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How to keep your Millennials happy

Managing Gen Y employees requires flexibility and patience

By Mary Brandel, Network World
January 13, 2014 06:13 AM ET

Network World - The much-anticipated wave of Millennials is upon us, with their addiction to social media, their attachment to consumer devices and their merging of work and personal lives.

In fact, Millennials or Generation Y make up more than a third of the U.S. workforce and are quickly moving into management ranks, according to a recent Ernst & Young study. So, what have we learned about managing Millennials, particularly when it comes to IT?

In a nutshell, Millennials are associated with the following work behaviors and mindsets:

  • A collaborative approach to work.
  • The expectation that their opinions count, despite existing hierarchy.
  • Use of consumer-oriented technologies in the workplace, such as apps, mobile devices, social networking.
  • Inclination to work anywhere/anytime rather than set, on-site work hours.
  • The desire to be involved with a mission that’s meaningful to them.

“They are more willing to challenge the norm and look for better ways to do things, but I have also seen some of them who seem to have a sense of entitlement,” says Samuel Satyana, mobile wallet platform architect in the North America region at Ericsson.

millennials
Credit: Flickr

Tim Elkins, CIO at Prime Lending, agrees. “One story that comes to mind is when an entry-level employee who had been at the company less than three months found herself in a disagreement with a vice president in technology,” he says. “Instead of going to her manager for guidance and resolution, she confronted the vice president. Despite the obvious hierarchy, she felt she deserved to be heard and respected.”

+ ALSO ON NETWORK WORLD Hiring preferences favor mature workers over Millennials | The better hire: the 50-year-old IT veteran or the fresh grad? +

“They are completely different from their Gen X peers,” agrees Michael Kirven, CEO and founder of IT recruiting firm Mondo, where 80% of employees are Millennials. “I’ve had to make myself more adaptable to attract and retain these folks.” Since they’ll be the majority of the workplace in 10 years, Kirven says, “You can either adapt now or later, but everyone will have to.”

Here are four ways that employers can adapt to the new world of Millennials.

1. Enable Collaboration

No.1 on Kirven’s Millennial to-do list was to eliminate private offices in response to the flat infrastructure and “open” environment preferred by the new generation. “They want to be able to shout out questions they might have and get immediate feedback,” Kirven says. “It’s not the standard protocol of e-mailing the boss and waiting for a response.”

To support their collaborative style of work, Mondo has also implemented Salesforce.com’s Chatter platform, as well as Google Chat, to enable communication across national offices. “Right now, I have 15 chat windows open,” Kirven says. “I can go all day and my phone won’t ring once. It’s a dinosaur sitting on my desk.”

Elkins is also considering new collaboration and chat platforms to support this Millennial preference. “We know that our customers, business partners, and employees are social and collaborate outside of work, and we’re working to figure out how to foster that collaborative nature in-house,” Elkins says. Internally, Prime Lending is using Chatter and Cisco’s Jabber for instant messaging. The company is also building a mobile app for its customers and partners to support better external collaboration and transparency, as well.

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