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Melissa Wykle provided a refreshing take on the topic of managing millennials. She started with asking, “by a show of hands,” who was a millennial. Having identified them, she summarily dismissed them from the room (lol). From her title slide, she quickly struck the word “managing” and replaced it with “mentoring.” All I can say is, she “had me at hello.” Her presentation was not the ubiquitous bashing of millennials, but a thoughtful and engaging conversation about the inevitable struggles each generation faces when “challenged” by the next generation in the workplace. Millennials don’t want to be “managed,” they want to be mentored – but can’t that be said of everyone who is new to the workforce?

Next Melissa introduced us to Amy, the breakout star of the viral video, “A Millenial Job Interview” (If you haven’t seen it, be sure to check it out here). True, it’s taking the millennial stereotype to the extreme, but there are still truths to be gleaned. Millennials are digital natives and their mobile devices rarely, if ever, leave their hands. As a rule, they are grossly involved with social media – be it Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. – but never Facebook because, as Amy puts it, “That’s for old people.” They possess an entrepreneurial spirit and seek to problem-solve with technology. Most are well-educated, yet carry a significant amount of education debt. And, brace yourself managers, a whopping 71% of millennials don’t obey social media policies at work. Yet Melissa cautioned us to avoid the trap of over-generalizing, as parental and familial influences can clearly result in a shift in what would otherwise be considered “typical” millennial behavior. In other words, not all millennials are alike. (Hello, “unique” unique snowflake!) But for now, let’s stick to some of those similarities readily observed in the workplace…

When it comes to work/life balance, their work is their life. Not only do they want to find their purpose, but they sincerely want to make a change. They seek flexibility, whether in the form of flexible/non-traditional schedules or the opportunity to work from home. Another significant difference is that the typical tenure for a millennial is 1-2 years. With that rate of “churn,” it might be smarter for companies to become more cost-efficient in terms of their investment (training, development, etc.), rather than trying to force a change in behavior. Knowing that by the year 2025 millennials will represent 75% of the workforce, that’s exactly the type of paradigm shift that Melissa has asked us to consider.  

She encouraged us to read books and watch podcasts on mentoring vs. managing. To learn how to give feedback and why you give it in a certain way, eg: millennials are not content with annual reviews, they want instant feedback. They look to their boss as a coach, someone who can “grow” them. But without a strategy, this “need” to provide constant feedback can be taxing on management. Millennials also find work meetings efficient, they love the collaborative effort and team building aspects; whereas the rest of us would give anything to have one less meeting crowded on to our already full agendas. This last detail was used to point out the difference in “how” they prefer to work as compared to other generations. 

At Wyndham, where Melissa has worked in IT for the last 20+ years, she has developed some successful strategies to embrace millennials – particularly when it comes to hiring. Be transparent in terms of technology. If you have legacy systems, replace them with new technology or these digital natives will become quickly frustrated – if, that is, you can even get them in the door once they are aware they would be working with antiquated technology. If that’s not feasible in the near term, then appeal to a millennial’s sense of purpose, “Don’t you want to be part of that change?” or, “You can help us solve these problems!” Create work from home opportunities, explore flexible hours and offer opportunities to work in the community. All certainly food for thought and definitely actionable!

As an aside, throughout the day today I had some amazing conversations at work about mentoring millennials - some ended in a stalemate, while others verged on the absurd. During one in particular, I was given an honorary membership to the “unique millennial snowflake” club! I trust that each of you had your own key take-away from today’s presentation and I look forward to seeing you at the next chapter meeting.

Thanks, Melissa, for sharing your knowledge and thoughts on this topic and for inspiring us to actively engage with traditionals, baby boomers, gen Xers and millennials alike!  

Thanks for hosting, Valencia College School of Public Safety!