JUGGLING THE ROLES of supervisor and social ringleader amongst his 15-member staff, Stephen Channon, of ad-sales firm Mongoose Atlantic in New York, is not your traditional “stuffed shirt” vice president. But, as the 37-year-old executive sees it, what better way to manage a group comprised entirely of twenty-somethings? For them, casual is key.
Reminiscent of day camp, Channon’s young employees organize into small teams called “pods,” each with a line manager, and battle against each other in monthly “pod wars.” “Whichever pod has the most points for sales gets to leave early on a Friday,” he says. And Channon’s open to more: For example, when someone suggested listening to iPods at work, he agreed under the condition that sales remain strong. Whatever results in more efficiency, goes.
As illustrated by Mongoose Atlantic, businesses with minimal tradition often see maximum productivity from millennials, the generation born between 1980 and 1995. That doesn’t mean older bosses are necessarily quick to accommodate a group of youngsters pegged as the most self-entitled, irresponsible and immature workers to date.
But with close to 80 million millennials eventually hitting the job market and just as many baby boomers soon leaving, businesses are finding it necessary to embrace the shift. Even managers who are Generation X’ers, born between 1965 and 1977, find the younger set to “be a little high maintenance,” says Channon. Trying out unconventional work practices, however, hasn’t meant compromising the bottom line. “We hit target every year,” he says, “and [employee] retention has improved.”
While challenging, it doesn’t take a horse whisperer to train this new breed of workers. Here are some tips on developing healthy multigenerational work relationships:
Fully Engage Young Workers
“What all businesses, big or small, should know about this generation is that they would like to do everything if they can,” says Chris Resto, co-author of “Recruit or Die: How Any Business Can Beat the Big Guys in the War for Young Talent.” Having multitasked since birth, millennials continually thirst for learning and growth in the workplace. That makes make them particularly strong assets for smaller organizations who “are likelier to afford them extra responsibilities because there’s much less hierarchy,” he says.
Just be careful of presenting one-sided opportunities, says Robin Throckmorton, co-author of “Bridging the Generation Gap,” and president of human-resources consulting firm Strategic Human Resources in Cincinnati. Millennials not only want to learn, they want to teach, so “mentor them on the practices and strategies of your business, and, in turn, have them mentor older employees on how to better incorporate technology,” she suggests.
Improve Retention Through Incentives
It’s too early for long-term statistics, but current trends indicate that the majority of twenty-somethings job-hop every 18 months — a phenomenon often blamed on restlessness. While some young employees might leave a job because they’re bored, the likelier cause for the move is financial, workplace experts say. With the average college senior graduating with more than $20,000 in debt, younger employees might switch jobs “because there’s this carrot of another $500 or $200 a month, and they think, ‘man, I’ve got these loans to pay off,'” says Carolyn Ockels, partner at Emergent Research, a Lafayette, Calif., firm that studies small businesses and the millennial generation.