How to Work With Millennials in Tech

Published: February 5, 2015 Author: Clearpoint Tags: Working and Workplaces

The millennial generation--born between 1982 and 2000--is 80 million strong, and they're taking over the workforce in a big way. In fact, millennials will represent 50 percent of the global workforce by 2020, and 75 percent by 2025.

As an IT employer, you may have noticed that there's conflicting information out there regarding millennial employees. Some say this generation is lazy and entitled, while others say they're hard working and driven. The praise doesn't come from millennials themselves, but is demonstrated in multiple studies such as these recent findings from UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Regardless of their reputation, there are some proven traits many millennials have in common. Here's how you can effectively manage millennials in IT, and harness the tremendous potential of this rapidly rising generation.

Embrace millennials' tech-savvy tendencies

The millennial generation has grown up with the Internet and all things tech-oriented. It should come as no surprise that millennials are prone to embrace digital media, use social networks heavily, and be firmly attached to their mobile device (or devices) of choice. Many employers view this relationship with tech as obsessive or addictive, and try to discourage millennials from being constantly plugged in.

Of course, this view may be different in an IT environment. While even IT managers don't want their employees spending eight hours a day reading Facebook, limitations or outright bans on social media access will hinder your ability to effectively manage millennials. But because this generation enjoys tech--and knows how to use it--the good news is that most millennials are self-policing when it comes to regulating social time online.

Perhaps more importantly, embracing the millennial mindset for social media can help you improve visibility and brand recognition for your company, and your IT department in particular.

Offer feedback more frequently

Most millennials thrive on feedback. This tendency has led some to believe the generation is narcissistic and lazy, made up of young people who will refuse to work without constant pats on the back and a steady stream of flattery. But the truth is, millennials simply want to know what's working and what's not, and seek reassurance that their efforts are contributing to the team and the company.

The traditional annual review is not nearly sufficient in motivating millennials to perform their best. In fact, formal feedback is completely out of style for much of the modern young workforce--millennials prefer real-time, conversational feedback and progress check-ins to keep them constantly informed and prepared to change their approach if needed, in order to accomplish more.

Less managing, more partnering

At its simplest definition, the traditional workplace format involves managers giving instructions, and employees following them. But for the creative and innovative millennial generation, this type of arrangement can be stifling. The most successful IT companies managing millennials--including Facebook--have adopted a more conversational management style, where employees are encouraged to question managerial decisions and offer their own feedback and solutions.

As an IT manager, working with millennials can be a smoother process when you view your role as helping employees achieve individual goals and objectives, rather than handing down tasks and waiting for results to roll in. Provide millennial employees with the resources they need to get the job done, and they'll typically turn in impressive performances.

More opportunities to change things up

Another stereotype that surrounds the millennial generation is their job-hopping tendencies. Millennials are often viewed as fickle and flighty, always looking for the next big opportunity and ready to abandon their current employer at a moment's notice. And while it's true that millennials enjoy being challenged, this doesn't have to translate in a high turnover rate for millennial employees at your company.

You can improve retention by ensuring that your employees have the opportunity to shift roles within the company, or simply within the IT department for businesses that aren't entirely dedicated to tech. Programs like employee education, cross-training, and mentorships will go a long way toward satisfying the millennial generation's drive to expand their skills and knowledge, and prevent the perception of career lockdown.

While it may be challenging to adopt some of the effective strategies for working with millennials, it's well worth the effort to ensure that your tech company or IT department is viewed as a great place for millennials to work. You'll attract more top talent, and cultivate a long-term strategy for employee retention that will continue to work into 2025 and beyond.

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