Millennials are often thought of as an entitled, hard-to-understand, and difficult-to-please bunch. That’s a really prejudiced and unhelpful impression of this group of people born between 1981 and 1996.
In the Philippines alone, they are 35 million strong and make up 53% working age population. That’s more than half of the working professionals in the country. In the U.S., 38% of the teacher population will be millennials in the next five years. That’s why it’s very important to not simply misjudge them but to really understand how to work with them.
Because they were born in the age of the internet, most of them have these common traits, all of which can be better managed with a few simple tips.
1. The Pursuit of Good Feelings
Growing up in social media (socmed), they tend to get dopamine, the hormone-induced happiness, through likes and comments on their socmed accounts like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. This habit tends to manifest in their way of working — they need to be appreciated more than earlier generations.
Manager Tip: They need to know that their work is making a difference in the bigger picture of the organization. Giving them rewards and recognition will help them stay longer in the organization.
2. Challenges to Build Genuine Relationships
Part of their challenges in being digital natives is that they find it hard to build authentic and mutually beneficial relationships. On social media, they could be anyone they wish to be. They could use a photo and a name that are not really theirs. They’re used to texts and video calls more than face-to-face meetings only because the former is easier to arrange.
Manager Tip: Make sure to find time for personal interactions. Given the new normal in light of the global pandemic, this could be done by having regular weekly video meetings with a certain set of rules (for example: do your best to focus on your meeting without getting distracted by your gadgets). Caring is sharing. Encourage teachers by genuinely showing that you care about them by asking how their week went or what their current personal challenges outside work are. It may not be easy for them to open up quickly, but doing this more often would help them connect with you and with others in a much deeper way.
3. Lack of Patience
As millennials grew up in an age where instant gratification was rampant, when you could buy stuff and find information online pretty easily and process things that you needed way faster than before, most of them have a short fuse. They want to get things done the fastest and easiest way possible. That is also why when they encounter challenges at work, whether in their tasks like meeting deadlines for submission of grades or professional relationships like a conflict with other fellow teachers, it’s also easier for them to consider better opportunities outside of their current employer because they don’t have enough patience and perseverance to survive the stress and grit their teeth through it all.
Manager Tip: Show them what patience is by walking the talk. Be patient with them as you help them open up to you about their struggles. Be their mentor and not just their boss. Have the openness, courage, and vulnerability to engage them in difficult conversations. Remind them of how much progress they’ve made so far and how much they’re contributing to the school’s improvement so that they can learn how to be patient to grow in the process with you and your organization.
Millennials are a special group of people in many ways, but just because they’re different doesn’t mean they’re always hard to deal with. Diversity is what makes a healthy and thriving organization, whether that’s a school or any other organization.
Make unity in diversity your goal as you harmonize your personal and professional differences with millennials, and, for sure, your school will be way better than it was before. After all, lifelong learning and personal growth must begin with ourselves before we can teach them to our students, especially since we’re teachers.