GENERATIONS IN THE WORKPLACE: Managing the Millennial Employee Continuum

As originally posted on NDInsights in June 2012

This is part of our “Designed To Win” series on the millennial workforce. Full disclosure: I am a millennial. 

A couple weeks ago we wrote about two types of millennial workers: the ones that fit “every negative stereotype” and the “connector” millennial, ready to progress in the work world.  Well, some called foul at the ease at which we sliced the millennial dilemma into a dichotomy of bad millennial, good millennial.

Two insights came from this:
1) As we try to dissect, discuss and develop our sociological interpretation around these new workers entering the business world, we have to use some classification systems that help us sort and organize our beliefs.  We must be ever careful not to build stereotypes about any group, but generalizations help us find discrepancies and characteristics among a large population and break those down so that we can find root causes and factors that help explain why we are where we are.

2) The millennial’s characteristics, attitudes and beliefs work on acontinuum.  The stereotypical, troublesome “disconnector” millennial is at one end and at the other end are our “connector” millennial. However, there is a mass of undecided, unrefined, uncoached millennials in the middle of the continuum.  In fact, I see two graphs of millennials playing out as we explain the generalization of differing millennial workers.   In fact, I see two graphs of millennials playing out as we explain the generalization of differing millennial workers.

Millennial Workers: Disconnector vs. Connector

The first graph is the commonly seen bell curve. At one end are the disconnector millennials and at the other end the connector millennials.  The concern for many managers is that the majority of millennial workers are part of the “in-between.”  The disconnector millennial can be seen as not adding much value to your organization; they lack the vision, values and fortitude for your organization.  The connector millennial should stand out as a star pupil – with some coaching and tweaking- who would make a great employee.  The “in-between,” portion is the “groan zone” for many organizations and managers as they are unsure if these millennial workers will become a productive part of our their organization or will they be the demise of it.

Millennial Workers: Job Skill & Soft Skill

The second graph plots the impact of millennial IQ and EQ on the y and x axis with the y being IQ/Skill (tactile characteristics) and on the x axis, EQ skills (social/soft skill characteristics).  The desire on this graph is to get a very smart and very emotionally intelligent millennial.  Again, this graph demonstrates that we either have very skilled, yet hard-to-deal with millennials, the stereotypical millennial narcissism or we have highly skilled, easier to deal with millennials.  The rub is that we have a majority of millennials that lack great skill and/or great interpersonal awareness.  Or, we have millennial workers that are smart and skilled, yet don’t see the value in their older counterparts or organization and have no problem showing their disdain for this older group as one reader pointed out in our last post (and I agree!).  How can we, as managers and organizations, take this generational group (of which will be 50% of our workforce in 10 years), and help design their path to becoming an exceptional employee that we actually want to help and grow?

Whether we’re talking “connector” millennials or the “in between” group, what do you think are some good ways to engage, empower and retain this important segment of our workforce?  What has worked for you as a manager or supervisor in the past?