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What can we learn from millennials in management?

Student Career Placement Consultant

Two young adults collaborate on a laptop in an office environmentAccording to a report in Parade, 28 percent of all millennials (individuals born between 1980 and 2000) currently working in the U.S. have moved into management positions. Research suggests that their management style differs from that of older managers; let's examine some of those differences.

If you’re a millennial, this post can help you think about two things:

1. How much are you like other millennials?

2. How might your work environment vary depending on the age of your manager?

If you’re an employer hiring millennials, this post may help you understand what millennials look for in their work life.

As I discussed in my post “What do millennials want?,” research tells us that millennials like to collaborate, and millennial managers are thus creating more team-based projects. From my interactions with faculty and students in MBA programs at several different universities, I can see that this is a logical outcome of team-based projects in graduate-level management classes. While it doesn’t mesh with my experience with undergraduates, where students resist collaboration, it’s likely that many of the millennials who have gone into management have an MBA background.

Millennials who manage also incorporate a focus on personal values into their management style. They are more likely to think about work/life balance, creating flexible schedules, and incorporating a sense of purpose beyond attaining revenue goals. This reminds me of conversations I’ve had with several colleagues about the current trend for many young people to look for work in the nonprofit or public sectors. They may be recognizing that their personal values are going to mesh more closely with organizations where profit is not the primary motive.

Another important difference is the need for regular feedback. The Parade article says that 60 percent of millennials want daily feedback from a manager. In addition to suggestions for how to improve, they want to know what they’ve done well and that their work is appreciated. I’ve been fortunate to have had jobs where I received regular feedback and appreciation, and I know that it’s made me a happier employee, even though I’m far from being a millennial. From discussions that I’ve had with friends and family about this type of feedback, I think it’s always been an important factor in job satisfaction, but perhaps millennials are more vocal about it than previous generations.

A final point about millennials is that they expect to change jobs frequently. The days when an individual stayed with a company for a 25 or 30 or even 50 years seem to be long gone, although some of the best companies do manage to have loyal employees for decades. Whether they are able to hold on to their millennial employees for decades is something that we will have to wait a bit longer to determine. However, based on the frequency with which my former students change jobs, I think it’s a trend that is going to continue.

Share your thoughts!