Sometimes, when I meet socially with others in my field, the topic of Millennials comes up (usually followed by deep sighs and eye rolling.)
That’s when I typically do the wildly unpopular: I say how much I enjoy working with my Millennial teammates (usually followed by wide-eyed gawking). I’ve experienced this with several executives across various industries, so I think I can safely say that this generational divide inhabits the workforce.
I might like working with Millennials because I feel the need to pay it forward. After all, more “seasoned” professionals have mentored me throughout my career. It’s not just that, though. I like working with Millennials, because over the years, they have taught me a few things about being a better manager along the way:
- Having a Purpose Isn’t a Bad Thing: I’ll never forget the day an employee asked, “What’s my purpose?” during a project briefing. At first, I was dumbfounded. It’s not at all unusual for marketers to spend time contemplating the intricacies of the target audience mindset or a corporation’s purpose. But in my history, no one on my team had ever asked what their purpose was.
While managing a team with a large group of Millennials, I learned that understanding an employee’s motivations and their desire to ensure that their daily efforts resulted in a greater good was a managerial imperative.
But as I embraced this process (albeit initially to boost productivity), something shifted in me. Instead of rolling my eyes at their unique needs, I started to wonder about my own daily purpose—asking where my career might have taken me if I had asked these questions early on.
More importantly, I started to answer that question for myself, and the results led me to new ground. I came to respect, nurture and encourage my team’s active participation in defining their individual impact on the organization, their career path and the world at large.
- Recognize the Moments to Coach: The Millennials who I work with think differently than I do. It’s not just that they are savvier with technology, or have a greater digital affinity—it’s about how they embrace life. They work, spend and even work out differently.
In advertising and marketing, we aim to solve challenges in new and exciting ways, so we are frequently brainstorming. During these problem-solving moments, I do my best to learn from and consider their new ideas and approaches. And together, we build new solutions that work across platforms and generations.
There are times when experience and history matter, and those are the moments to teach. But, Millennials want an approachable manager who coaches them and invests in their personal development. So, as a manager, I:
- Leverage the day-to-day moments to provide feedback and give praise
- Invest the time to explain why an approach would yield desired results
- Understand my team’s different learning styles and leverage various types of training including online learning, team discussions and independent study
- Set clear objectives upfront
Investing in their career growth and personal development will also result in happier, more engaged employees and an enhanced bottom line.
- Laugh into the Divide: Millennials can sense generational disconnect: In a PWC Millennials at Work survey, 38 percent of respondents felt that older senior management did not relate to younger workers. Sometimes, well-intentioned older colleagues say things to Millennials like: “You only believe that because you’re young. You’ll see when you get older.” And in inverse, I’ve been on the receiving end of the not-so-flattering statement: “I can’t wait until you realize that you are irrelevant.” These types of statements create divides.
In these situations, we all have to choose the path that allows for the most efficient and effective team. That involves building common ground and creating an environment for everyone to thrive. Sometimes, it can even mean being able to laugh at yourself. I once dressed up for Halloween as the “grandma” I was jokingly called by my team and doled out caramels with great affection.
At OCG+, I’m lucky to work with a strong and talented group of individuals across generations. We understand what it takes to create effective communication strategies—credible and understandable—delivered to the right audience at the right place at the right time. And we do that by seeing everyone through a diverse lens—every person, every walk of life, every position, every culture.
Dawn Taylor | VP of Account Services