Six-and-a-Half Ways to Manage Millennials

New rules are needed to retain them

By Daniel Abramson, HRSource

There’s a lot of information out there in internet land about how millennials (ages 27-42) are different from previous generations (particularly boomers, ages 59-77) and how they have to be treated differently in the workplace.

Let’s take that statement as true (but not absolute) and explore six-and-a-half actions that managers can take to better supervise and retain their millennial employees. Why? Because by 2025, they will comprise 75% of the total U.S. workforce, according to projections by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To that end, we revisit and update an earlier column, “Five-and-a-Half-Ways to Manage Millennials,” and add a couple more suggestions:

1. Millennials are loyal to people, not companies. Given the disruptions they’ve seen in corporate employment markets over the past 10 years, they would rather rely on the promises of a good and trustworthy leader than those of a huge corporate entity. If you want to inspire and retain your millennials, become that good leader and mentor.

2. Millennials value time differently than prior generations and view it as something to spend rather than invest. “Work-life balance” is not just a mantra, it’s something millennials actively seek, whether in pursuit of leisure activities or the care of children or elderly parents. The manager who honors the reasonable time-off plans of his or her employees will experience lower turnover. That said, be prepared for the day when one of your best employees takes four months off to visit 12 different countries or bike the mountain trails of British Columbia!

3. Encourage individual differences. Many millennials prefer to toil amid a diverse workforce. Allow your millennials to express and celebrate their differences, setting minimal, non-judgmental, yet respectful standards for office attire.

4. As generational guru Jason Dorsey has pointed out at BrandSource meetings,  many millennials are experiencing postponed adulthood and are living at home until well into their thirties. The trend is most often driven by economic pressure, whether from the dearth of affordable housing, the crushing debt load from college loans or both. The rise of mortgage rates to near 8% is certainly not helping.

Some larger companies are addressing the debt issue by offering college loan reimbursements as an incentive to sign on and meet certain benchmarks. Independent retailers could institute a modified version of this concept as well. For example, a dealer might introduce a program in which it helps pay monthly loan payments as a reward for exceeding quota or other key performance indicators (KPIs).

5. Keep it in the now. Millennials don’t trust long-range strategic plans; you can save those for the corporate biggies. Keep your group’s time horizon close, focusing on tomorrow, next week and maybe next month. Forget the ol’ five-year plan for now — but don’t forget to provide millennials with the technology they need to leverage efficiencies. Millennials thrive in a high-tech environment.

6. Foster collaboration. More than any other generational group, millennials have been raised to collaborate rather than compete. Have as much of your company’s work as possible performed in cooperative groups, and provide modest group and individual rewards for appropriate accomplishments, whether it’s a group picnic or a few hours off with pay. And don’t forget the selfie walls and participation mementos. (How about a “Wall of Fame” bulletin board in the break room?)

6.5. Why this odd number? To make an important point: If you can’t give millennials everything they want, meet them, as the country tune suggests, in the middle. Millennials are a lot like other businesspeople; they understand setting goals, lowering costs and increasing revenues, and are open to working for a longer-term payoff if it comes with shorter-term rewards for targets they hit along the way.

Set some ground rules you can enforce and then make some promises you can keep. Meet your millennials halfway, updating them frequently and maintaining short intervals for monitoring and rewarding production, project or sales benchmarks along the way.

Daniel Abramson is managing lead of HRSource, a comprehensive collection of customized employment tools and turnkey solutions exclusive to BrandSource members. Contact Daniel at (540) 535-8484 or

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