insight magazine

Everyone’s A Winner

Understanding and motivating the millennials on your staff. By Renee Beckman, CPA | Digital Exclusive - 2018


Managing millennials remains one of the hottest topics in management today. If you’re managing millennials, then you need to be sharp, innovative, quick, and creative to maximize all they have to offer. It sounds easier than it is. I see my colleagues in the field of financial recruiting all too ready to share stories of challenges, but there are solutions.

Perceptions of millennials are pretty consistent; in fact, I can condense them into two words: high maintenance.

Reading Bruce Tulgan’s “Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage Generation Y,” one particular story about managing millennials stood out to me: “An experienced nurse-manager stopped a young nurse from administering the wrong medications to a patient. She explained how serious this was to the young nurse and directed the nurse on what she needed to do in the future to prevent this. The young nurse interrupted her and said, ‘Actually you’re doing this conversation wrong. You’re supposed to give me some positive feedback before you criticize my work.’”

And there it is in a nutshell. The way I see it, millennials are gen Xers on steroids. They work at an accelerated pace, are short-term focused, and work very much in the here and now. They’re not necessarily looking for stability, career progression, or promises for a distant future. They want to know, “What’s in it for me?” like, right now!

Millennials embrace change and want to reinvent things constantly. And because of that, they’ll continue to be more difficult to recruit, retain, motivate, and manage than any other generation. It’s a fact, so get used to it. Having said that, they’ll also be the highest performing recruits — if you know how to tap into their potential and lead them.

Key to understanding millennials is appreciating that technology has formed their world. It makes them feel connected and powerful. The mass of information at their fingertips doesn’t intimidate them for a minute; they feel they’re experts in everything and, if not, they’re confident they can tap into their digital resources to become one pretty quickly.

Why are they so confident? Because they grew up in the “Decade of the Child” — the most over-supervised generation yet. They’re very attached to their parents, and building self-esteem during childhood was a consistent theme adopted by just about everyone, including mom, dad, and educators. Everyone is a winner; there are no losers.

So, how do you motivate and manage this high-pace, can’t-lose, confident workforce? Customization is the key. Here are four tips, based on what I know of this generation.

1. All About Family: As Tulgan explains, “We need to work in Parentis Operatis mode.” That doesn’t mean we become their parents, but we have to coach and help them with the transition from college to the workplace and beyond. You need to give them crystal clear boundaries and structure. They often site mentoring as the most important criteria in their career choices. They want a hands-on, teaching approach that encourages and corrects them along the way. They respond well to customized coaching.

2. Be All You Can Be: Millennials yearn for work that means something and makes them feel like they’re contributing to something bigger than themselves. They’re often judged as the generation of entitlement, not willing to pay their dues. But is it really entitlement? They’ve seen their parents work hard, delay gratification, and lose it all when hard economic times struck. They think it is a stupid strategy. Managers today have to keep these young professionals challenged daily and on task. Show them how they’re impacting the organization in order to retain them for a few years. But note: They’re confident and will challenge authority.

3. There’s no “I” in “Team”: As children, millennials participated in team sports and playgroups where everyone was included. They value teamwork and seek the input and affirmation of others. They’re part of a no-person-left-behind generation.

4. Hey Coach!: Millennials crave attention in the form of feedback and guidance. They’ll benefit from mentors who can guide them and help them make decisions. Show them that you care. They like a personalized hands-on approach from management. Only doing an annual review and lumping them in with the rest of the masses is just unacceptable, as is buying into all of the millennial stereotypes (even though some of these thoughts might reinforce them)!

Renee Beckman, CPA is the founder and CEO of Limitless Search Inc., a specialized accounting and finance executive search, contract resources, and corporate recruiting consulting firm.

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