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HR Tips

Claudia St. John

November 2015

Managing Millennials – How to Attract, Retain and Motivate Your Young Workers
By Claudia St. John, SPHR
“I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.”

Sound familiar, like something that might be said about our current millennial generation – those currently between the ages of 18 and 34? In fact, it was penned by the Greek poet Hesiod over 3,000 years ago.  Alas, as generations mature, they look to the youth behind them and marvel at all of their faults. 

Millennials, also known as Generation Y workers, are often maligned and quite misunderstood but it is a worthwhile effort to try to figure out how to harness the energy and enthusiasm -- they are the fastest growing, most diverse group in our population. Just this year, they will surpass all other generations in the workforce, comprising one-in-three U.S. workers today. 
  1. They are entrepreneurial, tech-savvy and are fiscally conservative. They value family, community, creativity and the environment. They are also notorious job-hoppers which means that our youngest employees need to be actively engaged at work or they will leave for another job that offers them growth, opportunity or, more often than not, a meaningful, value-based work experience. So, if you are struggling to manage your millennials, here are some things to consider:

    Treat them like the adults that they are. Relationships, respect and purpose matter more to this group than money. Connect the dots for them – explain how their jobs matter in the big picture.  
  2. Let them use their personal technology at work. If it doesn't cause a safety problems, let them have access to their phones during breaks at work. They see 24x7 connectivity as essential to their own sense of purpose (and face it, so do many of us), and they will be more productive if you don’t restrict their natural form of communication. And they may see ways of using technology to help you! No one knows technology and social media better than they do. 
  3. Give them feedback. They, more than any other generation of employee, need feedback on their performance. If you see them doing something well, don’t just walk by, stop and tell them what you observed and why it is important. If all they get from you is “constructive” criticism, you will lose them.
  4. Be Inspirational. Be infectiously enthusiastic about the mission and purpose of your organization. These are truly global citizens who want to do good as much as they want to do well. Find opportunities to engage them in the world and recognize that their activities outside of work are important to them. If you respect their interests, they will respect and appreciate you in return.
  5. Respect them – they are survivors. Millennials have had a pretty tough start to their professional careers. They carry crippling student loan debt, entered the workforce just after the Great Recession where jobs in their field of interest are few and far between. Lesser jobs that would pay the bills are now occupied by Baby Boomers who are failing to exit the workforce to make room for their younger counterparts. The political landscape is full of poison. Global warming is all that they know. Yet they remain optimistic, engaged and in search of solutions to all the world’s problems. Recognize the challenges that they face and consider offering them benefits that provide financial protections and savings opportunities. Study after study show that this cohort is more financially cautious than all other generations in the current workplace. Use that to your advantage to help them create financial stability and security.

Are the millennials challenging to manage? Yes, they are. But we must also remember that we, ourselves, created these young people. As parents, and as a society, we nurtured them and protected them and we told them to make their own way because no one (not even their employer) would look out for them. Yes, we created this creative, independent, confident generation. And now it’s our turn to lead them.

Claudia St. John is president of Affinity HR Group, LLC, IIABNY’s affiliated human resources partner. Affinity HR Group specializes in providing human resources assistance to associations such as IIABNY and their member companies. To learn more, visit


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