Managing the Millennial Technologist: Letting Go of Legacy Practices

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On a recent business trip, I was sitting next to a managing director who works for a very large recruiting and placement firm. We struck up a conversation on our short flight and I was really intrigued by her experiences.

First of all, she let me know that pretty much half of the candidates she’s seen and works with are millennials. She then let me know that she really feels like a lot of enterprise organizations are still managing their millennial workforce with “legacy” management practices. Let’s pause there and look at the market in general.

There’s clearly an evolution happening around the IT professional. Gartner recently said that by 2020, 100 percent of IT roles will require an intermediate level of proficiency in business acumen.

“Developing strong business acumen in IT is a prerequisite to effectively shift IT focus from optimizing IT operational efficiency to driving business effectiveness, value creation and growth,” Lily Mok, research vice president at Gartner said. “At the heart of an effective IT communication strategy is the ability to clearly link the vision, strategy and action plans of IT to the business to drive desired behaviors in the workforce that contribute to improved IT performance and business outcomes.”

Communication aside, new management styles are required to gain as much possible value out of the employee as you can. Furthermore, these new management styles also introduce more value to the employee through new, exciting challenges, growth opportunities, and new ways to interact with the business.

Back to my conversation with the director; we discussed legacy management styles vs. organizations that cater to their millennial staff and are a lot more agile.

To really understand the concept we’re discussing consider these three hiring traits:

  1. Experience
  2. Aptitude
  3. Attitude

How would you rate them in terms of candidate importance? What do you think is important to your business?

Legacy organizations are a lot more rigid and set in their ways when it comes to managing people. It makes sense: they’re large, have a lot of employees, many divisions, and it’s a challenge to cater to individuals. There are a lot of organizations out there which fit this example. Telecom, healthcare, and manufacturing are just a few. These types of organizations hire and aim to get candidates which can “get the job done.” That is, they focus on experience. Legacy management see the previous three hiring traits in the following order:

  1. Experience: Here, the thought process is pretty straightforward. Can your experience get the job done? It’s as simple as that. They’re hiring for existing skill sets to accomplish a task. That’s it.
  2. Aptitude: After experience, a legacy management style looks at your ability to conform to the business and adjust. Or, your aptitude to be a team player and work for the organization.
  3. Attitude: Finally, although still important, your attitude towards the company should be conforming. That is, you don’t cause trouble, you follow along with the organization, and that you’re a constant team player.

It’s important to understand that these types of management practices are not bad. However, they are different and may actually not provide any real value when managing a millennial.

Managing the Millennial

At this point, it’s important to note that we are firmly within the digital economy with a digitally-enabled workforce. This means we are a part of a fluid, dynamic business environment which is constantly evolving.

The managing director discussed a new way to manage millennials who are the drivers of today’s emerging digital economy. Now that we have an idea as to how legacy might look at a candidate, let’s examine a new approach to managing millennials. This involves re-prioritizing the hiring traits we discussed earlier.

  1. Attitude: What is the candidate’s attitude towards the industry and the job at hand? Are they excited or are they just there to make a dollar? What’s driving them to succeed? A digital-ready organization will want a positive-attitude candidate who’s ready to emerge into the digital framework and be excited by change.
  2. Aptitude: Once attitude is established – what is the candidate’s aptitude towards learning and growing? Do they want to take on more roles? Are they curious about cross-training? Going beyond what they know already, a candidate’s aptitude towards learning will allow you to hire a moldable and excited new member to the team.
  3. Experience: Let me start by saying that experience is certainly important. But fluid organizations ready for the digital economy won’t hire for experience alone. They’ll want a positive attitude, the aptitude and capability to learn, and then the ability to evolve the experience. Having some experience is great, but it’s even better to mold the experience to what the organization really needs.

In a way, we’ve flipped candidate capabilities and priorities to match the strengths of the millennial. We’re allowing experience to grow organically around what the business requires. Ultimately, this gives the millennial candidate a voice within the company and an opportunity to grow and evolve with the company. Most of all, it builds loyalty and encourages thought.

Think of Facebook as an example. Yes, they love your experiences and what you’ve done in the past; but they will very actively look at your attitude, your aptitude to learn new technologies, and your personality. These organizations know that if they hire the right people the experience will come. However, it’ll also give these organizations an employee who’s much happier in doing their job.

Changing your paradigm on how you work and manage millennials can completely change your candidate pools. Furthermore, millennials don’t often work well in overly rigid environments. This is where they get restless, become less productive, and are more prone to leaving. However, if you employ and nurture around attitude and aptitude you’ll see that not only will they more experience, but also they’ll bring more value to your organization.

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