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How Do I Manage Millenials?

In this advice column, we tackle industry challenges.

Q. Most of my employees are Millennials, age 18 to 33. I don’t know if it’s just that “the kids these days” will always seem different to older generations, but I find myself frustrated by what I see as entitlement by some of my hires. I try to, but I can’t always offer promotions and raises to keep young employees engaged. Am I failing at managing Millennials?

A. You’ve hit on something very real, yet there are ways of thinking about it that can help. Researchers find Millennials, born roughly between 1981 and 1996, are less faithful to institutions, more tied into social networks, more digital, and less certain about their economic future largely because of student debt.

Young people have always been impatient and wanted instant gratification, to some extent. Yet Millennials were raised in a generation where these impulses were encouraged by today’s fast, internet-based world.

While it’s easy to get frustrated by what seems like entitlement by Millennials, try to think of it in new ways. Millennials can seem to have short attention spans and expect to move quickly up the ladder. But don’t take this personally – because of increased economic uncertainty, Millennials feel the need to be even more aggressive in their work lives.

Yet this also means Millennials can be highly motivated and respond well to new challenges. This gives employers a great opportunity to rethink responsibilities and job titles in ways that are less rigid and work better for a restaurant or retail shop.

Even if you can’t constantly offer promotions and raises – and who can? – the key to managing Millennials is to communicate with them more. Maybe you can’t increase the hourly rate you pay, but taking aside some of your best workers and letting them know your situation, while affirming the good work they’re doing, goes a long way. Sometimes Millennials don’t actually expect a raise, but they want to be included in these conversations in order to feel part of the team.

The fact that Millennials are digital natives makes them more responsive to change and more likely to adopt new technologies.

Solutions like Sling make it even easier to communicate and create schedules in ways that are second-nature to young workers.

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