How to manage the Millennial workforce

Millennials comprise a large majority of today’s active workforce. In light of this, however, many employers find it difficult to truly understand how to engage and reap the benefits of this group. Millennials bring with them a new set of strengths than the generation before them. Changing or adapting your management style to engage with the group, need not involve a complete overhaul of previously learned practices and understanding.  Small alterations that demonstrate progression in thinking will help when managing your millennial workforce.

The Millennial workforce value businesses that are built upon a strong workplace culture. A culture which recognises the fruitful nature of co-existence. Employees’ contributions to the success of the company are considered equally alongside an employer’s dedication to supporting the learning and development of their employees. Moreover, millennials are attracted to businesses that share their successes beyond the internal parameters of the company. Their focus encompasses how they can benefit the wider community. With this in mind, hierarchal structures are something that should dissipate in favour of a more flat management structure. A flatter structure which celebrates collaboration and organisational unity.

Starting off small

Show them respect

Akin to other workers from previous generations, millennials want to be treated with fairness. Management should demonstrate gratitude, not on the basis of their position in the company, but on the individual value, they bring to the organisation. Millennials want their voices to be heard. They want management to not only hear their ideas but give them merit by implementing those ideas which make business sense.

Positive reinforcement

Millennials join the workforce eager to make a difference and place their mark on the world of business. They prefer not to see limitations as something that holds them back.  They see it as an opportunity to work hard to overcome obstacles.  In light of this, managers should not fixate on the negative aspects of things that go wrong. They must encourage employees to learn from their mistakes, giving them the confidence to manage their own successes and failures.

Face to face communication

Believe it or not, although we may see the millennial generation as tech-savvy communicators, the good old fashioned art of physical communication is valued.  This is particularly true when it comes to discussing important work-related issues. This can include discussing career progression and problems they are experiencing both in and outside of the workplace.


Another misconception held about millennials is that they detest structure and organisation. There is a myth they relish a chaotic environment whereby they are free to do what they want when they want. But in this respect,  millennials are no different from any other generation. They understand the importance of setting expectations and meeting deadlines, but they enjoy creating their own process. They definitely do not want or need constant micromanagement.

An approach to feedback

How, why and when are the words that millennials use most often in the workplace. It is no longer enough for employers to simply assign their employees tasks to complete with very little Intel as to what it means in the grand scheme of things. Millennials are not content with having work to fill their day. They like to know why they are being given a task and how it will contribute to the overall aims of the business.

Millennials want to engage in meaningful work that not only supports the organisation itself, but also their own learning and development. In short, they want to make a difference. In this context, millennials require more frequent feedback. Not just at the end of a process, but throughout the key phases of a project. As digital natives, feedback for most millennials occurs in real-time. This includes asking questions or receiving advice via phone, messaging systems or social media platforms.

Millennials like to take charge of projects by putting their own mark on them. Feedback is pivotal in helping them determine when they are doing a good job and when improvements need to be made. From praise to constructive pointers, feedback should focus on inspiring and motivating millennials. The role you should adopt is as a mentor and not a conductor.


For millennials, life and work should not follow cyclic and mundane patterns similar to that groundhogs day. But rather it should present challenges and keep them on their toes. A standard 9-5 might seem appealing to most, but millennials crave something with more flexibility.

Flexibility can mean a number of things to millennials:

Location and hours

Millennials enjoy the opportunity of working outside of the same office environment. This may include working from home, the ability to rotate and set their own hours, or the opportunity to work in different company offices.

Tasks and Projects

Whilst employees are assigned a role upon employment, this role shouldn’t remain stagnant. Millennials harbour a wide set of skills. However, not all of them feel as if these skills are used to their full potential. Employers should challenge all employees including millennial workers by exercising their skills in tasks that require various qualities including leadership, communication and strategy.

Workplace culture

Now more than ever, workplace culture plays a huge role in recruiting and retaining employees, particularly millennials. With digital technology opening the doors to how organisations are run, who they are and what they stand for, job-seekers are becoming more selective in choosing companies who align with their own values and beliefs. For this reason, building and maintaining transparency, celebrating diversity and promoting ethical awareness are criteria that often drive millennial satisfaction in the workplace.

Making the most of the millennial workforce will be essential to building a successful business over the years to come. Understanding how best to utilise the skills and knowledge of millennials may seem like an arduous process, but, believe me, taking the time to tap into this talented generation will pay dividends for any business moving forward.

Liverpool born Alan Price FCIPD, CMgr, FCMI is a successful entrepreneur and senior business figure. Alan is Employment Law and HR Director of Peninsula.

He is also managing director of Peninsula Ireland and Elected Director & Trustee for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development – CIPD.

Peninsula Business Services is the UK’s leading employment law, HR and Health & Safety service provider, with its headquarters based in Manchester.

Alan Price also sat for four years as a board director at The Chambers of Commerce Ireland and on their audit committee. Alan is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD with over 15 years’ experience in employee relations. He is also a non-Legal Lay Member of Employment Tribunals for the UK Ministry of Justice as well as a Chartered Manager and Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute and Fellow of the Australian Human Resources Institute.