Managing A Millennial Workforce


From acquiring commercial financing to ensuring the enterprise continues to grow, small business owners have a lot on their plates. While these daily operations require constant attention, one aspect of running a company, such as guaranteeing workers are performing at optimum quality levels, should be automatic and routine, but unfortunately it’s not always this way. One such way this is changing is the increasing role millennials play at a company.

For the longest time, Gen Xers were the largest portion of the workforce, but a new generation has surpassed these individuals. However, with approximately 53.5 million people in the workforce, millennials, typically defined as those individuals who were born between 1982 and 2000, now comprise 34 percent of U.S. workers, according to Pew Research. This is a greater percentage than Gen Xers and baby boomers, and analysts only expect it to get bigger. As millennials continue to carve out a greater sphere in the labor pool, owners and managers must be more prepared to not only hire these individuals, but also effectively motivate, manage and mentor them.

Forget about the carrot and stick

Throughout history, many leaders have attempted to motivate workers, armies and entire societies by promising a little bit in an effort to get these people to do a lot. However, according to author and Harvard psychologist Harry Levinson, this is more like “the great jackass fallacy,” which revolves around unspoken presumptions about how people expect and prefer to be motivated. As Harvard Business Review noted, this leads to outdated and ineffective organizational hierarchies that ultimately crush workers’ sense of worth and accomplishments. When Levinson asked executives at seminars to visualize this reward-and-punishment method, the mental image almost invariably involved a jackass with a carrot-and-stick contraption rigged to its harness. If the jackass is the most frequently visualized image, it means there’s this subconscious construction of bosses viewing workers as subordinate donkeys who need to be manipulated and controlled.

However, millennials don’t view themselves this way, nor do they expect their managers and bosses to picture them as jackasses that only need a bit of carrot to motivate them. Indeed, as HBR noted, this technique has lead to a crisis of motivation that organizations both large and small suffer from. Instead of assuming that employees will be satisfied and productive employees simply because they were offered something, owners and managers need to evaluate their assumptions about their organizations. This involves reviewing the enterprise’s hierarchy to ensure it’s structured to benefit the tasks necessary to accomplish the tasks at hand. Owners should ensure their organizations have an organizational structure designed to solve the problems and accomplish the tasks at hand, instead of having the company’s hierarchy merely there to achieve the structure.

Mentoring is important

Since the carrot-and-stick method relies on the assumption that people need proper motivation, how else do small business owners push employees to perform better? Millennials care about developing their skills and bettering their abilities. Simply dangling an incentive isn’t enough. Managers and bosses must mentor these individuals by explaining projects in detail, providing qualitative feedback and letting the workers actually learn about the job, instead of merely being a cog in the machine.

Allow mobility and flexibility

Millennials are the first generation to come of age with technology. Since this cohort is so tech-savvy, they prefer to work anywhere they can get Internet connection, whether that’s the office, their home or a coffee shop. In the same way, allowing workers to bring their own devices to the workplace can reduce overhead expenses and demonstrate that owners and managers trust their employees to get the job accomplished. Both flexibility and mobility lets these workers feel independent and in control of their responsibilities, while at the same time pushing them to be more productive.

Tags: , , ,