Managing Millennials

April 22, 2010

The workforce is becoming much more diverse.

The workforce is becoming much more diverse. Each generation of workers seems to have its own personality. Those individuals born in the post-World War II era are known as the Boomers. Other generations have names like Generation X (born 1964-1980) and the Silent Generation (born pre-1946). Values, opinions, and approaches to work and life differ in each.

The youngest group of workers, those in their 20s, are commonly referred to as the Millennials. In many medical practices these individuals make up the majority of office staff. Therefore it is important that managers understand what motivates these folks. Understanding how to utilize the talents of this group can be the difference between an average workforce and an outstanding one.

So who are these people and what are some of their characteristics?

  • They grew up in a technology-rich environment and are fearless in the use of computers.

  • Rather than living to work they work to live. Lifestyle is important to them.

  • Information comes from the Internet, not books or people.

  • They are aggressive multitaskers. They have had multiple streams of information coming at them from multiple sources since birth.

  • In general, they come from a nurtured environment. Parents told them they could accomplish anything and gave them the tools to do so.

  • Rules can, and should, be rewritten.

  • Social media and networking sites, such as Facebook, are key parts of their daily life.

How should you adapt your management style to bring out the best in these 20-somethings?

  • Provide structure. Millennials like agendas for meetings, clear goals, and deadlines. Monitor their progress when working on tasks and give feedback about their work.

  • Millennials like positive feedback. Their parents told them they were doing things well (sometimes even when they didn’t) and they expect the same from you.

  • Millennials like teams and don’t like solo assignments.

  • “Do it because I said so” just won’t work. Instructions need to make sense and when they don’t Millennials want the instructions to change.

  • Change is critical, boring is bad. Millennials want and need to have their tasks changed from time to time. Job rotation is a positive with this group.

  • Bringing technology into the workplace will be exciting, not threatening. Millennials want set hours, and when they leave work, they truly leave work.

  • It is important to have fun. Creating an informal environment and occasionally planning some down-time, like lunches, can keep Millennials happy.

Millennials can be a valuable resource for any practice, but if they don’t feel valued, needed, and appreciated they will use their excellent networking skills and find somewhere else to work. If they aren’t happy they won’t stay for long, and unless you create a Millennial-friendly work environment, the turnover issues can be damaging to your practice.

Remember, what works for one group does not work for all. It is important to understand that the things that work with the Millennials may not work with other staff members in other age groups. You need to adapt your management style to the worker, if possible. If you can do this you will have a dedicated and appreciative workforce that will be an asset to your practice and your patients.

Greg Mertz is associate director with Navigant Consulting Inc. He may be reached at greg.mertz@navigantconsulting.com.