In the United States and Canada, there are now more millennials than any other age cohort. Importantly, they think, work and respond differently than other generations, particularly those who would most comprise the senior hotel manager, corporate executive or consultant levels. This empathy gap can have significant ramifications and learning to effectively work with this younger generations is a necessary step towards delivering on your business goals.
To my eye, millennials are the brightest and most talented generation of employees that any manager could hope to attract. The potential is there but millennials are often their own worst enemy as they take many things for granted. They were ‘nurtured’ more so than past generations with helicopter parenting and ‘participation’ trophies for just about any competition, and they’ve come to know a world without the threat of total war as well as one where automation has usurped countless manual or arduous tasks.
Rather than make some generalities that are applicable to the millions already in or about to enter the labor pool, below are a few seemingly perplexing anecdotal experiences that not only capture the essence of this demographic but also can instruct upon how to deal with a few of the millennials’ quirks.
Understanding Business Priorities
Don’t think that this is immediately obvious or implicit on first hire. It is essential to spend time on not only identifying what the priorities are for your business, but also why these priorities are important. Only by being transparent about the end results of any operational activity will you secure all team members’ commitments to accomplishing these goals. Next, you must keep in mind the ‘next big thing’ fallacy whereby individuals of this generation may be more easily distracted by new or upcoming personal prerogatives, so a straightforward solution is to rely on checklists and regular reviews to keep their eyes on the prize.
Imagine an employee asking for time off when you’re operating at peak occupancy? While established members of the senior team would never even consider asking because they know the strain this puts on everyone else, millennial team members are more likely to focus on their personal lifestyles without giving consequences to the company anywhere near the same weight. As before, the onus is on you to gently yet thoroughly mentor these bright young minds about the nature ebbs and flows of the annual business cycle as well as how individual actions might reverberate throughout an organization and impact other employees’ duties. Again, an open conversation about job expectations and responsibilities is required.
Basic Knowledge Gaps
Don’t assume that what you consider to be common knowledge is part of their social lexicon, or even that millennials would be inherently fascinated to learn more the issues and historical milestones of your generation. One personal example that shocks me to this day was during a promotional campaign brainstorm when I was drawing upon figures in the not-too-distant past for inspiration and no one under the age of 30 knew who Winston Churchill or JFK were. My initial, and internal, reaction was a jumbling of, “Shame on you!” with “What the f— are they teaching these kids in school?” After a long sigh, I regained by composure and told them in a calm voice who these two individuals were. The lesson here is to never assume what someone’s past education may or may not encompass, while also staying patient with those are ignorant so they do not take offense at you ‘talking down’ to them.
Daily use of social media has subtly coerced the millennial mind to think of language in terms of soundbites while this is exacerbated by lazy college professors deploying scantron multiple choice tests over those requiring an essay-type answer. As such, basic writing skills have lapsed, with many members of this demographic unable to scribe even a one-page memo with a linear thought process and proper sentence syntax. Parallel to this, reading abilities have declined, meaning that lengthy emails may go unread or that you will only see an effective follow-up to the first part but not anything subsequently listed. The key to your response here is in your tone, whereby it is okay to ask for a rewrite or offer suggestions for next time, but you must do so softly and as a mentor not a harried autocrat.
Time Off Policies
We understand paid time off for death of a close loved one – spouses, parents, grandparents and siblings. But how many days do you give as bereavement leave for a great aunt? Better still, how many days do you allow for the death of a pet hamster? If an employee calls in sick, but says that he or she is going to ‘work from home’, will you dock this as a sick day or simply let it slide? Yes, millennials are sensitive, and this is in fact one of their greatest strengths. However, there’s a limit, and it behooves you to be crystal clear from the start what your time off policy is so that it isn’t abused.
Multitasking is a sham; our minds can do only one thing well at a time. Yet, walk around any office and see how many cell phones are on the desk within eyeline or are being actively engaged in that exact moment. As a very crude analogy, consider whether your chef chops vegetables while watching a football match and answering text messages. Similarly, while it is entirely possible for a team member to answer emails while on a conference call, this individual won’t be giving either task 100% of his or her attention, thus compromising the integrity of both – especially if it was a sales call! The solution here is to once again fall back on policy, plainly and precisely stating what you allow for smartphone use as well as why these rules are in place.