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Managing millennials

Millennials value interpersonal relationships and positive sentiment in their work environment as their priorities. Material compensation (salary) comes forth on their value list. Survey respondents think that the level of responsibility taken over by millennials is approximately the same as with other workers. Friendly mentor co-operation and charismatic leadership are well-accepted. Modern IT solutions enable you to deploy the right people to the right positions so that they can showcase their skills and knowledge, and contribute to the company's success best they can. Modern IT solutions also enable you to monitor the level of required competency, and skills and knowledge your employees have.

Managing millennials

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Every work environment is a place where workers of different ages with different levels of knowledge and differing also in their work and life experience meet. People differ also in their character traits. People are people, and quite naturally we bring our own peculiarities and distinctive features to the workplace. To maintain peace and harmony between workers, diversity must be respected and shared values and grounds must be found. But all in all, everybody must share the same principle goal: the best possible results for the entire organization. There is no room for rivalry within the organization. These are some key points to keep in mind in order to successfully manage millennials.

Classification and characteristics of specific generation groups

People have their specific personal characteristics, but they also have some characteristics shared by a group. Please note that an individual may be totally different from the majority of people in a generation. Moreover, a person may have their own characteristics and traits acquired during their upbringing, making them totally unlike the average person. Nevertheless, experts in the field classify employees into four-generation groups, each one having specific characteristics.

1. VETERAN GENERATION – traditionalists, born in the 1920–1945 period. While most retired, some of them might still be coming to work. This generation has been impacted by World War II and the time after the war, when everybody joined reconstruction activities to build schools, healthcare, and cultural institutions, and factories anew. Work was first, the pleasure was in a subordinate place. This generation still values order and discipline. You can rely on their work ethics, sturdiness, and patience. They never question authority. The proverb saying that the one who is unwilling to work shall not eat is deeply in their awareness.

2. BOOMERS – this is the so-called “baby-boom” generation, born between 1946 and 1965. Their parents encouraged them to learn. “Learn well, so that you won't need to work,” was something that they heard every day. From their parents, they learned strong work ethics, and from the affluent environment, they acquired a greedy attitude towards amassing material goods. Those were the times of the hippie movement. The motto was to live life fully. Their values include working diligently, possibly late into the night. The position earned in the company is very important to them. They work conscientiously and are loyal. They place their careers before their family. Their life is reaching well into the third age, and they want to enjoy still many high-quality years by applying good medical care and continuing to work as appropriate for their situation.

3. GENERATION X is the first generation that started to work with computers during their school years or right at the beginning of their employment. They are born between 1966 in 1985. This generation suffered high rates of unemployment at the time of massive company bankruptcies. They lived through financial crime, environmental catastrophes, political trickery, and large institutions losing their credibility. This is why many members of this demographic have become cynical and skeptical. Quality family life is of paramount importance to them. People from this group are highly educated and have a lot of work experience. They work autonomously and require flexible working hours. They prize work, but fun and relaxation are also high on their list of values. They frequently socialize with their friends and spend a lot of time with their families. They have no second thoughts about breaking the rules.

4. GENERATION Y are people born between 1986 and 2000. The Time magazine wrote about them as “THE ME ME ME GENERATION”. The title page of the particular issue featured a girl laying down and taking selfies. The subtitle was “Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents”. A humorous subtitle was added: “Why they'll save us all.” They will save us all because they are peaceful, democratic, tolerant, creative, and most of all – the most highly educated generation in the history of mankind.

This generation experienced the breakdown of systems and the shift of values. They were brought up next to refrigerators filled with food, without having to worry and get ready for bad times. Boys were not drafted into military service. The internet gave them a sense of connectedness and unreachability. Their parents applied a permissive parenting style, letting the child do whatever they come up with and want, eliminating any punishment. Only a child who experiences no limitations will fully flourish and develop their full potential.

Alas, they, too, may encounter some bad times, and during their upbringing, nobody prepared them for such situations. After 2001 we are all threatened by terrorism; the economic crisis of 2008 has not been done away with but has only hibernated; climate change threats demand many restrictions; diseases are pressing individuals and are at the same time a pending epidemic risk; war, political, economic and environmental fugitives or migrants are pressing on the gates of the developed world; the internet with its virality has not bestowed happiness …

This is a generation that should cultivate a realistic view of the world and start to practice moderation. Those who know how to live moderately in good times will have a much easier time when bad times happen. No one should be misled by abundantly full refrigerators that we have today.

