Millennials as Bosses: Shifting Dynamics in the Workplace

 Guest Blog By Ben Angold, Business Development Director, EMEA, Futurestep

 

For the last ten years or so, we’ve been used to thinking of millennials as young, fresh-faced graduates just kick-starting their career, eager to get stuck in and learn the ropes of the business.

 

Because of their get-up-and-go attitude, since their debut into the professional workforce, members of the millennial generation have well been known for their impatience when it comes to advancing within the workplace.

 

 

But the wait is over for a huge proportion of this generation. Moving forward, we will see more millennials, those born between 1981 and 1997 as defined by Pew Research, joining leadership teams within their organizations, managing teams and aspects of the broader business.

 

This entails an inevitable shift in the way employees approach work. Our research found that 45% say millennials’ lack of experience could have a negative impact on the company culture.

 

However, we believe there’s more to that than this. So how are millennials shaping management culture?

 

New ways of leading

Living the company culture is core to how people successfully lead an organisation. For millennials, there are two major factors shaping their perspective on the workplace.

 

Firstly, millennials are used to fast internet speed and instant messaging, putting speed at the forefront of their managerial working style. Secondly, they are much more familiar and comfortable with new technology compared to older generations. So much so, it was a recent Vodafone productivity report which found that, unsurprisingly, younger generations over older employees believe the quality of technology they use makes them more productive on a daily basis.

 

This means that we’re more likely to see new technologies implemented into workplace processes at a much faster speed than before, with a higher adoption rate for cutting-edge solutions.

 

While these new leaders bring much to organisations, there however may be a few cautions.

 

Since many did move up quickly, they still need to properly learn how to “manage up” to colleagues that have more seniority than them. As there is a risk of the age difference becoming an issue, many millennials in managerial positions might struggle to establish good working relationships with their peers and subordinates. And with our workplace trends research revealing that 8-in-10 (83%) respondents have seen millennials managing Gen X and Baby Boomers in their office, it’s vital millennials learn how to relate to their direct reports, some of whom could be as old as their parents.

 

In this context, c-suite level executives and business leaders must re-think the way they approach and facilitate a multi-generational workforce.

 

For example, in their efforts to address this question, AT&T offers supervisors a two-hour course on how to manage the cross-generational workforce. The purpose of this is to help them better prepare how they can effectively communicate with and motivate their direct reports.

 

With each generation part of the workforce bringing a distinct set of skills and knowledge, it’s important to ensure this is leveraged correctly if organisations are to foster a productive and effective team.

 

No hiding behind a screen

 

There’s no denying that millennials grew up in a digital-first environment. This means once they hold managerial roles, many must resist the urge to lead from behind a screen instead of opting for face-to-face communications.

 

This being said, because they’re used to always being connected to one another, whilst having access to a variety of communications tools, has meant that millennials have had more time to develop their communication skills. As a result, over a quarter (27%) of millennials rate their personal skills as very good.

 

What’s more, being part of a digital-first environment also means a completely different understanding of what speed in communication is. Because millennials are living in a world that is constantly switched-on, they are nearly always available when their peers and subordinates need to talk.

 

Flexibility in the workforce

 

Finally, millennials as an archetype value flexibility in the workforce, not just for themselves, but now for their teams. This has the potential to drastically change the way we work today and in the future.

 

Forget the standard 9-til-5 and daily commute. Having a millennial boss means that he or she might be more open to implementing a flexible working policy. This is because they know what added value it can bring for instance, it may enable access to a much wider talent pool as proximity to the office is no longer a requirement. Shifting the focus to getting work done, as opposed to when and where the work gets done, offers employees a better work-life balance, key to increasing employee engagement and their loyalty to the company.

 

Because flexibility in the workplace is a new and expected way of working, open-minded, forward-thinking bosses are the ones who have the power to propel this trend.

 

Final thoughts

 

Are millennials making good bosses? There is no right answer to this.

 

In fact, no generation can be inherently good at something, like managing a team or business. These are skills that are acquired over time and with experience shaped by their environment.

 

Of course, millennials, like any generation before them, come with their own set of values and expectations. And what’s positive is that they’re not afraid to make changes and speak up when things aren’t working. They also have access to more tools and technologies than bosses before them, and have the know-how to properly implement these for the benefit of the company.

 

All in all, the future looks bright.

 

Author: Kate Thomas

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