Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) are perhaps the most social–and yet the most surprisingly isolated–employees in history… And they’re taking over the workforce.

Raised in a very different world than prior generations, millennials grew up surrounded by computers and cell phones. Eighty percent have sent a text message in the last 24 hours, compared to 63% of Generation X-ers and only 35% of Baby Boomers. It’s no wonder they have less experience with face-to-face connection, and this makes leading them a challenge.

While these employees may seem like an enigma, it’s essential to crack their behavioral code. Why? Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce in the next ten years. Here are a few strategies for understanding their work style and effectively leading millennials to success.

1. Use their strong technological skills to your benefit.

Do you ever struggle with leveraging technology to further your company? Millennials are wizards when it comes to communicating via computer, phone, and any form of electronic device. Studies show most millennials form emotional attachments to their smartphones, and 30% said they couldn’t go more than a few hours without their phones.

Don’t deprive millennials access to these forms of communication. In fact, 53% of millennials said they would turn down a job that denied them access to social media.

However, their love for online communication doesn’t mean they don’t also love working face-to-face. Actually, 60% of millennials would prefer to have some form of in-person teamwork.

Creating a balance between allowing them access to technology while also understanding their desire for in-person contact is key. Outdated technology decreases productivity. Let your millennial employees teach you a thing or two about technology, so your company can be more efficient. This will foster that one-on-one contact that they crave while also improving your technological proficiency.

2. Ensure they work in groups.

An IBM study revealed that more than half of millennial workers claimed to work better in groups than alone, so keep that in mind when leading millennials in your organization. They also believe that they made better business decisions when there were various sources of input. On this front, the younger and older generations are in sync… IBM found no significant generational variation when it came to preference toward working in teams.

So what does this mean for you? Here’s what you can do to make your millennials — and other generations — work well as a team.

  • Emphasize common ground: There will always be differences when it comes to the generations. The overall desire to work on a team and improve the organization will help all your employees feel connected to a common goal. Make sure to clearly communicate your organization’s vision to deepen generational bonds among employees.
  • Embrace the diversity: Recognize and welcome the diversity within the team. According to Harvard Business Review, diverse teams are smarter and more innovative.

3. Give frequent feedback.

The cliché about younger generations growing up with an excessive amount of praise isn’t entirely off-mark. Millennials were a generation raised by parents who asked for their opinions, answered all of their questions, and praised them when they did a good job. They are used to receiving feedback and instant gratification.

…In fact, they expect it.

This means that they are less likely to complete a project without asking for some response along the way. Studies show informational feedback enhances learning capabilities and improved performance. Informative feedback generates activity in the prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain responsible for decision-making and cognitive behavior. Even negative feedback can be helpful — to a point.

So how can you implement feedback in a way that will help strengthen your company? A curated report prepared by the Center For Women and Business at Bentley University researched the impact of multi-generations on the workplace. This report helped us learn what each of these groups wants and need to perform at optimal levels. They found that leading millennials requires coaches, not bosses.

Build extra sessions to brainstorm and give/receive feedback, rather than expect them to just come back later with a completed project. Providing your employees with this extra step in the process, and the space to ask their questions, will make them feel more confident in their projects. Making employees feel heard will improve their mental and physical health, and they will inevitably end up doing a better job.


Use this stuff: Taking the time to incorporate their technological literacies, create strong teams, and give feedback will ensure a better future for all involved.

Millennials are an invaluable asset to your company. Be patient with them, listen to them, and remember that they are the future of your company. How are you leading millennials in your organization?