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The Care and Feeding of the (Sometimes Annoying) Millennials

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, October 7, 2009

5. Chat them up.This generation is all about social media. And social media is all about conversation. They're used to it and expect it in the workplace, Blake and Myers say. When they are part of the conversation they will be more engaged. Allow them to contribute and cultivate areas of expertise.

6. Mentor, don't manage. Just because you manage a millennial doesn't mean you have their respect, according to Blake and Myers. They respect experience, but don't want to hear "this is how I do it." Instead, you should couch your advice in terms of "this is what I've learned." The eye-rolling I get from my younger co-workers when I try to impart upon them my pearls of wisdom is ample proof that teaching millennials anything is a challenge. One way to overcome the challenge is reciprocal mentoring—they appreciate the opportunity to share their expertise.

7. Push their desks together. The current trend in education is group work—what we would have considered cheating in my day they now call cooperative learning. Fostering teamwork in the workplace and communicating team objectives in addition to individual performance expectations is an effective tactic, Blake and Myers say. Tell them how their performance effects and contributes to team success.

8. Teach them how to treat customers. Millennials are, without a doubt, a generation of consumers. And they expect to be treated like valued customers not only at the mall, but also in the workplace. Managers may have to teach them the skill of customer service—how to deliver it and who to consider a customer—from mangers to co-workers to vendors and suppliers to patients and their families. As noted previously, they don't automatically respect senior managers and won't automatically make the connection that managers are also customers who should be treated as such.

9. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. It might be time to stop being so uptight about social media at work. Millennials are using chat platforms and checking their Facebook and Twitter pages at work (whether they'll admit it or not). Blake and Myers suggest creating a social media code of participation, but you might as well take advantage of the fact that social media can be a useful tool—and that millennials can teach you how to use them to be more productive.

10. Be flexible, but don't baby them. At the top of this column, I said that millennials get outraged when we try to pigeonhole them—the whole debate about whether millenials need to be coddled is one of the most contentious. This is the one that interests me the most. Blake and Myers say to strike a balance: don't kowtow to them or change the way you run your hospital, but if you can stand to be more flexible, you may find it makes your millennials more productive.

Love to hear your thoughts—head on over to the MarketShare blog and leave a comment on Marianne's post, An Open Letter to the Millennial-Wary.


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