Millennials and how to work and manage them. It seems like there is a daily article posted just about this in the insurance space. Why are millennials so hard to understand, manage and find as team members in your agency? Well, they are just different. In full transparency, I am by definition a millennial. Born in 1981, I am right on the cusp of Generation X and Millennial. However, just like you I also struggle managing and mentoring millennials.
Now in full disclosure, while I am a millennial I think I may be more of an Xennial. Xennials are a microgeneration between Millennials and Generation X, defined as being born between 1977 and 1983. We played outside, didn’t get cell phones until college, but still grew up with technology. Our entire childhood was not documented on social media and most likely our parents worked and so did we.
So, what makes millennials such a challenge for us old timers? I have recently concluded three major reasons we are all struggling so hard with this topic. Let me help break it down for you and your agency with some insight and guidance that may provide a few “aha” moments!
Have you ever had a millennial employee who said some pretty unprofessional things? Like words just fly out of their mouth without much thought to professionalism, who they are speaking to, or caring about the consequences? It happens, and it happens a lot! Millennials grew up with social media and most of them had cell phones by the time they were 13. This means that at any point in time, they can Tweet, Instagram and Facebook whatever is on their mind. Do you remember being 13? Remember the feelings and emotions you had? Well when you were growing up, outbursts of emotion were most likely met with parental resistance.
Today’s millennial takes their emotion to social media—where a quick outburst over having to clean your room led to a slew of their peers liking, loving and commenting on how unfair this is. Millennials actually received positive reinforcement, quickly and oftentimes from strangers or distant acquaintances confirming their position on a rather trivial manner. Bringing this into the workplace, they can often spout off without much regard. This can be very challenging to deal with, when previous generations were groomed to see hierarchy, professionalism and restraint.
This leads me to my next observation. Many Millennials don’t have much to lose. Parenting has changed dramatically. Millennial parents often took a friend’s approach (please note this is some, not all, parents). They were friendly with their children, often trying to negotiate with them rather than setting clear boundaries. As teens they were encouraged to focus on studies rather than work, $1000 Apple iPhones were given to them, $2000 Macbooks were common, and forget about the sneaker collections. When they didn’t like dance class, they didn’t have to go. Most teenage Millennials had more than I did after being a professional for five years. This leads to many Millennials living in Mom and Dad’s basement well into their twenties.
Why leave the basement when you have food, are still on your parent’s insurance, laundry is done, and have privacy and the safety of not having to worry about spreading your wings and paying bills? However, this means that in the event of conflict in the workplace, they don’t need a job. They would rather leave than work through conflict. There is not a driving need for a job, so they look at them more like “the company needs me more than I need them.” This can drive a struggle for engagement and productivity.
Finally, due to parenting styles and social media, there is no hierarchy. On Twitter you can Tweet your dislike of a company’s product and get immediate gratification (even if you were completely wrong). Or you can Tweet a CEO and get a response. You can also Tweet major brands and celebrities and feel like they are responding to you directly. This means that there is no perceived hierarchy. Everyone is equal and you can speak to anyone at any time to get a response. Past generations valued hierarchy and chain of command. Most Millennials don’t understand hierarchy.
So the bottom line is how do we manage, attract and captivate Millennials? Here is the good news. They are growing up. Millennials like me can be in our 30s, have real student loan debt, and are getting mortgages and having kids. Children change a lot in people’s lives. What we need to remain certain of is the generation following Millennials and how to manage and attract them!