How to Align Millennials and Change Business-As-Usual Practices

How to Align Millennials and Change Business-As-Usual Practices
Guest Blogger: Mac Clemmens MBA 07

I’m often asked how millennials are changing the business world. But when I respond, I’m often accused of pandering to stereotypes. The thing is, millennials are not that different. They just put up with less of the hype that led other generations to disengage.

As someone who is both a millennial and an enthusiastic employer of millennials, I’ve found two books have made all the difference in my approach: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Dan Pink, and Rework, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. These authors offer up key principles for engaging millennials—and any generation.

I was once passive-aggressive and cynical, and put up many other barriers for my employees. With help from some terrific coaches, mentors, faculty and friends, I was able to adopt a better, albeit counterintuitive, way of leading a team. One that is rooted in research but not commonly practiced.

And I hope these tips will save you from the heartache I felt on my management journey and enable you to tap into the joy of watching a team thrive through the right management support.

How to Align Millennials and Change Business-As-Usual PracticesHow to Align Millennials and Change Business-As-Usual PracticesHow to Align Millennials and Change Business-As-Usual PracticesHow to Align Millennials and Change Business-As-Usual Practices

Context, not control

Your team doesn’t need you to tell them what to do. This was a hard lesson for me. I was a perfectionist and wanted to keep that control.

But people are way more committed to their own ideas than to yours. And they need to understand the problem you’re presenting them. Offering solutions doesn’t stimulate learning. Clearly explaining the problem does.  If they need help, millennials will ask for it. But often they’ll research the answers on their own first.

Offer Autonomy

My company offers unlimited vacation. Team members don’t check in with a supervisor when they need leave; they work with their peers to cover them. The result: We stagger our vacations, cross-train our positions and self-monitor our team for fairness and support.

I just need my team to get their jobs done. I don’t care how or when exactly. Some like to work at home. Some spend time with their kids (as they should.) I see the work as the means for them to live their own lives. If someone isn’t productive, I address that directly. If someone routinely abuses the policy, I let them go.

We also set no rules on our company credit cards, other than to use good judgement. Preset spending limits are a waste of time. If a laptop breaks while an employee is traveling, he needs to find a replacement without fearing a mountain of paperwork. If I don’t trust them to know when to ask and when to just buy, I have a problem.

You must trust

Nothing moves faster than an organization that trusts its team. You should trust they can manage their own schedules and expenses.

For those managing in a corporate environment, strive to create a pocket of insulation from oversight and red tape. Your job is to run interference and remove obstacles to clear a path for your team. They will love you for it.

Encourage Mastery

People often leave their jobs when they can’t improve in their work. Employees need to be able to deepen their skills, even when it’s unclear how they may apply to the job. That’s why we allocate 20 percent of our employees’ time to it. Otherwise, our team will never have enough time to get things done. If they can’t slow down to learn, they won’t become more efficient or get better at their jobs.

Respect Their Needs

No work life is separate from real life. A kid who’s home with a cold, or other relatively “low level” priorities on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, will still dominate your employee’s mindset. He will fulfill his duty and sit at the computer, while trying to compartmentalize his anxious concerns. But send him home and let him work nights or the weekend to make up for it. For this, he’ll love both you and this job that lets them put family first.

Like what you read? Or disagree vehemently? I’d love to hear from you. Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments below!


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