Managing Millennials: Listen More

It’s no secret employers are eager to understand how to engage the Millennial generation taking over their workforce.

In a time and industry increasingly focused on diversity and inclusion, we cannot forget the crucial role that age plays. Different generations provide opportunities for fresh perspectives and diversity of thought and, perhaps more notably, a need for inclusion.

A recent industry study underscored this need by revealing just how vast the differences are between how millennials view themselves and how their managers view them. The study, conducted by The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations and the Institute of Public Relations, analyzed Millennial Communication Professionals (MCPs) and their managers, revealing key findings about these relationships and a five-phase talent management ecosystem that organizations can use to effectively work with millennial talent.

So, how can organizations use the findings discovered in this study to maximize the potential of their MCPs?

As managers work with this generation of employees, management by adaptation becomes even more important to encourage MCPs to feel included and engaged. Some tips include:

  • Listen: Start career-pathing early.
    Not through a one-size-fits-all approach or generational generalizations but by listening to what each employee and individual is seeking.
  • Listen: Don’t contextualize… personalize!
    Everyone has a unique and valuable background with individual wants and needs. Accordingly, contextualizing (educating employees on the organization’s strategy and culture) is not as effective as personalizing (tailoring a career path and role specific to each employee).
  • Listen: Provide leadership opportunities for those seeking them.
    Provide training, mentoring and feedback, and learn what your MCP is looking for as well as how you can help. Organizations like the Public Relations Society of America are always seeking volunteers at the local and national levels, and these groups provide ample opportunities for MCPs.

The study also revealed that MCPs are the most engaged in their first year, a number that then drops off significantly in years two-three and does not recover until seven years in. In that first year and onward, it’s the manager’s chance to find opportunities for long-term engagement and stop this trend.

Bruce Berger, Ph.D., co-investigator for the study and research director for The Plank Center, offered advice to managers of MCPs:

“Build a strong relationship through talking and LOTS of listening. Based on our research, millennials have opened the door to this approach in that they want lots of feedback; they leave jobs because they don’t get much feedback or their relations with supervisors are somehow disappointing. Building this relationship, and growing it over time, provides opportunities for addressing many different kinds of issues.”

His advice to millennials: Your career will not always be linear, rewards not always instant and feedback not always immediate. Listen, learn and be patient.

His advice to managers: A career does not look the same for everyone. Take the time to listen and understand what each member of your team is looking for in the workplace, and the payoff will be exponential.

Let’s face it, regardless of what side of the desk we may be situated, we could all benefit from a little more listening.