• November 2011

How Do the Millennials Work?

By Barbara Mitchell
HR Expert and Co-Author
The Essential HR Handbook

Over the last decade, we’ve all become well aware of the issues around having four generations at work at the same time.

The Millennials (born 1980-2000) are an especially challenging population to work with for many co-workers and managers.

But, so long as we acknowledge that each generation has distinct behavior, habits, expectations, and attitudes—and we truly work to understand those differences—HR can help organizations smooth out the differences and use the strengths that each employee brings—whatever generation they belong to.

Here’s how:

1. Feedback is key. The Millennial generation is the one we know the least about, but what we do know is that they want a constant stream of feedback. They want to know how they are doing on every project every day. This is not a generation who will sit back and wait until their annual performance appraisal to hear what you think of them. And, they won’t wait for you to give them feedback—they’ll ask you up front. Remember, many of them have been serious overachievers from a very early age and thrive on praise for a job well done.

2. Millennials want to find work where they can learn new skills and connect to something that is meaningful to them personally. This is a generation that is accustomed to being praised for anything they accomplish. Harness their enthusiasm to bring along some of your other employees who don’t easily embrace change. And, Millennials have been volunteering all their lives, so be sure your organization offers them opportunities to continue that passion.

3. Millennials like to work in teams. After all, many of them have been playing soccer since they were 3, and are used to working in teams—but they also can work alone—consider all the time they’ve spent playing video games while growing up! They want to be recognized for good work and they respond well to being mentored.

4. Go high-tech. Because they grew up with technology—and are considered digital natives versus the rest of us who are digital immigrants—your organization needs to provide Millennials with state-of-the-art technology in order to really engage them in their work. If you can’t upgrade everything, then get them to help you find good technology solutions. They’ll love the challenge, and everyone will benefit from their solutions.

For more information about the four generations at work, check out additional insights on this topic provided by my colleague, Greg Hammill, in this issue of Be Inkandescent Magazine’s Tips for Entrepreneurs.


About Barbara Mitchell

Mitchell is a human resources and organization development consultant who is widely known in the areas of recruitment and retention. She has experience in both for-profit and not-for-profit sectors and has consulted for a variety of organizations around the world.

She served in senior human-resources leadership positions with Marriott International and several technology firms in the Washington, DC, area before co-founding the Millennium Group International, which she sold in 2008.

Mitchell is a graduate of North Park University in Chicago, with a degree in History and Political Science. Contact Mitchell by email.

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