Mil­len­ni­als, com­mon­ly but not exclu­sive­ly defined as peo­ple born between 1981 and 1996, occu­py a com­pli­cat­ed space in today’s workplace—predominantly because they’re the youngest gen­er­a­tion in it. While many con­sid­er this group “ambi­tious” and “tech-savvy,” oth­ers under­stand it to be “whiney,” “dis­tract­ed,” or “enti­tled.” As with any stereo­type, this is a flat, un-nuanced ver­sion of a par­tial truth. The most impor­tant thing to remem­ber, says Brad Karsh, CEO and founder of JBTrain­ing Solu­tions, is that each gen­er­a­tion in the workforce—from Boomers to Millennials—has been shaped by their upbringing.

For exam­ple, says Karsh, many mil­len­ni­als grew up with work­ing par­ents, the priv­i­leges of after-school activ­i­ties and clubs, and con­stant indi­vid­ual men­tor­ing. In a work envi­ron­ment, this trans­lates to a desire to be told what to do, to be mon­i­tored while doing it, and then to receive praise for doing every­thing suc­cess­ful­ly. While not every work envi­ron­ment is able to sup­ply such a struc­ture, for any num­ber of good rea­sons, it’s impor­tant to remem­ber that the desire for it is root­ed in gen­er­a­tional fac­tors, not nec­es­sar­i­ly self­ish­ness or weakness.

A sol­id com­pro­mise, offers Karsh, is to pro­vide con­crete expla­na­tions from the start, so that mil­len­ni­als always have a struc­ture to return to when they desire it. At the same time, it is best prac­tice to “ween them off struc­ture,” for exam­ple, remind­ing them that a super­vi­sor might not check in every day, and that this isn’t a bad sign. Often, he says, mil­len­ni­als respond well to direct com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Of course, every­one is an indi­vid­ual no mat­ter their gen­er­a­tion, and over time, most new struc­tures can be learned and put to effec­tive use. Oth­er best prac­tices that have proved effec­tive for mil­len­ni­als are future-focused cre­den­tials, real time con­ver­sa­tions, and microlearning.

Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished by

By Bill Olson