[Written for Replicon blog]
Time magazine labels the millennial generation the “most threatening and exciting generation,” infamous for “narcissism [and] its effect: entitlement.” In the workplace, the perception of the millennial workforce is no less polarizing, threatening, and exciting, with thousands of think-pieces and seminars dedicated to managing this younger generation of employees.
But do millennials really deserve all the hype? Andrew Anderson Devine, an HR Manager at Trunk Club who manages an overwhelmingly millennial workforce, is here to dispel the hysteria (and sometimes vitriol) surrounding millennials in the workplace
Trunk Club is a personalized clothing services company (acquired by Nordstrom) where the average age of the 1,200 employees is 27 — its rapid growth in the past few years serves as a testament to Devine’s ability to optimize the millennials he manages.
“There are so many generations in the workforce right now, and it can make working together challenging, says Devine, “but the additional effort put into managing such a diverse workforce will get results that are that much higher.” He adds, “We know the millennial workforce can be harder to manage, but we’ll be able to do better as a result.” See some of his best tips below:
1. Find the right balance between support and autonomy
Andrew Anderson Devine: This generation wants coaching. They want feedback and they want mentorship, they just don’t want it in the existing antiquated systems. In the past I’ve been in mentorship programs where, as a young employee, I was given the opportunity to sit down with senior leaders for 15 minutes once a month, and talk to them about their career trajectory. I remember going back to my desk very much excited that I could meet with someone with a leadership role, but what did I get out of these meetings that was actually tangible or actionable? Nothing, really.
Millennials want and need mentorship, but in a more practical form. They want to know the steps you took to get where you are, so they can extrapolate what relates to them and use it in their own work. At Trunk Club, we’ve employed a more casual approach so far — we pair relevant people together and facilitate an environment where they can come together outside the office for coffee or a few drinks. We frame it like this: “Whatever you want to get out of your mentor, it’s on you to figure it out and ask. This is your career, it’s on you to take it by the horns and run with it.”
2. Provide the right technologies
AAD: Millennial employees demand new technologies, so we use this to our advantage to leverage technology to work smarter, not harder. We have our own tech team of data scientists, business intelligence people, and software engineers that sets the bar quite high for how we use tech in all facets of our business — from the finance team, to our ordering system, to our relationship management system. Many of these systems are developed internally to ensure that they fit with our culture.
3. Make culture and community-building a priority
AAD: Building a community is super important — we try to build those spaces where employees can interact and enjoy each other’s company, whether it’s during or after work. For example, we have bars at all our brick and mortar locations — not only for customers, but for employees to be able to get get free drinks after work. We have a big rooftop deck at our headquarters to allow employees to go outside and socialize during the summer.
AS HR managers, we constantly hear about the incredible, innovative environments that companies like Google or Facebook cultivate for their employees, and are oftentimes too stuck in the “we’re not Google, we’re not Facebook” mentality. But we need to realize that there are key elements that those organizations have stumbled upon that can work for so many other companies. Obviously that kind of environment doesn’t come cheap, so pick and choose elements that are doable, fit into your culture, and won’t break the bank.
4. Get creative with benefits to manage retention
AAD: Millennials typically stay about two years at any given job, and that is a challenge for a lot of companies, including ours. Add that to the fact that about 50 percent of our employees are sales employees, and we’re seeing a healthy amount of turnover within sales teams.
We work hard to manage our retention rate and keep it in a healthy space, predominantly by offering creative benefits and a flexible work schedule. Many of our people come in early, some come in late, some work from home a couple days of the week — we’re fine with that. Millennials often respond well to this kind of autonomy, and the workplace is generally shifting this direction anyway.
5. Avoid entrenched roles
AAD: As a startup, we emphasize a risk-taking mentality. In the earlier days, we were never afraid to try something out, and that’s something we don’t want to lose as the company matures and grows. I think this is why we attract so many millennials — they want to be a part of building something, rather than taking on an entrenched role in a specialized field. Tangible results are important, and millennials want to see the impact their work makes.
Because of this, our managing style is very hands-off. Especially with our stylists and sales employees, we stress to them that this is your business. We will help you with leads, but it is up to you to build your own book of business. We want to dial in to that entrepreneurial, creative spirit that the younger generation can bring.