Accessibility Links

What will millennial management look like?

Posted by: Tom Morris


Generation Y are very ambitious. They possess an intense desire to keep learning and moving up through organisations at rapid speed and they will move onto somewhere else if they feel that those expectations are not met.

The phrase “working your way up” is not part of millennial thinking or vocabulary.

The problem this creates is that although they may be great at their job, it doesn’t mean that they will be great at management or even ready for it.

It could be argued that many millennials are being promoted too fast because the promotion is based on their ambitions and expectations of promotion instead of their total skill set. Alternatively, the promotion to management may have been forced onto them to some extent, as more and more baby boomers retire and businesses seek out replacements.

However, generation Y haven’t been in the workforce all that long and whilst some skills sets such as technology, are much better than their senior colleges with years of work experience, many millennials lack other necessary work skills such as critical thinking, writing and soft skills.

HR departments surveyed by Price Waterhouse Cooper found that for all their expertise in technology, millennials require training in basic workplace behaviour and cultures, for example using their mobile phone at work and preferring to communicate over instant messaging and expecting instants responses from their senior colleagues.

A further 22% of HR professionals also believed that the generation were not team players.

However, 85% of CFOs interviewed by Robert Half were confident that millennials possess management potential. “Millennials are a highly educated, ambitious group who gravitate towards jobs that provide meaningful personal and professional growth”, claims Paul McDonald, Senior Executive at Robert Half. 60% of these CFOs are using onsite training to prepare millennials in their organisations for management.

Ernst and Young have also found that 59% of their managers are already millennials and 18% of those are in senior management positions.

One of the biggest reservations about management expressed by millennials is it’s potential affect on work-life-balance. 85% of millennials surveyed by PWC have said that work-life-balance is important to them and 70% said it was very important. However, due to technology advances, traditional ways of working are being considered obsolete by generation Y who are much more results orientated and don’t measure success by the number of hours spent in the office.

Millennials also see rigid corporate structures as outdated, Vineet Naya CEO of HCL Technologies has said “With generation Y coming into the business, hierarchies have to disappear. Gen Y expects to work in communities of mutual interest and passion – not structured hierarchies. Consequently, people management strategies will have to change so that they look more like Facebook and less like the pyramid structures that we are used to”.

The thing is, generation Y care more about making friends, professional development and getting recognised at work for their ideas than anything else. These workplace values are not always shared by their older colleagues and this can lead to generational tensions.

However, millennials say that they are comfortable working with older colleagues although 50% believe that other generations do not always understand how they use technology at work, 38% say older senior management do not relate to their generation and 34% said their personal drive was intimidating to other generations.

Technology is definitely a driving factor in these generational tensions. Millennials often choose digital communication over picking up a phone or arranging a face-to-face meeting and this has an inevitable effect on the way that they communicate with those around them.

By contrast, they value face-to-face time with mentors and managers and regular feedback, so how might these two factors affect their own management style? The technology gaps from seniors and a lack of experience on millennials part, is likely to affect them when tasked with managing an older generation. Millennials are going to have to learn to satisfy these conflicting work beliefs and styles. Reverse mentoring is proving successful in bridging the generational gap and easing conflict. Schemes like these enable younger members to teach seniors about technology in the workplace in return for valuable insight into the world of management, meaning that corporate knowledge is transferred to millennials by the time they replace the baby boomers.

So, should we expect a much more collaborative management style from millennials? This generation is used to making decisions based on what a group thinks rather than having confidence in just their decisions alone. Millennials are constantly looking for a collective voice so the workplace in the future is likely to have a lot less of the traditional management structure and be more collaborative, with a focus on teams rather than individuals.

However, if workplaces become less traditional, management may prove harder when the majority of your team are remote working, spending less time in the office and doing more work on the move.

But if millennials promote and believe in this results orientated and less time in the office mantra, then they will be keen to manage it well and prove that it produces better results than outdated corporate working styles.

Add new comment