Simon Allison, employment law partner at Blackadders, explains how to understand, manage and motivate the next generation of workers.

Millennials are the new breed of worker. They are well educated, highly skilled in technology and very self-confident. They have grown up in a time of mobiles, tablets and Facebook and are the world’s first 'always connected' generation. There are over 80 million of them, which makes them larger than any other generation. By 2025, millennials will form 75% of our workforce.

Why should I care about millennials?

Employers can no longer expect to retain their workers for 10 to 20 years. Research suggests that millennials will not stay in the same job for longer than three years. Therefore, if you do wish to retain your existing millennials, it will be important to encourage and motivate them in an attempt to continue to utilise their unique skillset and viewpoints.  

Tips to manage millennials

1. Give them your gadgets

Millennials are not social media savvy – they’re social media sophisticated! They have grown up in a time when communication with peers comes through the forum of social media. They are the masters of digital communication and employers should utilise these talents whenever possible. Rather than giving your senior managers the latest forms of workplace gadget, give them to your millennials. They are much more likely to be able to find the benefit in new technology much quicker than your senior managers and, if asked, will likely educate the rest of your workforce as to the pros and cons of the latest gadgets.  

2. Encourage creativity

Millennials have grown up in a time where information is readily available at the touch of a button. They are accustomed to getting instant answers to difficult questions from google or Wikipedia. For this reason, they don’t get the same satisfaction from cross-referencing hundreds of authorities, eliminating secondary arguments and identifying the ultimate answer. Instead they find a greater satisfaction from creativity and they should be encouraged to use these skills to problem-solve real-life issues.

3. Form a team, as opposed to an army

Unlike the generations before them, millennials are not accustomed to the workplace chain of command or company hierarchy. Millennials don’t care about ranking, nor do they have an automatic respect for their senior colleagues. Most millennials will dislike workplace conflict so instead of drilling respect into a hierarchical army, try strengthening a team.  If you can encourage your millennials to play a role in the team, they are more likely to be fulfilled in the workplace and work harder, better, faster, stronger.

4. Regular reviews

Annual reviews are not effective with millennials. They need more regular feedback and want direct criticism on why they are wrong and where they can improve. Indeed millennials have a strong desire to please and, if any shortfalls are addressed in a direct manner, this can only prove worthwhile for your company.

5. Harness your inner Harvey Specter

Millennials are very, very stubborn and when something displeases them, they find it difficult to tell anyone other than their trusted few. A trusted relationship with their manager is essential if you want to hear these concerns. Frequently the best managers of millennials are the ones who hold the same values and viewpoints as them. If millennials are placed with managers they trust, their loyalty should never be doubted. As Harvey Specter famously stated:

“Loyalty is a two-way street. If I’m asking for it from you, then you’re getting it from me.”  

Millennials are our future leaders

Commentators often suggest that millennials are entitled, impatient and have a limited ability to take criticism. I would disagree. In my experience, millennials are adaptable, contemplative and offer a new, exciting perspective to the workplace. So if you want to manage your millennials effectively, re-think the way in which you deal with them and accept that a different work ethic is not necessarily the wrong work ethic. So submit to the selfies. Embrace Instagram. Oh and, if you haven’t already done so, learn to speak emoji. It is, after all, the fastest growing language of the millennials! :)

Simon Allison leads the employment team at Blackadders and tweets at @EmpLawyerSimon. He will be delivering a fringe session on 'Marketing, Motivating and Managing Your Millennials' at Leading Legal Excellence, our 2018 annual conference. Save 20% when you book your ticket by Friday 31 August.