Millennials Are Not The Problem! How You Manage Them Is.

by Carrie Luxem, CEO, Restaurant HR Group

“They’re just young, lazy, and entitled! They don’t even want to work.”

Yowza! Harsh and cringe-worthy, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, that’s how some restaurant owners and managers have not so lovingly
described their Millennial workforce to me. And many take it a step further and erroneously lay the blame solely at the feet of this generation as the reason why their restaurant isn’t thriving.

Why Millennials Aren’t the Problem

But guess what? Millennials aren’t the problem. It’s actually you. Or more specifically, how
you’re managing them and probably the rest of your team too.

What we seem to forget is that every single generation has had their fair share of pie in the sky idealistic dreamers or disinterested, cocky, and spoiled slackers…and any other frustrating combination. It’s not the first go round for these personality characteristics. And from my own experiences as a business owner, let me just say this: I work with a diverse and dynamic team of people — many of whom are Millennials — and they are some of the hardest working, dedicated people I know!

And yet, we all — as employers, HR managers, and just fellow human beings — can still cling to these stereotypical groupings and mindlessly fall into the blame game if we’re not careful. Then these “generational differences” can dictate our people skills, becoming the central focus of our energy and leading to negativity-laden, stressful interactions with others.

All this because someone was born during a certain timeframe. Talk about a counterproductive leadership style.

So, no matter the generation — young, old, or somewhere in-between — here are three tips to help you successfully manage your people, every last one of them.

Tip #1 — Encourage work-life balance.

The future can be uncertain…it is uncertain. Every generation has had earth-shattering events occur that reminded them of this inevitability and rocked them to their cores. The assassination of JFK, Vietnam, September 11th, the Great Recession, the current looming uncertainty regarding healthcare coverage — you get the idea.

Add in personal events, like an extended illness, a miscarriage, the death of close friend or pet, and your team is likely stretched to their mental, emotional, and financial limits. Plus, today’s employees can’t simply “leave work behind” as easily anymore. The traditional 9 to 5 has extended into 24/7 — 365 thanks to smartphones bringing email, text messages, and social media along for the ride.

Employees, regardless of age, can have truly brilliant ideas. But these ideas don’t become reality and instead wither and die on the vine if employees don’t ever have a break from work or an opportunity to let loose. So as an employer, be flexible when and where you can and aim for less micromanaging and more autonomy and trust. And make sure you encourage — heck, even demand — that your team finds a healthy work-life balance so they can find happiness at work and at home.

Tip #2 — Money isn’t everything…but it is a necessity.

For Millennials struggling to pay massive student loans, purchase a reliable vehicle, or rent or buy their first place, money is tight. Shoestring budgets and living paycheck to paycheck are much more common that any of us may imagine.

And it’s not just happening to Millennials. By some estimates, anywhere from half of U.S. families to three-quarters of Americans fall into this monetary rat race.

So a shift in thinking needs to occur — and a heaping dose of empathy wouldn’t hurt either. It’s not so much that employees, Millennials or otherwise, want something for nothing. Instead, they want a fair, livable wage in return for an honest day’s work — a tangible recognition of the value they bring to the company.

And while that sounds nostalgic and overly-simplistic, it’s true. Potential job candidates and current employees aren’t necessarily money or power hungry. They want to be recognized, valued, and appreciated. Money is one way to do that, but generous benefits and perks, which aren’t necessarily costly, can help meet that need as well.

Tip #3 — Move toward mentorship.

The traditional and rigid authoritarian managerial style no longer works. Whether it is because of the casual digital interconnectedness many employees have with their managers outside of work or simply the modernized approach to an archaic method, the way successful managers relate to their team has changed.

Instead of being their “boss,” a term that to many employees can represent an imbalance of power and a devalued view of their skills and worth, managers can shift relationships with team members to a mentorship.

This type of relationship can be a huge win-win. Employees can feel invested in, respected, and cared for. Managers can improve relations with staff while also pinpointing employee’s strengths and guiding them further into their careers.

The Bottom Line

All people will be better — even ideal — employees and teammates when they understand the expectations of their role, are valued and treated with care and respect, and are aware of and connected to the organization’s bigger purpose.

Some food for thought.

Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube for more HR and leadership insights. For speaking engagements and consulting services, visit me here. Or check out my company, Restaurant HR Group, to learn how we help restaurants manage their greatest assets.

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