Getting the best out of millennials in the workplace

Friday February 1 2019

Millennials love to be listened to and they n

Millennials love to be listened to and they need feedback on their performnace. Photo by David Stanley Mukooza 

By BRENDA KENYONYOOZI

When Diana resigned and left her job with a reputable audit firm in town, her family and friends were shocked. For someone who got employed straight out of university, her parents thought she was taking her luck for granted.

“My parents were so bitter and called me unserious!” says the 26-year-old. Although everyone was taken aback, Diana felt she had made the right decision.

For most people, money is the biggest motivation to work, Diana says hers is a different perception. “I was earning well, even better than my peers.

However, I wasn’t seeing how my work was impacting anyone’s life save for swelling the pockets of the capitalists I was working for,” she says. True to this, Diana later took up a role volunteering with an NGO in Iganga training out of school youth in entrepreneurship.

Working conditions
Diana’s is not an isolated case. Brian Taremwa, left his job as a banker. Like Diana, Taremwa’s family was displeased with the move and even pleaded with him to reconsider.

However, for the 27-year-old, this was unfathomable. “My decision to leave that job was informed by the unfair working conditions, which were in violation of any worker’s rights,” he explains.

Even after writing to the HR manager on several occasions, Taremwa says his work hours were long, something he says was causing him depression and putting his life at risk. “My life was defined by this job, entering the office early and only leaving past 10pm. At that time, iron bar hitmen were rampant and I narrowly survived one day,” he shares.

That, he says, was the last nail on the coffin as far as his career as a banker is concerned. Now, although without formal employment, Taremwa says he has more peace running his small mobile money shop, which he intends to steadily grow. “Now I go home at 5pm and even get time to jog and exercise, I am way happier,” he shares.

Apart from both walking away from careers others may find lucrative, Taremwa and Diana have something else in common, they are millennials - people born between 1981 and 1996. They are a generation that many old managers find hard to understand.

A ‘different’ lot
For the longest time now, baby boomers, those born in the 1960s, have made up the biggest number of people in active employment.

These, research has shown, identify optimism and willingness to work long hours as some of their strengths. Millennials on the other hand, are a different lot, with an altogether different outlook on what they expect from their employment experience.

“Millennials are well educated, tech-savy, creative and full energy people in general,” explains Joan Mpande, the human resource manager at GEMS Cambridge international school. Mpande further explains, that millennials have a lot of time as most are yet to start families, and are hungry for growth.

Teamwork
For the most part, these prefer working in teams rather than as individuals, and are very ambitious. They seek challenges and find repetitive tasks boring, yet at the same time desire a good work-life balance.

Growth plan
“My experience with millennials is that they are hungry for growth and will grow bored if kept in roles for long without a plan on how and when they will advance from there,” Mpande reveals.

She says managers who are very rigid will get a hard time getting the best out of this otherwise resourceful generation of young people. You might have already ran into articles or seen videos on the internet that insinuate that millennials are a lazy and entitled lot, something Mpande disputes.
“Granted, there are lazy and entitled millennials, just as there are lazy and entitled people in the older generations. I wouldn’t therefore make a sweeping generalisation that millenials are lazy and entitled.” she offers.

According to Mpande, Human resource (HR) practitioners are going to have to re-evaluate their management styles if they are to get the best out of their millennial employees.

Drop one-size-fits all approach
“First of all, as an HR manager, you will have to discard your one-size- fits all approach to human resource management and embrace a more personalised approach. Get to know your team members individually, their strong and weak points, as well as work style,” she advises.

Feedback and rewards
Mpande has also says millennials desire feedback and need their work to be recognised more often. Unlike their older counterparts who were okay having their work recognised and rewarded in terms of bonuses at the end of the year or after a quarter, millennials would love feedback given more often.

In an effort to cater to this need, Mpande shares how she has come up with an arrangement called “happy hour.” “For example, when the finance department meets their target, the HR department can give them a treat in celebration of the good work done. This way, they feel valued and appreciated,” she explains.

Daring and pay attention to trends
While Mpande has studied and devised ways to bring out the best in her millennial team members, Paul Okello, another HR practitioner, has his own bag of tricks.

The 31-year-old head of human resources at BIDCO Uganda Limited says, what he finds unique about millennials in the work place is that they easily sway from tradition, are daring and pay close attention to global issues.

“Global issues make so much sense to them compared to their older counterparts.” he says, reccomending a participatory and more inclusive approach to decision making.

Love to be listened to
“Millennials have grown at a time when their opinions as children mattered, when consensus is emphasised. Even in the work place, managers need to sit with their teams and listen to their ideas.” he emphasises.

That way, they will be eager to contribute to the achievement of the set goals for they feel ownership, as opposed to ideas that are just superimposed on them. Like Mpande, Okello says, it is important to understand the needs of your youthful team members.

No micromanagement
“I have learnt, for example, that they are passionate about keeping healthy and are keen to merge health practices with their work schedules. It is why at BIDCO, we have put a fitness club facility for our staff to utilise.” he quips.

Also, like Okello further notes, it is important to eliminate micromanagement if you are to create an environment where millennial thrive. This is because they have grown up in the information age and set high expectations for themselves.

“Millennials are an ambitious generation. As long as there are well defined tasks, the manager should get out of their way. Let them work, and come in for periodic meetings to check on progress and offer guidance where necessary. Hovering over them is counterproductive.” says Okello.

Empathy
He advises employers to go beyond work. Millennials are a very socially conscious lot. They desire organisations that genuinely care about the plight of the people who work for them. This means that as a manager, you may have to call when one is sick, visit and be there when they are bereaved, and care for their career growth through mentorship programmes and trainings.

“Global issues make so much sense to them compared to their older counterparts.” he says, reccomending a participatory and more inclusive approach to decision making.

Love to be listened to
“Millennials have grown at a time when their opinions as children mattered, when consensus is emphasised. Even in the work place, managers need to sit with their teams and listen to their ideas.” he emphasises.

That way, they will be eager to contribute to the achievement of the set goals for they feel ownership, as opposed to ideas that are just superimposed on them. Like Mpande, Okello says, it is important to understand the needs of your youthful team members.

No micromanagement
“I have learnt, for example, that they are passionate about keeping healthy and are keen to merge health practices with their work schedules. It is why at BIDCO, we have put a fitness club facility for our staff to utilise.” he quips.

Also, like Okello further notes, it is important to eliminate micromanagement if you are to create an environment where millennial thrive. This is because they have grown up in the information age and set high expectations for themselves.

“Millennials are an ambitious generation. As long as there are well defined tasks, the manager should get out of their way. Let them work, and come in for periodic meetings to check on progress and offer guidance where necessary. Hovering over them is counterproductive.” says Okello.

Empathy
He advises employers to go beyond work. Millennials are a very socially conscious lot. They desire organisations that genuinely care about the plight of the people who work for them. This means that as a manager, you may have to call when one is sick, visit and be there when they are bereaved, and care for their career growth through mentorship programmes and trainings.

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