Guest Column | March 25, 2019

How To Manage Millennials In The IT Workforce

By Eric Kiehn, C&W Technologies & member of The ASCII Group since 2000

I often hear complaints about Millennials in the workforce. Much of what is said is negative in character and sometimes outright derogatory. Have you heard any of these? Millennials don’t have a work ethic. Millennials care only about themselves. Maybe you’re lucky if they show up for work.

As a tail end baby boomer, I subscribed to some of this thinking as well. They didn’t fit my mold or expectations so obviously they are tough to deal with. I would like to propose something that may not be as obvious…maybe we are the problem.

I say this from two recent experiences. The first was something that I myself have been proud of and have espoused for a long time. Our IT business is going on 34 years old. That’s a long time in this industry and we hale from the early days of PC’s. Yet the business is just as relevant today as it was back in the 1980’s.

The reason we are relevant today is that we have changed over the years, morphed if you will, to the market and to the changes in how we provide our product and services. It hasn’t always been an easy task and requires us to constantly look at new ways of doing things, implementing those new initiatives, and most importantly making change part of our business model.

The second experience was when I had the chance to work with five millennials on a leadership mock project to elect a candidate to a district commission. Being the elder of the group I morphed myself to be able to work in their world for 2 months as we competed against other groups and brought our candidate to victory.

What I learned from the last experience was that my advantage was in my perennial knowledge but to communicate that knowledge to them I had to use their methods. Texting, Facebook and other social media kept us connected. Ideas outside of the regular business hours were frequent and common and you had to be ready to be a part of the communication or you would be left behind.

The energy for something they wanted to do was palpable, keep them excited and they were ravenous almost unstoppable; but try to do things the “normal” way and it would quickly grind things to a halt.

I suddenly put two and two together. As a business owner and entrepreneur, I work very much like they do. I am goal oriented not time oriented. I work toward a goal feverishly but in a time framework of my choosing. This very same framework is how millennials work or expect to work. If we leverage the enthusiasm and treat them almost as individual entrepreneurs or business owners, you can get some unbelievable results.

So how do you get a millennial to be an uber worker? Here are some basics and a quick rundown of how to leverage that youthful energy:

  1. Give Them Something To Be Excited About
    Set goals or targets but include them to help define what they are. When they own it, they make things happen.
     
  2. Put Them In Teams
    Even a team of two makes a big difference. The Team can be made up of their peers or a manager or even you. This is a subtle but important piece to success.
     
  3. Don’t Hem Them Into A Regular Rigid Environment
    Let them work when and how they want. They get graded on reaching the goal not that they are there 8 to 5 every day. This really is hard to get used to, but they shine when given this type of freedom.
     
  4. Use Modern Communications With Them
    Probably the single most important thing you can do. Text, chat, social, web cam, whatever works but almost all will be cell phone centric. Get used to it and use it! They are communications needy so if texting, have your emoticons ready and don’t be surprised if they communicate at weird hours of the day or night. It is very important to respond otherwise they will feel put off.
     
  5. Lead Them With Your Knowledge
    Giving them ideas and letting them run with it, suggesting options based on your experience will have a successful outcome.
     
  6. Finally Get Your “Old School” Team Members Buy In
    If you don’t, you’ll lose the energetic force of the millennial. You still need some of these “old school” types to fill in the gaps, mostly in the client communication area, a weakness of millennials that is not easy or may be impossible to overcome.

To sum it up, the problem with millennials has more to do with us as managers and leaders than it does with the millennials. They fit very nicely in the modern world, using modern technology and modern methods to communicate. You can’t tie down a millennial with the threat of losing their job, and more money typically won’t keep them either. If you can make it fun and give them ownership, you’ll get a ton of work done and they won’t want to go anywhere else.

It does take a different leadership style and your managers will have to work in a different, sometimes more challenging way. In the end, we can learn a lot from the millennial attitude. I often say after 34 years in the business I get as excited about what I do now as when I started all those years ago.

As a business owner I have had the privilege to live a version of the millennial lifestyle all these years. It is past the time we integrate the best pieces of that style into our own business workforce. In our modern world the Millennials expect this, and we should give it to them.

About The AuthorMSPi Eric Kiehn, C&W Technologies

Eric Kiehn is President/CEO and founder of C&W Technologies and has been a member of The ASCII Group Since 2000.

About The ASCII Group, Inc.

The ASCII Group is a vibrant reseller community of independent MSPs, VARs, and other solutions providers. Formed in 1984, ASCII has more than 70 programs that provide turnkey cost-cutting strategies, innovative business building programs, and extensive peer interaction. ASCII members enjoy benefits such as marketing support; educational information; group purchasing power; increased leverage in the marketplace; and multiple networking opportunities. These programs enable ASCII members to increase revenue, lower operating costs, and grow service opportunities. ASCII is the oldest and largest group of independent information technology (IT) solutions providers, integrators and value added resellers (VARs) in the world. Learn more at www.ascii.com.