Millennials – people born between 1980 and 2000 – are beginning to dominate the workplace. By 2020, they will make up 50% of the workforce.
Just like every generation that has gone before them, millennials have a distinct approach to their work.
If you’re a project manager, you need to consider how best to support and guide this demographic to meet targets and deadlines.You need to realize that they have specific needs when it comes to technology, task allocation, working relationships, and workplace communication.
Let’s review a few of the biggest changes we’ve seen as millennials come of age:
Change #1: Increased emphasis on technology in project management
Millennials are often described by business leaders and educators as “digital natives.” What does this mean? Essentially, they have grown up surrounded by technology. For many, a world without the internet is unthinkable.
As a project manager, you should choose project management software and communication apps that allow your team the ability to share and record their thoughts and progress. Millennials view email as outdated; most of them would rather interact via instant messaging.
Change #2: Increased appetite for variety and change
This age group are much quicker to change jobs, and even careers, relative to previous generations. You may think that it’s harder to win a Millennial’s loyalty, and many would agree with you. On the other hand, their flexibility and love of change can work to your advantage if you need an adaptive team.
Millennials like to be challenged. This doesn’t mean you should assign them tasks that are completely beyond their capabilities, but they will relish the chance to try their hand at something completely new from time to time.Don’t be too quick to assign narrowly-defined roles to your team members. Give them room to grow their skills over the course of the project.
Change #3: A preference for egalitarian structures versus hierarchies
Millennials are sometimes portrayed as an entitled group of individuals who never show appropriate respect for authority. However, it would be fairer to say that they do not believe in respecting authority just on the basis of job title or seniority alone.
This means that, unlike older workers, they may be more inclined to question team leaders and line managers. This does not make them intrinsically rude or disrespectful. In fact, millennials believe it is their duty to contribute their ideas.
When managing a project, you should accommodate this preference by allowing everyone ample time to present their ideasand by taking every team member’s thoughts seriously. Do not resort to fear or intimidation-based tactics, as this will only inspire contempt in Millennial team members.
Change #4: A preference for flexible working hours
Tell a Millennial that you expect them to be in between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. every day, and they may ask you why. This group value the opportunity to structure their work as they see fit. They may ask for flexible working hours – and they will expect you to give their request serious consideration.
This does not mean you have to bend over backwards to accommodate them. However, giving team members a little more autonomy in when and how they work can have a significant effect on morale and productivity. For example, some people work best in the mornings, and thrive on 8 a.m. starts. Others do not really hit their stride until lunchtime, and would therefore benefit from a workday that starts and finishes late.
Change #5: An emphasis on better work-life balance
Unlike previous generations, Millennials place a high value on work-life balance. They don’t believe it is healthy or necessary to work lots of overtime every week, or to push yourself to the point of burnout.
As a project manager, you need to select achievable deadlines that won’t put your team under unnecessary pressure. Millennials are willing to work hard, particularly when a project aligns with their personal values, but they are sceptical of any workplace culture that forces employees to put their work ahead of their physical and mental health.
Having grown up with technology, Millennials are the first to understand the benefits it can bring to the workplace. They are keen to embrace opportunities to work from home. If you choose the right project management software, youcan run a cohesive team ¬– wherever you happen to be.
Don’t assume that they will never want to come into the office. Most people like to vary where they work, and if your workplace culture is positive, your team members won’t mind coming in a few days each week.
Change #6: A preference for networking opportunities rather than remaining in insular teams
This group truly understand the value of social networking. Millennials are likely to be comfortable working with people from a variety of backgrounds, and they often enjoy working in multi-cultural environments. They can and will work well in a close-knit group, but they have a natural inclination to seek out other people’s opinions.
If you are looking to expand your business abroad or collaborate with people in different locations, you will benefit from having a few forward-thinking millennials on your team. Just make sure they use a professional translation service, such as The Word Point, when creating content for an international audience.
Change #7: A preference for multi-tasking
Finally, most Millennials are proficient in the art of multi-tasking. They like to have several tabs and apps open at once, and believe that moving back and forth between assignments is a stimulating and productive way to work.
Ask each member of your team whether they prefer to move through tasks in a linear sequence or work on several mini-projects simultaneously. You can then assign tasks and set deadlines accordingly.
Of course, just because someone prefers to multi-task does not mean they are good at it – not every Millennial has the capacity to switch their attention on command – so be prepared to suggest an employee try a more traditional approach if they become overwhelmed.
Bringing it together!
Having a mix of experience and millennials in your team is a welcome sign. You have the needed energy and enthusiasm guided by expertise gained from years of experience. As seen above, millennials are always forthcoming in offering help and stepping up when needed due to an inherent rebel or don’t back down attitude.
Thus you always have a workforce that is keen on collaboration, eager to achieve and willing to take charge of the situation at hand. All of which augurs well for you as a project manager and for the overall project success!
What are your thoughts on having millennials in your team? How do you channel their ideas in the best interest of your projects today? Let us know in the comments below!