Generation Y will need to learn to love work and modesty, and the same is true for the entire demographic of millennials. Only such an attitude can save people at times of war, financial crisis, shortage, and economic collapse. Another cycle of such times may occur at any time.

Generation Y excels in terms of ability; however, research indicates that they, unfortunately, lack work ethic and discipline. They desire to work in a completely autonomous way, without any supervision, without being aware of their responsibilities or accepting the consequences of their work (or lack of work). When they don't like something in the organization, they simply stop coming to work. They don't adhere to business attire rules and protocols. They are prone to blurt out whatever they think, without paying much thought and in front of an audience. Many of them value fun, joy, friends, taking care of their body and health. They are much interested in human rights and environmental issues. They are unlikely to forgo their dolce vita style of living.

5. GENERATION Z (rainbow children, indigo children) is still in the process of education (university, school, kindergarten) as they are born after the year 2000. We will have an indication of what they are like when they start their first employment. This youth is digitally equipped to the fullest extent. Their first words are uttered into a phone, spoken to the grandma on the other side of the globe. They desire the latest digital toys. Their world is digital and contains a large volume of information. Their memory span is quite short, and rumor has it that they can keep focused for a maximum of eight seconds. They ask Google for information and watch educational video clips. They communicate using Snapchat, one sentence is their longest message. They use emoticons and photos quite a lot. They learn from YouTube and vlog influencers who define their fashion style, brands, opinion on entertainment, alcohol or drugs … They have plenty of virtual friends all over the world. Globalization rules in friendship and love.

They are altruistic. They want to do something for the betterment of the world and are massively committed to environmental care. Members of this demographic boast an average IQ of 130, which is much more than in any previous generation. They attain a number of degrees and acquire a variety of skills. What exactly is it that they will bring to the world will be seen when they enter the workforce and start raising their own families. At the moment, they are still preoccupied with Snapchat and achieving the “next level” in the game they currently play.

How to manage millennials or cooperate with them?

Millennials are people born between 1980 and 2001. In Slovenia, people born until 2008 may be included as well, the milestone being the onset of the 2008 economic crisis. This means that the entire generation Y and a part of generations X and Z are included.

How to remain optimistic in bringing together individuals who differ so much in their characteristics? Each generation has an opinion about themselves, and this opinion may differ from what other generations think about them. This may lead to disagreement and issues exacerbating the differences and disagreements. Younger people fail to trust their seniors and vice versa. This leads to two opposite blocks: older vs. younger. You need to find a way to harmoniously bring them together in intergenerational teams and engage them in intergenerational learning. It is of great value to join the experience of senior workers and the knowledge of young people.

First, you need to establish a common language or way of communicating. Seniors prefer to communicate in person, as they can make good use of their eloquence and convey and receive messages not only with words but with the entire body language. Younger people prefer to use electronic means of communication and mobile phones. In communication, they appreciate clear and unambiguous messages that do not contain negation, such as you shouldn't, you can't, no way…, but use positive instructions and messages instead. Young people convey messages and receive communication at the level of thought, and sometimes even in a language encoded in their own way. Emoticons and simple one-sentence messages with a minimal number of characters are enough. This is why you need to make an agreement regarding the type of technology to be used to communicate.

In order to improve understanding and cooperation, you need to establish good relationships. It is of utmost importance to respect each other. If you are fair and well-intentioned, people will feel it. Younger people are especially sensitive to hypocrisy, insincerity and misleading information. Never disregard or reject someone just because of their clothing, jewelry and accessories, tattoos or hairstyle.

Senior employees should mentor the younger ones. Quite often, they need to assume a parenting role in order for younger employees to cultivate their autonomy and behavior. Both sides need to have a lot of patience. Everybody, be it young or senior, is an equally important part of the workforce. The senior workers should set the goals for the younger ones instead of prescribing the path to achieve these goals. Younger workers can find good friends, allies and work mentors in their senior colleagues, if they show their interest in work, express admiration for their seniors, and recognize the work done in the past.

