website or just a raging music fan, or if we care.
Many of us love to provide our input if we think it can increase or decrease the likelihood of a desired outcome.
There’s a reason why I’ve filled out dozens of TripAdvisor, Amazon and Yelp reviews for hotels, restaurants, and books. It’s because I read reviews myself, so I hope to impact another person’s decision making if I value or despise a certain product.
We’re used to a world in which ideas come from all angles, and in which a title or seniority aren’t the passports to input or responsibility. (click to Tweet)
I’ll give you a personal example:
In 2010 Pencils of Promise reached the final round of the Chase Community Giving contest. I wanted to build a database that evaluated the likelihood of the Top 50 organizations that could beat us, so I listed out six social media characteristics (Twitter followers, FB fans, did they have a website?, etc) but realized finding out that data would take me a lot of time I didn’t have.
So I created a simple Excel file, sent out a Tweet asking if anyone could help me on a Saturday morning project for 1 hour.
I then watched as 10 people from four continents (most of which I didn’t know at all) volunteered within minutes to research five organizations each and then inputting the data into the Excel sheet. It took me exactly one hour to populate the entire database through crowdsourcing volunteers.
“Crowdsourcing is the new outsourcing.” (click to Tweet)
Geil Browning wrote about this anti-hierarchical idea in an excellent article on inc.com. She tells a story I find nothing short of breathtaking about a high school in Colorado that took the radical step of not electing student council officers at all. Instead, they put together what Browning calls “cognitively diverse teams” to make the decisions that otherwise would’ve been made by a few.
What a great way to democratize things, and what a participatory bunch of adults those kids will grow to be.
3. Foster Competition Where The Prize is Direct Contact with Your Mission’s Beneficiaries
One thing about millennials is that they want to be hands on. They’re also crazy competitive.
Nonprofits and for-profits always have to worry about supporters who keep themselves in the background or staffers or volunteers who really have to be followed up with aggressively to keep them attending events, but millennials will do the outreach to you.
PJ Neal, lead developer of Harvard Business Publishing says that the millennial “wants to understand the big picture—your strategy, road map, market, client needs, etc.— and to link his or her individual performance to those broader goals.” The only way to truly enable this is by giving them a chance to directly interact with those the mission of the company impacts. This can be any type of end user or beneficiary, and they’re a more valuable person to spend time with in the eyes of a motivated Millennial than their bosses boss.
Neal also says something I couldn’t second more enthusiastically: “Organizations need to harness the enthusiasm of this generation of leaders.”
I’ve seen this in particular with the desire to get on the ground, participate directly in projects, and champion their personal goals to others on stages big and small.
“Design the right contest and you’ll designate the right behavior.” (click to Tweet)
So give them opportunities to meet those missions you seek to serve by creating contests. They want to win at most things they do, and if the prize is an opportunity to meet a beneficiary or end user that few others do then that’s often more valuable then a small monetary reward. Send them into the trenches where others might be a but hesitant and you’ll see that spark of inspiration transform into true action.
Agree or disagree with my assessment of how to manage millennials?
Share in the comment section below any trends you’re witnessing too.