Managing Millennials – Is It Worth The Effort?

by drjim on September 3, 2008

How can IT managers work with the Millennial generation most effectively?

How can IT managers work with the Millennial generation most effectively?

Quick review, here’s how the generations and their cool marketing names break down:

The Silent Generation (ages 63-81)
Baby Boomers (ages 44-62) – 80 million strong
Generation X (ages 27-43) – 59 million
Millennials/Gen Y (age 26 and under) – 80 million!

The Millennials have entered the IT workforce in large numbers and yet there has been very little written about how IT managers can deal with this completely new generation. Remember, these folks may have never seen a vinyl LP, may assume that phones have been wireless forever, and can’t understand why TVs need to have an antenna – the cable connection just goes into the back!

If you had to make some broad brush generalizations about the Millennials, they would probably look like this. Sarah Sladek who is the CEO of Limelight Generations says that the Millennials had the “…most provided for and structured childhood in history…” In a nutshell, these are the kids who got awards for just participating. Whereas the Gen-X crew is known to be self-sufficient, the Millennials are much more group activity focused. You can add to this a need for structure, feedback, encouragement, and a deep desire for instant gratification.

What’s fascinating is that although you might not expect it, Millennials actually get along in most cases very well with the Baby Boomers. One reason for this might be that many Millennials still live at home and the Baby Boomers that they interact with in the workplace remind them of their parents. However, they really, really, don’t want to be talked down to!

What’s an IT Manager To Do? Several things, including finding ways to relate, involve, engage, connect, educate, and promote job benefits to staff. A key SPOKEN realization of the Millennials is that they realize that they won’t be working for one company for 40 years. This means that more than any other generation now in the workplace, they need to know what their current job is going to provide to them right now. This means things like tangible certifications are very important to this segment of the workforce.

It’s All About Connections: This group of workers is interested in being mentored. They really want to learn new things and they realize that people who have done the job for awhile have much to teach them. That being said, interacting with their own peers is just as important . This means that a good IT manager will provide both types of opportunities: mentoring and peer networking.

Use The Internet: This generation grew up online. That means that they are very comfortable socializing and exchanging information online. In order to minimize the potential security issues that the use of external social networking sites can cause, IT managers need to establish internal social networks that everyone can participate in.

The Millennials represent the future of every IT department. It is our responsibility to adapt to their ways of learning and show them what it will take to succeed in the IT industry.

Do you work with Millennials now? How’s it going – does everyone get along or are there conflicts and misunderstandings? Have any special programs or changes in policy been put in place to adapt the workplace for this new generation of workers? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

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