Dr. Strangelabor or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Millennial

Authored by Patricia Dammann, VP Programs & Operations/OD Strategist at Institute of Organization Development
June 25th, 2018

It all started with a simple question to my buddy (high level manager with international financial institution). I wanted to know how he was managing millennials (that generation born between 1977 and 1997). “Aw”, he said, “they get a bad rap.” “These millennials are so smart, light years ahead of other generations in the application of technology for just about anything you can think of… They just need a lot of TLC, but it’s not the smothering kind of attention, but rather they need…” And he began to list some things and then expound on them. I’ve tried to capture his thoughts and those of other thought leaders so here goes- a few tips that that will leverage your organization’s ability to attract and retain your millennial workforce.

Let’s start with some basic assumptions. Millennials view work as a key part of life, not a separate activity that needs to be “balanced” by it. They want work to be a place where they can make friends and be a part of something bigger than themselves—they want to BELONG.

  • Start millennials out on the “right foot”—ensure that you have a comprehensive onboarding process. Make sure to incorporate the following:
  • Make sure they know who they report to and for what—job expectations should be crystal clear; that might sound like an obvious but stranger things have happened.
  • Engage them with a clear understanding of what your company culture looks like and how they fit in.
  • Assign a buddy to them—another millennial is ideal. Ensure that the buddy role is identified and understood by all.
  • Build in lots of individual feedback and provide lots of positive feedback to reinforce desired behaviors and results. When providing corrective feedback, focus on the future process or new/more effective behavior and always maintain or enhance the self-esteem of the employee. Millennials need (and want) direction and coaching. They were brought up with lots of direction and attention, so provide them with the framework for what is needed—crisply and clearly–make sure that they know what “good performance” looks like.
  • Assign to teams with other millennials in the mix
  • Set up a reverse mentoring initiative for millennials

2) Feedback (millennials need a lot, in small bites, and using a variety of delivery vehicles—one-on-ones, tweaking, short text, emails, voice message, etc.)

  • Make it future oriented— millennials tend to be a bit sensitive and prickly (part of the “everyone got a trophy” experience) and prefer to focus on the how do I do it differently. This sustains a culture that supports learning and innovation, as mistakes do happen. It’s how the managers operatively demonstrate that feedback is focused on emphasizing what the employee can do to improve (what to do differently and why behavior would be more effective). 

3) Engage them with a clear understanding of what your company culture looks like, e.g., quick short videos of a diverse cross section of employees sharing their own story about an element of the employees value proposition. Millennials want to belong and be a part of something bigger than themselves. They are driven to make a difference. They want to contribute to the overall purpose of an organization.

4) Reverse mentoring programs are a great avenue for millennials to learn, and “give back”—clearly a win-win. These employees learn from senior executives by mentoring them. A Millennial is matched to an executive and assigned to teach him/ her on how to use social media to connect with customers for example and/or other such areas that Millennials do especially well. Additionally, the exposure for the millennial to higher levels of the organization increases business knowledge.

5) Career Planning—Millennials have their eye on moving up. Make sure that you have an updated career path so it is crystal clear how one can move up in the organization. Verify that experience, performance, and education requirements are crystal clear.

These are just a few tips on improving your retention efforts with Millennial employees. Implementing and sustaining a few strategic employee best practices will make a big difference and enhance your organization’s brand!

Does your organization include attracting, retaining and developing Millennials as a part of its Talent Management Strategy? Have you reviewed your onboarding strategy and assessed for relevance to this generation and modified as necessary?

Explore why an aligned Talent Management Strategy is a Must Have for Organizational Success! Enroll in IOD’s Talent Management Certified Professional program.

Author: Patricia Dammann



Onboarding Millennials: Start by Nurturing Them by John Rossheim

Peter Drucker Lends a Hand to Millennial Onboarding, Steve Minter (Industry Week), May 14, 2015

PEW Research Center, May 11, 2015

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