What I’ve Learned in the Last Two Years About Managing Millennials

Debbie Wooldridge
Posted: October 11, 2017

A little over two years ago, I had an eye-opening discussion with a prospective client. We were talking about how the same training programs that had once been so successful for her organization just didn’t seem to be hitting the mark any longer. She wanted to know what they were missing, so I asked some general questions about the company. They appeared to be stable and had been in business for over 85 years with steady growth up until the last few years. Their products, processes, and policies had all gone through a few minor tweaks over time, but no major changes recently. Yet, for some reason, the past several new-hire classes were struggling to acclimate and achieve proficiency. Turnover was at an all-time high. Something was clearly off, but what had changed?

As it turned out, a whole new generation was joining their workforce, and what worked in the past wasn’t working any longer for this company. Sound familiar? Keep reading…

While we didn’t sign this prospective as a client (sadly, they closed their doors last year), it did get me to start questioning — was this company’s experience an isolated incident? Was it just a fluke, or was this the beginning of a real and profound change that all companies would soon be facing?

This one conversation sparked a journey to explore the effects Millennials have on companies. And where better to start this journey than to speak with companies that have succeeded in bringing on and retaining Millennials?

The Podcast

In 2015, I partnered with journalist Hy Bender to interview companies that were consistently ranked as the best places to work by Millennials. We ended up talking to over 30 successful organizations, and the information was so profoundly beneficial that we turned it into a podcast called The Millennial Career Playbook.

 Take a look back at what our CEO, Debbie Wooldridge has learned in the last two years of studying Millennials in the workplace and glean through her tips for managing Millennials.

Each of the companies interviewed taught me so much about managing Millennials. These were some of their key findings…

Millennials Crave Mentorship

“Mentorship is one of the linchpins of our culture. [It] can occur formally or informally. We have formal mentor programs for new folks. […] We have informal mentoring because of the way our culture is; if I go ask somebody for help that I respect, I want to emulate them. I know that they’re going to help me. So, formal and informal mentoring is just part of the air that we breathe.” — Penny Pennington, Edward Jones

Collaboration Leads to Success

“…being a team player, really thinking about the success of the team as opposed to yourself. There is this interesting dynamic, which is the more that a person focuses on the success of their team and the success of the firm rather than their own success, the more they themselves will be successful; and the person who focuses exclusively or predominantly on themselves — that person tends to be less successful in our organization.” — Barry Barber, Kimley-Horn

Millennials Seek Work/Life Balance

We refer to it as work-life harmony. We treat people like grown-ups who know what’s expected of them. Our people work hard and they’re very engaged. Everyone loves the company and wants it to be successful, so everyone does what it takes. We know people can’t sustainably deliver if they aren’t well rested and healthy at home.” — Laura Lee Gentry, Ultimate Software

The Project

This podcast inspired me to work with my own team to create a unique training program that would help other companies implement changes into their cultures and replicate this success. This turned into The Millennial Project, a truly innovative program that brings all team members of a company together to spend time focusing on their current culture and identifying the changes that need to be made to attract, engage, and retain the new generation of employees.

In 2016, we conducted several surveys and a panel interview as a part of the development of this program. Here’s what we uncovered about Millennial wants and needs in the workplace:

  1. Managers should be easy to talk to, friendly, and willing to cultivate personal relationships.
  2. Companies need to offer forums to enable Millennials to voice concerns, as well as sponsor informal sessions with the leadership to keep channels of communication wide open.
  3. Organizations should offer meaningful work opportunities, encouraging employees to get involved and to give back.

The Books

Unleashing the Intrapreneur

The podcast interviews and the development of The Millennial Project gave me so many opportunities to conduct extensive research on the impact of Millennials in the workplace. This research culminated into two books. The first, Unleashing the Intrapreneur: Changing the Face of Corporate America One Millennial at a Time, launched in May 2017. It’s designed to help Millennials find their voice, passion, and vision, and how to align these to find career fulfillment and allow their intrapreneurial spirit to soar.

Take a look back at what our CEO, Debbie Wooldridge has learned in the last two years of studying Millennials in the workplace and glean through her tips for managing Millennials.

A Manager’s Guide to Unleashing the Intrapreneur

The second book, launching October 26, 2017, is the companion guide for managers and companies. A Manager’s Guide to Unleashing the Intrapreneur is about helping managers establish and promote intrapreneurship in their organization. This can help them generate new business growth, support innovation, and accelerate and manage change as the workplace adapts to fit the needs and desires of Millennial employees. This book is filled with helpful tips and strategies, as well as real-life success stories from the companies I interviewed.

The Bottom Line

Within 10 years, Millennials are expected to comprise a whopping 75% of the workforce. Millennials are taking over. My research has demonstrated that the survival of a company will depend on their ability to attract and retain top Millennial talent. Companies that don’t embrace this generation will likely find themselves in the same place as that perspective client I met with two years ago!

Want to learn more about how you can begin to replicate a successful environment that engages Millennials, as well as the other generations in your company? Join me in our upcoming ttcInnovations webinar: How to Coach Highly Successful Teams for Any Generation!

Join CEO of ttcInnovations and Millennial advocate, Debbie Wooldridge as she shares her expert advice and coaching techniques for customizing your coaching approach to any generation.

About the Author

Debbie is president and CEO of ttcInnovations; a consulting firm specializing in helping learning organizations achieve their companies business goals through effective and engaging learning solutions. Debbie has worked extensively with the financial industry for the past 13 years. Her company has grown from a team of five creative members to over 85 consultants working regularly on more than 200 projects a year for her clients.