According to a scathing report from the Confederation of British Industry, 32% of businesses surveyed said they were dissatisfied with their millennial employees’ ability to self-manage. On top of that, 40% said their millennial employees lacked customer awareness, and 33% said their literacy wasn’t up to snuff.
But a study published in the Journal of Managerial Psychology helps clear up some common misconceptions about how to manage your young employees. The researchers studied more than half a million people over 8 years. And what did all that snooping around reveal? Plenty. First off, there are more significant attitude differences within generations than between generations. In fact, the research suggests that only 2% of your attitude and behavior is attributed to the generation in which you were born.
As a report from Inc.com pointed out, this revelation makes all of the millennial-specific management strategies a lot less relevant. Painting with a broad brush has never been a good way to do business, yet managers have traditionally seemed anxious to lump millennials together and sum up their motivators in one convenient checklist.
“Granted, millennials are different,” explained author Jeff Haden. “But so are boomers. And Gen-Z. But is it possible that every millennial has the same preferences and characteristics? Of course not. Millennials are different, I’m different, but more to the point, people are different.”
With this in mind, Haden recommends managing an individual’s needs based on his or her unique goals, experiences, skills, and perspectives. Stereotypes are never helpful for managers. Rather, it comes down to focusing on the individuals.
“For example, millennials may appreciate positive reinforcement (who doesn’t?), but what matters is how each individual responds to recognition,” said Haden. “Some people enjoy public praise. Others cringe when made the center of attention. Some people might appreciate just a quiet word of thanks. Your job is to find out what makes the greatest impact for each individual, and provide that.”
Overall, it’s recommended that managers look past the fact that a certain person might be a millennial, boomer, or member of any other generation. Their age could indeed make them more likely to possess certain traits, but it’s “only a small slice of what makes each individual different.”
By taking the time to get to know your people, you’ll be able to adapt your management style to their interests and needs. So, ultimately, the best way to manage a millennial is also the best way to manage any person from any generation.