Managing and Motivating Millennials

By Ken Jacobs

I’m getting a little tired hearing some Baby Boomer and Gen X leaders complain about Millennials, AKA Gen Y. My view, shared by many others, is that they are a supremely talented generation. So as an agency owner or leader, its well worth your while to learn how to harness that talent.

In fact, you simply can’t afford not to figure out how to best lead and inspire this critical group of the labor pool. That’s because Millennials, born between 1978 and 2000, are the largest and fastest-growing group of workers in the U.S.
Early Boomers, who are now as old as 67, are likely considering retirement, if they haven’t retired already. Gen Xers, between the ages of 34 and 47, are in their professional prime. But because they were born between the Baby Boom and the Baby Boomlet, there simply aren’t that many of them.

So you’ve got three choices: 1) Search for the proverbial 55-year-old account executive; 2) Keep bitching about Millennials, which will only add to your stress level, as they walk out your door; or 3) Educate yourself and your senior management team about this group and use this knowledge to better manage, lead and inspire them.
I recommend you choose #3!  Where to begin?

Commit to Understanding Them: As communications practitioners you wouldn’t attempt a campaign to change the attitude or behavior of a demographic group without first thoroughly understanding their values. So how can you expect to possibly lead, manage and motivate this group, which can be so essential to the success of your agency or corporate communications team, without first understanding theirs.    

Search For Knowledge: There’s our old friend Google. Even a cursory search will reveal a number of great blog posts on the subject. You may not agree with the claims or recommendations in all of them, but after clicking on even a handful of links, you’ll start to better understand that they really don’t feel “entitled.” They merely have a different set of values than Boomers and particularly GenXers. (Please re-read the point above!)

Spend More Time Observing: As Millennials may soon make up the largest group in your staff, they’re worth your time and brain power. After getting a little wiser about this group—particularly their values and what works, and doesn’t work, in motivating them—spend more time observing your interactions with them, as well as their interactions with your other senior leaders. What works? Do more of it. Be particularly attuned to which techniques don’t work. If you’re like many Boomer and GenX leader-managers, chances are there are a number of these, and you should stop doing. Now!

Bring in The Experts: PRSA and other groups from time to time offer free webinars on how to better manage Millennials and PRSA Counselors Academy has offered learning roundtables on this subject at its Spring Conference. You can also bring in a professional development expert to lead a workshop with your senior team on how to be a better manager and motivator of this essential part of your team. (Disclosure: I offer training in this regard.)

Expect Some Bumps In The Road: If you need to change how you lead and motivate this group, don’t expect it to be easy. Changing anything, but particularly our management styles, can be difficult. But if you expect set-backs, you’ll be better able to handle them.

Don’t Try Harder. Try Something New:  It was Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome. So stop doing the same thing over and over, which will only frustrate both you and your Millennials. Try something new. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Ken Jacobs is the principal of Jacobs Communications Consulting, which helps PR and communications firms grow business, and enhance staff performance, communications and leadership skills. He blogs at He’s an active member of the New Jersey and New York chapters of PRSA and its Counselors Academy.

Parts of this blog first appeared in  on September 20, 2011.

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