How to Manage Career Impatient Millennials – 3 Management Strategies

career development

Trying to shut down a Millennial’s desire for career development is like designing a Lamborghini with economy friendly miles per gallon. You just won’t be able to do it, and if you did, it won’t be a Lamborghini anymore.

According to Gallup Research, 87% of Millennials say that they want career opportunities in the jobs they work. But how does that compare to other generations? Gallup found in the same study that only 44% of Generation Xers, and 41% of Baby Boomers look for the same amount of opportunities. Research finds that Millennials desire career growth more than double of other generations!

In addition, Millennials are jumping around jobs like a Butter Popcorn bag at the three minute mark. Future Workplace predicts that Millennials will have anywhere from a whopping 15-20 jobs in the course of their lifetime. Mainly due to the technology improvements in the job search, in addition, to the financial abundance of the current economy.

Needless to say, Millennials are looking for a career opportunity and progression at an astonishing level. Someone in a management position has to learn how to harness their motivation. If the manager does not crack the code to harnessing motivation, they can expect employee disengagement to kick in and a looming turnover brewing. Below are a few different strategies to capture a Millennials intrinsic motivation and help them channel their desire for upward career progression. By following these steps you will find it much easier, at the same time, surprisingly obvious why so many companies struggle to retain overambitious Millennial employees.


Strategy #1: Break Down Career Milestones into Tangibles

The ‘Locus of Control’ is an immensely important concept for managers to understand when managing Millennials. Essentially, people have an innate desire to feel in control of their environment and the locus of control, is their belief on how much they control their environment. If their lives feels out of control, the external world is controlling their environment, and creates a sense of helplessness. On the other hand, if they believe they have control of their external world, that alleviates a sense of helplessness, and stimulates autonomy and happiness.

As a manager, a helpful goal to shoot for is getting your employees to a point where they feel intrinsically in control of their careers. With that said, adjusting career development is a great way to start. Usually career development is broken down into a ladder of time. 3 years you get to be a senior position, 5 years to vice president, 7 years to director, etc. However, what tends to happen is that time bound milestones, remove the control from the employee, and instead, incentivize low engagement – clock in and out behavior.

Why? Because the Millennials only need to show up for a couple of years and they will get promoted. 

So how do managers get around this issue? Answer: Breaking down career milestones into tangible skills that places the control in the employees hands.

In this situation, it might take the candidate just as many years to get promoted, however, each rung in the ladder is based off of skills that the employee has control of acquiring. The control is placed back in the employees hands. Supporting this viewpoint, Gallup Research found that only 21% of employees feel that managers,manage in a way that motivates them to do good work. Sounds like we need to start reevaluating management styles.


Strategy #2: Funnel Their Motivation Into Projects

Say that a Millennial cannot learn any faster at their position, but they need more experience. How does a manager supply them with extra experience to accelerate career growth.

What should a manager do to channel their direct reports motivation? Employers can channel the employees motivation into side projects that helps them move forward in their careers. By doing the project, not only is the Millennial able to acquire new skills to help them on the job. Also, the environment can safely help them try new ideas.

eager Millennial employees

More progressive companies like 3M and Google, set aside time to allow employees to work on their individual projects. Have you heard of Google News, GMail or even the Post It? Each one one of these innovations originated, in days what companies call Fedex Days. These days usually involve time where employees can solely focus on working on projects outside of their current line of work. Companies are able to channel their overly eager employees by allocating time for employees to work on their own individual projects.

However, a company might not need to block off a day for R&D for their eager employees. It could just be that a manager needs to have a conversation with their employees about possible projects that can accelerate their career growth. The conversation would usually consist of the manager finding where the employee wants to take their career, and brainstorming different projects that will not only accelerate their career growth, but also be seen as impactful to the organizations.


Strategy #3: Open Horizontal Opportunities

career developmentSometimes, going up is not the answer to career growth, but horizontal. A global business services firm, Deloitte has clients based in over 150 companies around the world. Employees who work at Deloitte are able to rotate horizontally within the company giving them the opportunity to spend time in the various locations on a short-term, project-based or long-term basis. Sometimes, employees are internationally transferred, or even as an international transfer.

Other companies like the NFL, have special programs where employees can ‘try-out’ different departments such as Events, Football Operations & Officiating, Communications & Public Affairs and International.

By opening up these opportunities, companies are able to alleviate the common ‘Nomad Syndrome’- the urge to constantly move around. In addition, Millennials are able to explore different opportunities, finding what they want in their career while at the same time, working for the same employer. Leveraging horizontal rotation can work wonders for an employee to bring extra value to the company, while also harnessing their desire for career growth.


Jeff Butler

Jeff Butler Internationally respected speaker and consultant, Jeff Butler helps bridge generational gaps between Millennials and companies looking for their talent and patronage. Butler has quickly built his reputation as a memorable presenter with tangible solutions for attracting, retaining, and engaging Millennials as employees and customers. Within just the past three years, he has spoken at two TEDx events and multiple Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Amazon, and LinkedIn.


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