Managing Millennials

Making the Most of a Growing Millennial Workforce

Employers and human resources professionals have recently turned their attention towards the pressing issue around attracting, engaging, and retaining talent from the ever-growing Millennial workforce. It is apparent that these issues are not going away anytime soon; demographic data indicates that Millennials are currently on track to account for over half of the U.S. workforce in the upcoming years.

Many managers have expressed difficulties managing their young employees, with some even considering Millennials to be “unmanageable” (Warner, 2010). Some of the frustrations stem from Millennial stereotypes and a poor understanding of the origins of certain Millennial values and behaviors. For instance, popular press typically paints a working Millennial as disloyal to their organization, needing too much feedback and guidance, having an inflated self-esteem, and engaging in less than professional work interactions. In an attempt to dispel these stereotypes and alleviate the frustrations managers are currently facing, Thompson and Gregory (2012) argue that managers will need to adapt their practices and expectations in order to appropriately motivate and retain their top Millennial talent. Once managers are able to adapt their management style appropriately, these largely negative stereotypes can transform into strengths that can provide an organization with a strong competitive advantage.

So, how should managers adapt to the seemingly unconventional behaviors of the Millennial workforce? In order to make the most of this growing workforce, managers should attempt to adopt a transformational leadership style. A transformational leader is a leader who engages their employees in the purpose and mission of their organization, encouraging them to look beyond their individual job duties to focus on the interests of the group (Bass, 1990). A leader can be transformational in a number of ways, one of which involves giving employees individual consideration through coaching, advising, and simply recognizing people’s unique qualities. To employ such an approach, managers should:

  • Provide direct reports with frequent feedback
  • Embrace coaching and mentoring
  • Offer subordinates personalized, development-oriented attention

By providing Millennials with the developmental opportunities they desire, managers will see a significant transformation in their subordinates’ work. More importantly, research has shown the value of providing mentoring, coaching, and frequent and specific feedback to your employees in general; these practices should not only apply to Millennials.

Overall, Millennials are seeking meaningful opportunities to grow and succeed through the development of important relationships with their managers and with others. If managers can invest the time and effort in coaching their employees as well as tailor their interactions to their unique individual needs, Millennials will be eager to provide loyalty and commitment to their organization and to their manager.


Bass, B. M. (1990). From transactional to transformational leadership: Learning to share the vision. Organizational Dynamics, 18(3), 19-31. doi:10.1016/0090-2616(90)90061-S

Thompson, C., & Gregory, J. B. (2012). Managing millennials: A framework for improving attraction, motivation, and retention. The Psychologist-Manager Journal, 15(4), 237-246. doi:10.1080/10887156.2012.730444

Warner, J. (2010). The why-worry generation. The New York Times. Retrieved from

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