All in all, individuals with their character traits are the most important factor in establishing interpersonal relationships and cooperation. This is why everybody is obligated to build their personality. We need to cultivate ourselves for true cooperation. We need to consciously make an effort to recognize, understand and accept the other person. We need to strive to be a good person, reliable and loyal to the company. We need to lend an ear when there are problems and recognize that everybody is different. It is good to learn how to communicate with each other. Only sincere modesty is a fertile ground to nurture the common language of good relationships. Most of all, we should never say anything bad about other people. There's nothing you can hide under the carpet, and by slandering, you simply show a bad image of yourself.

You need to nurture the dialog in a guided as well as spontaneous way. Never allow any marginal or unimportant issues to overwhelm you and create disunion and discord.

You cannot manage the millennials, actually. We can only be good co-workers to them, based on sincere and respectful relationships. Any authoritarian, militantly imposed disciplining approach is a thing of the past. Any claims proving your worth like “We've been working like this for 20 years,” will only twist their nerves. Your telling them how it was in the old times, will prove to be destructive to them. They will want to leave such an environment as soon as possible. Millennials want to know what and, most of all, why they do something – they want to know the meaning of their work. All in all, they live their values differently, and they speak a different language. They are adorned with the digital mindset, they want to communicate clearly and openly, they want to do the work they deem meaningful, they want to believe the story they are co-creating, and they want to be heard.

Static structures of the past do not function when working with millennials. They work well in project teams formed to work on a particular project. Team leaders have full decision-making power, regardless of their level within the organization. The decision-maker is the person most qualified for the task, not necessarily the senior manager. Millennials want a voice in the organization where they work, regardless of their position. They want the power and autonomy to propose and also implement innovations, and they also want mentors and experienced co-workers who are able to provide guidance.

We need to find common ground with regard to values and interests. You may find it nice while at the same time surprising that to millennials, family remains at the top of what they value the most – higher than health, success and money. They long to have a family. To create a family is the meaning of their lives. You can be quite sure that they will be ready to do everything to ensure proper conditions for a successful family life. This premise provides a truly good foundation to build on. As family values provide appropriate encouragement and a good goal, any obstacles can surely be overcome and nice cooperation and friendly relations can be established.

Modern IT solutions enable you to deploy the right people to the right positions so that they can showcase their skills and knowledge, and contribute to company's success best they can. Modern IT solutions also enable you to monitor the level of required competency, and skills and knowledge your employees have.

To prove or disprove the theory about millennials, the authors conducted a short survey among colleagues, friends, and acquaintances asking them about the traits of millennials, and their opinions about millennials. There were 101 respondents, a third of them being millennials themselves. Survey showed that the above statements are generally quite in line with reality. The majority of people encounter the same issues in their work environment, as well as positive aspects of working together with millennials. According to the survey, millennials value interpersonal relationships and positive sentiment in their work environment as their priorities, which is quite pleasant to find out. Material compensation (salary) comes forth on their value list. Survey respondents think that the level of responsibility taken over by millennials is approximately the same as with other workers. Friendly mentor co-operation and charismatic leadership are well-accepted. The difference in comparison to older generations is found mostly in the way they communicate with each other. They mostly use short electronic messages that quickly appear on the screen. E-mail seems obsolete to them.

Millennials occupy executive positions at this time in their life path, and according to survey results, this is the case in every seventh of them. Their management style is completely in line with their mindset.

We wish you the best success in co-operation.

Sources and literature:

ŠAPONJA, Danica (2006): Mladina v sodobni družbi (Youth in modern society), in the proceedings Zbornik prispevkov strokovnega srečanja OBRAVNAVA MLADOSTNIKA S PSIHOZO, Zbornica zdravstvene in babiške nege – Zveza društev medicinskih sester, babic in zdravstvenih tehnikov Slovenije

PODNAR, Katarina (2008): Mlajši ne zaupajo starejšim in starejši ne zaupajo mlajšim (Young people do not trust older people, and older people do not trust young people), web page http://www.dnevnik.si/zaposlitve_in_kariera/aktualno/1042279258

Internet – Branko Cestnik's blog

KOVAČ KAČ, Tina (2019): Preživeti ali živeti z milenijci? (Survive or live with millennials?), article in the Finance newspaper.




Nataša Centa, BSc in Education, Mathematics and Physics, expert in HRM digitization by means of modern IT-solutions, Product Manager at Četrta pot, d.o.o., Kranj

Mojca Hafner Jereb, Bachelor in Organizational Management specializing in IT, consultant and expert for the implementation of Time and Attendance information systems, Product Management Assistant in Četrta pot, d.o.o, Kranj

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