Here come the “Millennials” … are you ready?

Team BuildingAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by the year 202046 percent will be composed of millennials, but by the year 2022, 25.6 percent of the labor force will still be comprised of baby boomers.

Team leaders increasingly will need to skillfully manage different personalities but an increased number of millennials. It can be expected that some millennials and baby boomers may seem to have different agendas. With the increasing number of millennials in the workplace, coupled with a high representation by baby boomers due to later retirement, team leaders should pay increasingly more attention to this issue. Lack of attention could result in decreased productivity and profits. Rather than waiting to be told by the corner suite, team leaders should take the initiative in building relationships with these two groups. It is worth carefully examining some considerations, changes or activities to be as prepared as possible for the inevitable.

Here are my suggestions:

Communication and FeedbackTo avoid employees’ bottling up of frustrations and then a huge blowout, encourage constant feedback about how things can be done better. If all these programs and tools were created to merge the gap, but no one is asking if they’re working, then it’s a waste of everyone’s efforts.

Mentoring OpportunitiesPartnering younger workers with older workers can have a positive impact on larger teams. Younger workers can learn the value of structure and face-to-face interaction. They can benefit from Boomers’ experience with the company. Boomers can also learn from their younger counterparts. They may pick up new technology skills and begin to embrace work-life-balance. They can also learn new and faster ways to complete tasks.

Reverse MentoringConsider that some of the hard skills and expertise that millennials have with social media could be traded for some of the industry knowledge or soft skills that boomers possess. It is certainly possible that some of the millennials have not had the life experience to have perfected the professional communication skills, such as interacting with clients or preparing major presentations. The reverse mentoring could help to ameliorate the traditional “old-timers” with 20 to 30 years of experience versus the young “hot-shots” who know-it-all phenomenon.

PracticalityEnsure that goals are realistic for the entire team. If goals favor one age group there will be friction. For example, members of different generational groups may not have a problem with working long hours, but the scheduling of those extra hours can cause frustrations and friction. Depending on the nature of the work, a millennial may be able to complete a project using a smart phone during a transit ride home, whereas a boomer may need to complete the project on the workstation at the office. This means getting home late and that may create issues.

Experience and Skill Sets – Skills can be learned, attitude cannot. Leaders should look for more than experience and skill sets from younger workers, and look more at their behaviors. Gen Y is typically very enthusiastic about work. Their enthusiasm may revive teams who are a bit more jaded. When building teams, identify underlying characteristics and soft skills that can help move the organization forward.

Individual MotivatorsTeam leaders may not immediately realize the importance of the fact that individual employees have different motivators. Therefore, when setting goals and incentives, analyze how an issue might be experienced by different team members. The last thing a team leader wants is a rift between team members because a group incentive appears to be geared more toward one generation than the other.

Diverse Teams – Team leaders should be careful to ensure that diversity is maintained when restructuring. This would be a missed opportunity to promote inter-generational exchanges of skills and experience that each generation can learn from the other. Another consideration is that different experiences and backgrounds could lead to different solutions or discussions.


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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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