Managing Millennials: How to Become the Millennial Whisperer, Pt. 1

Ericka Gordonsqby Ericka Gordon

A manager’s job is to train the next generation. They want us to know how to sit, shake, stand and even roll over. As young millennials we’re sort of like puppies. We’re still trying to figure out how to adult and unfortunately we put up a lot of resistance along the way. I asked a handful of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers how they manage to keep their millennial employees motivated throughout this training process and got some valuable feedback. I’ll start things off with this great quote from a woman I spoke with.

“Motivating millennials is an interesting task. In my experience they tend to want it all … work-life balance, great pay, flexibility, the ability to advance quickly, and extensive communication to have their feelings and concerns heard and acknowledged. There’s a lot more hand holding, explaining, listening to feelings, being empathetic, etc. that goes into managing millennials that wasn’t required at the level it is now. I use a combination of tools to motivate the millennials I work with. It varies based on the persons background, family situation, etc.”

Keep us entertained.

Puppies require a lot of attention. Without it they get bored and end up messing with things you’d probably prefer them not to. I’m embarrassed to say millennials are no different. We get bored of the same old routine day in and day out. Provide us with different challenges. Change it up and even get creative with your delivery or how you present the challenge. We all have to work and that sucks, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to make it a little more fun.

Give us treats.

Who doesn’t love being rewarded for good behavior? Offer your employees opportunities to maximize their compensation. After goals are met or assignments are finished there’s a lot of different methods managers use to reward their employees. Rewards range from a simple “thank you” to comp time off, all the way to bonuses. Some managers make it a standard that you’re free to come and go as you please, as long as your work is getting done.

“Provide bonuses or a ‘thank you’ of some kind when someone goes above and beyond or works extra hard. This is key because in my experience millennials value their time more than their career and when the job is taking away from that, they want to be compensated in some form or fashion.”

Remember, dogs are man’s best friend.

Treat your young employees more like partners than a supervisor/employee relationship. That sign of mutual respect would go a long way with anybody, not just millennials.

“Conduct regular calls to touch base and understand what’s going on in their lives, what’s important to them and how they would like their job to aid in helping them have a better life if possible. This also helps them feel in touch with management, which is key for advancement. Please note, this doesn’t mean it will happen, it just helps me understand what I can do to motivate them (e.g., a day off to go hang out with friends or a bonus before a big ski trip).”

Walk with us.

Be with your employees every step of the way. Take note of their development plan and assist them in attaining their goals. Millennials like to have a tangible record of their progress.

“Provide instructions for tasks and then have regular checkpoints to ensure they understand the task, why they are doing it, and whether or not the path they are on for execution is the proper path.”

Some of these things may sound like a lot of extra work, but as a manager it’s sort of what you signed up for. Turns out they meant the term “manager” quite literally. Hold on to the fact that eventually all dogs grow out of their puppy stage, so have no doubt that your millennial employees will too … eventually. Be on the lookout for Part 2: How to Become the Millennial Whisperer next month.

is a young professional working in the advertising industry as a copywriter intern. Outside of her internship she takes on writing opportunities that vary from blog writing to writing for social media. She dabbles in both B2B and B2C areas like software development, filtration technology, apparel, non-profit organizations and more. Contact her at