I recently had occasion to view a presentation by Brad Karsh of JB Training Solutions on “Managing Millennials In Today’s Workforce.”  I must say, it had a significant impact on the way that I, who have now become one of “those old guys,” understand the newer folks that have come into our agency world.  These folks were born between 1981 and 2000, about the time that I was getting out of college.  I used to think that they were just a bit lazy and “thick headed,” but now I see them totally differently.

We grew up just a bit differently.  When I was a young lad and given a task to accomplish by one my parents, I might occasionally ask why, to which I was given the predictable response, “because I said so.”  I then delightfully proceeded to take on that chore (ok, so that might be just a bit of revisionist history).  In contrast to this, when a Millennial’s schoolteacher or coach assigned a similarly menial task, it was generally accompanied by a thorough explanation of how, when and why the task was assigned so as to be a “learning experience.”  Actually, quite a good idea, but then I would think that, having been one of those Millennial “mentors.”  You see, we grew up in a very different learning environment.

Fast forward to the working world.  I’d like to simply assign a task and see it carried out on time and with no questions asked, “because I said so.”  But actually, it is I that am actually the lazy one, taking time off from the mentoring habit that I thought so important when they were my kids.  We taught them to ask questions, gain understanding, be freely creative, explore and learn why for a reason, to make them smarter and better than us Boomers.

We actually accomplished our task.  Millennials want to work smarter and faster.  Like us, they want fair and direct managers, highly engaged in their professional development.  They seek out creative challenges and have little fear of failure (getting a ribbon for coming in 13th place actually did give them great confidence).  They have a great desire to have an impact on the organization from day one and love to take ownership of tasks.

Unfortunately, there aren’t very many ribbons handed out for 13th place in the agency world, so we as managers must channel all of that great energy with continuous guidance, structure and feedback to ensure that these great talents are properly focused and well directed so as to ensure consistent 1st place ribbons.

If we do our part and continue to be the mentors that they grew up with, we will be rewarded for all those soccer practices and dance recitals.  Our organizations will not only be focused and determined as was our generation, but highly creative, thinking outside the box and pushing the envelope of what we can do, a great combination.