Millennials: How We Can Whip Them Into Shape

  • Millennial (noun) – a person reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century; the demographic cohort following Generation X. 

    Millennials were born into a world of social and pop culture renaissance and technology, where anyone could be anything and everything, and there was never anyone there to provide a humble piece of reality. There are numerous negative connotations associated with this age group, we are lazy, stupid, self-absorbed, etc and I fully agree with these sentiments; for most of my kin anyway. But while we can focus on these negative sentiments, Millennials are here to stay and they are either in, or entering, our workforce at a rapid rate. So, what do we do with them and how do we whip them into shape? Well a big slap of reality is always a good start, but probably not the best way to start. So let’s discuss the things that Millennials are good at: the things we can pat ourselves on the back for and what our employers can take advantage of, and the things that Millennials are not good at; those things that can be developed and honed with the help of our peers and managers.

    ** As a side note – obviously this does not apply to your cousin’s sister’s best friend who has 54 investment properties, is married, and has three children at the age of 24. These thoughts are from general observation of the average Millennial from interaction of my peers, of which I am one.


    Tech Savy

    Like Millennials, technology – and its rapidly changing nature – is here to stay. Millennials are already embracing new software and technologies; even though it may only be to feed their social media fan clubs with filtered images of increasingly obscure avocado, egg and toast combinations. They take up and embrace new operating systems and mechanism very easily. This knowhow will be quintessential with the exponential development of technology over the coming decades. Employers would be daft not to harness this mastering of programming for the benefit of their businesses.

    Sociable / Networking

    Millennials are definitely social butterflies. But while Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media are all excellent ways to keep in contact with old flames and the like from high school, the uptake and embrace of professional networking sites like LinkedIn is particularly welcomed and useful. A Millennial’s knack for socialising is easily transferred to use in the workforce in the form of professional networking. I know I enjoy going to networking events and handing out business cards – it’s a real dopamine hit! So next time business drinks or a networking event come up, take a junior member of staff along with you – they might surprise you!

    Time Management

    Millennials have busy schedules. It is not hard to find a Millennial that is currently juggling fulltime university study, part time work, a fulltime social life and a part time fitness regime. And although they may complain constantly about how busy they are, they manage to fit all of these commitments into their schedule. As we know, time management is vital to business and particularly achievement and success therein. Supervisors and managers of new arrivals to the workforce must reinforce this notion with business; demonstrating that a healthy work-life balance is achievable, and necessary.


    Feedback / Discipline

    Sandwich Feedback TechniqueAfter growing up in a period of continued economic and social growth, children of the 2000s were never denied anything by their parents for fears of retribution. As such, Millennials do not generally take too kind to feedback – or discipline. Sometimes it is a good idea to ‘soften the blow’ when providing feedback or advice. The ‘Sandwich feedback method’ is a good technique. Here, a constructive piece of feedback is sandwiched between two compliments. Each of these elements needs to be specific. Humans thrive off praise, and employees are always keen to hear that their work effort is being noticed. At the same time, it is always important to provide constructive feedback when necessary. After all, feedback is what makes an individual progress and develop within the workforce.


    There is no doubt that attention spans have decreased throughout society from last century to the present. In fact, a recent Canadian study has found the average attention span to be just eight seconds; down from twelve at the start of the 2000s. This study concluded that this is due to a number of factors, but primarily the inversely proportionate increase in use of technology. It can be said that a Millennial’s aptitude and persistence to their workload is a simple reflection of this. For an entire generation where instant gratification, and instant reward is the norm, the non-lightning pace speed of the office environment is a definite put-off. The connection needs to be made between patience, not giving up and hard work; and the rewards of such. Promotions do not come instantaneous. They take many months or years of hard and accurate work. Supervisors need to remind juniors about this fact through their own stories of development and success; provision of feedback and acknowledgement of success; and development of goals. A particular favourite learning tool/framework of mine is SMART goalsetting.


    This one is a no-brainer, but follows closely on from the topic above – patience. It does not take a thermonuclear engineer to figure out that the more one spends of partying, socialising over brunch, and our tech addictions, the less you will have to spend on housing, investment, and savings. Apparently the majority of Millennials are unable to make this connection. In 2015, then Treasurer of Australia Joe Hockey, was chastised for suggesting that young Australians go out and get a good job that pays well. He was absolutely right. You cannot expect to be commanding top salary or a myriad of job opportunities if you completed an Arts Degree majoring in Feminist Dance Therapy. There is an old saying, “find what you like and do it”, but in addition to that there is another saying, “find what you like, how you can get paid for it, and do it.” At the end of the day, we all know the old saying “money can’t buy you happiness”; but I’d like to add that money buys everything that will make you happy, and provides security. Employers, so too parents, need to remind Millennials that it is through frugal fiscal prudence and patience, that saving goals are attained and exceeded. This prospect is something to look forward to and can be used as an incentive to promote hard and focused work.

    Ultimately, it can be said that there has, and always will be, a void between one generation and the next. The current tussle between Baby Boomers and Millennials is no different. It will be the organisations and communities that overcome their grievances and differences which will prosper and create a continued legacy into the future. I highly recommend you watch this video for further insight into Millennials and their relationship with the workforce; it is well worth the 20 minute viewing time.