The workforce, as well as the work environment, is changing. No longer do employees get hired, work for the same company their entire careers, and retire to a small house with a white picket fence. Employment today is much more fluid, and employees do not seek safety first as their impetus to accept job offers. Modern employees want to work for a company with a mission they believe in, where they can expand their abilities and challenge themselves.
Such big changes may sound like they are riding in on a wave of chaos. However, there is a definite order to the employment evolution.
The Pew Research Center found that millennials make up the largest portion of the modern workforce at 56 million strong. Millennials, also collectively referred to as Generation Y, are individuals who were born in the 1980s and 1990s and so first entered the workforce in the last years of the 20th century and the early ones of the 21st century. This newest generation of the workforce is tech-savvy and collaborative. Millennial employees want a diverse work environment that focuses on flexibility and results rather than strict schedules and rigid policies.
Experienced business people such as Eyal Gutentag are learning how to best attract and motivate this new generation of employees and make the most of their knowledge of electronics and popular communication strategies, including social media platforms. Understanding what this generation values and knowing how to draw out the best in these employees is vital to helping them achieve their full potential and benefit their employers and ultimately, the overall economy.
As a proven manager who has worked successfully with many millennials, Eyal Gutentag is always looking for ways to keep the work environment fresh and provide new challenges to help this generation of employees grow.
Eyal Gutentag, gave us an opportunity to interview him and below are the answers to the questions we had for him.
Some people refer to millennials as entitled and easily distracted, what has been your experience when it comes to managing millennial employees?
From my experience, hiring and managing hundreds of employees, a majority of whom have been millennials, I have found them to be committed, ambitious, data-driven and collaborative. They often seek a more fluid work-life blend than their older workforce colleagues. Smartphones, email and productivity apps often enable them to leverage technology to remain connected to work even as they spend time traveling outside the office or the country.
I have heard many people describe them as entitled, but I think the more applicable description is that they seek progress and feedback continuously. As a manager and colleague who regularly provides actionable feedback and opportunities for growth, I found my millennial employees to be ambitious, hard working and capable.
Times have changed, people are no longer working in the same companies for 40 years. What do you think is the best way to inspire loyalty from the millennial workforce?
I believe loyalty among millennial employees stems from career growth & a belief in the mission of the company. The more transparent you are about the opportunities for growth & the more they buy into that path, the more loyalty a company will receive.
Additionally, I have found that millennials are much more likely than their older colleagues to make the mission of the company they work for a key criteria in their career choices. The more they continue to believe in that mission, the more loyalty they will demonstrate.
What kind of culture do you strive for in your company?
A meritocracy where colleagues are Collaborative, Innovative, Data-driven and where people are accountable
What do you believe is the best way to give recognition to millennials?
- Publicly recognize achievements in front of colleagues
- Reward them with a new challenge – either in their current or an enhanced role
It seems these days the traditionally 9 to 5 schedule is no longer the norm, what kind of work schedule do you find millennials respond best to?
I think more than work-life balance, millennials care about work-life blend and flexibility.
Blending their work and personal lives is something that comes more naturally to them. Their work colleagues often develop into friendships that shape a social life both in and out of the office.
As for hours, I have found they are less important than the ability to find flexibility from employers for travel, personal & family obligations, a desire to work offsite, etc.
My preferred approach is to extend maximum flexibility but expect maximum commitment to deadlines, time-sensitive needs when they may be out of the office. I can not remember denying a request for personal time or flexibility in schedule from a strong performing employee.
What benefits or skills do millennials bring to the workplace?
Tech fluency; data fluency; broad media fluency — particularly social media, mobile-centric experiences, streaming platforms. Additionally, when hiring the right millennial workforce, you will also find collaboration, flexible thinking, problem solving and analytical rigor.
What are the most important skills you have learned from this sudden change in the workforce?
I have learned that mentorship and leadership are more important than management.
Early in my career and in business school we were taught that “management” was the key to organizational advancement and success. I believe that there has been a shift, one accelerated by the millennial entry to the workforce, where managing tasks is secondary to setting and leading with a shared vision, mentoring your personnel & creating a culture of collaboration.
What has been your greatest struggle when it comes to supervising millennials?
Social cues & emotional intelligence are not always a natural strength for millennials.
I have found their technical and functional skills to be ahead of their emotional intelligence in work situations. I have invested a lot of time mentoring millennial employees on the softer side of people management. This applies to both internal employee relationships as well as those with outside vendors, partners & investors.
What do you see as the most impactful way to handle transitioning millennials into management positions?
GRADUALLY. I believe the key to transitioning millennials into management is through small, gradual increases in responsibilities. Often this ought to begin with managing 1 or 2 employees so they are set up for success. When possible, these should include interns, part-time contractors or others where the risks are minimal but the self-confidence can build and the managerial toolkit can be cultivated.
Once they prove they can be successful leading such smaller teams, gradual expansion of managerial responsibility can continue successfully.
I once worked in an organization that often promoted millennial first time managers from zero direct reports to as many as 6 or 7 at one time. I amended that by adding an intermediate step to leading a team of 2-3 because I did not believe it would set those first time managers up for success.
Separately, sometimes inexperienced millennial managers can confuse management with friendship, and I think it’s important to remind them that those are very different roles.
Give some unique perspectives you can offer on managing millennials
- Provide continuous, candid feedback. Do not wait until pre-determined annual or semi-annual review periods.
- Create a personalized career development plan for each member of your team – either formally or informally. They benefit when they know what opportunities they are being groomed for.
- Be clear about the skill sets you mutually agree are critical for them to acquire – and remain focused on that from month to month.
- Empower them with a bit more responsibility than they might naturally seek, provide them with the specific, measurable objectives that will define success and stay close enough that if they begin to struggle with too much autonomy or responsibility you can provide support.
- More than anything, always be clear to connect their individual efforts and responsibilities with those of the broader company.
Once you implement these principles, publicly praise and ultimately advance and promote the ones who meet the standards for success.
In his years of working with and training millennials how to succeed, Eyal Gutentag has himself learned a thing or two. He has become a strong mentor and counselor to help bring out the best in millennial employees. He has also shifted his leadership style so that he now focuses on creating a work environment that offers shared benefits for all—quality work delivered for the company and relevant challenges that promote growth for millennial employees who wish to develop their skills. He says one of the most important ways a company can entice and excite millennials is through a meritocracy, and he strives to create this sort of climate of achievement wherever he goes.
Such a mutually positive relationship fosters progress for all. Young employees can develop their abilities and advance in their careers and goals, and seasoned leaders such as Eyal Gutentag freshen their management toolkit to lead new generations. Even though new workforce employees are skilled with technology and digital communication, the business marketplace is still comprised of individuals who must be handled with a nuanced human touch, and this is where experience comes in.
Newer generations of workers can learn valuable skills from corporate veterans about how to effectively converse and share with others so that important professional relationships are forged and strengthened. Good communication skills are invaluable in personal lives as well. As millennials have a more blurred line between their personal and business hours than have older generations of employees, increased communication abilities flow easily into all areas of millennials’ lives to benefit families as well as colleagues.
Experienced personnel managers such as Eyal Gutentag are in the vanguard for teaching young employees vital “people skills.” After all, while much is changing in the workforce, human nature is, deep down, not that different from decades—and centuries, and millennia—ago. Millennials may feel a strong feeling of loyalty to companies based upon belief in their missions, but a blend of the new with tried timeless practices linked with emotional maturity sets this generation of employees up for success.