Guest Post by Warren Wright

Millennials are accused of killing everything from American cheese to mayonnaise to white bread. Are they destined to kill the workplace as we know it? Far from killing the workplace, they are saving it.

Millennial employees have higher expectations of their managers, and particularly with a tight labor market, only the best-managed companies will endure. With an increasing number of Millennials in the workplace, how can leaders keep the workplace humming and thriving in the challenges of the new economy?

Workplace Leadership: Short History of Generations at Work

Every incoming generation brings its own stamp to the workplace — a well-inked imprint of the generations’ personae. The Boomers introduced workaholism. Before Boomers, workers punched clocks with firm start and end times. GenXers introduced flexible workdays and a “Just Do It” attitude to work processes. And what about the Millennials? Beyond the obvious technology innovation, and a greater sense of community, on a deeper and more lasting level, the Millennial stamp is shaping up to be a movement toward better management.

It’s All about the Manager

Second-Wave MillennialsOne of the top reasons younger Millennials leave jobs is due to poor management. They are choosy about where they work, and whom they work for. They place a higher emphasis on purpose over profit, and put mentorship and professional development high on their list of work requirements. They like a detailed roadmap of their career opportunities. In essence, they want to be well managed.

Dog-friendly environments and free beer are nice, but not necessary. Upping the management game to create a positive, team-oriented, development-focused culture is what’s really required. And a strong digital presence does not hurt. Here are the five areas that the best leaders are providing to their Millennial employees.

Creating Structure

This is the syllabus generation. Millennials like to know the plan. They will ask, “where’s my roadmap?” Without a detailed plan of what they need to do, and how they get there, they will become disengaged. Create boundaries and incentives. Give them a lay of the land and how they can be successful in the company. Establish firm guardrails, so they don’t veer off the highway.

Providing Regular Feedback

Boomers and Xers never liked feedback from their boss. It was always bad news anyway. They mostly just want to be left alone. Millennials are different. Millennials want feedback—lots of it, and at a high frequency. This requires managers to pay attention to their employees and provide constructive criticism and especially praise (aka ‘trophies’) when needed.

Instilling Purpose

What does it mean that Teach for America gets more applications than Princeton, while Goldman Sachs struggles to hire enough interns out of elite colleges? It means that Millennials are on the leading edge of putting purpose over profit. Even if you are selling beige widgets, managers have to find a way to attach meaning to their new hires’ job. If you’re struggling with this concept, at least find a way to tie their job to the larger purpose of the company mission.

Setting a Course for the Future

It is not enough to provide a detailed job description and a roadmap; you will want to provide career advice as well. Millennials have long-term time horizons. Their parents were planning on little Josh’s engineering degree once he mastered Minecraft at age 9. As a manager, you need to be that mentor that guides them along the path to career success, not just success in their current role. Think bigger, think longer-term.

Showing You Care

Finally, Millennials will be asking the question, or at least wondering “You got my back?” No, managers are not parents, but managers need to show they care about their employees. When I worked at Gallup, our research showed one of the strongest predictors of a vibrant, productive and engaged workplace was a positive response to the question, “does someone care about me as a person?”

In the next decade, the Boomer and Xer stamp will begin to fade. It is time for a new bold design—one based on the simple concept of good management.

Guest Post

Warren WrightWarren Wright is a leading authority generations and author of “Second-Wave Millennials: Tapping the Potential of America’s Youth.” He is Founder and CEO of Second Wave Learning, whose mission is to prepare the next generation of leaders. To learn more, visit


Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash
With leadership demographics shifting, how can workplace leadership keep things humming and thriving while facing the challenges of the new economy?