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How to manage Millennials in the workplace

How to manage Millennials in the workplace

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 03/13/2017 - 08:28
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Hong Kong
Monday, March 13, 2017 , 07:00

Our expert panel discusses managing and engaging millennials with the three key themes of communication, building trust and developing talent

Morgan McKinley Hong Kong hosted a successful panel event to discuss the challenges of managing millennials in the workplaces. Key tips on how to successfully engage millennials have been shared by three experts including:

  1. Austin Tay, Founder and Principal Consultant at Omnipsi Consulting
  2. Samuel Tsang, Partner, Human Capital Leader at Deloitte Consulting
  3. NiQ Lai, Chief Talent & Financial Officer and Co-owner of HKBN 

Three key components that were discussed included communication, trust and talent development.

Communicating with Millennial Employees

Samuel, we discussed the importance of transparency for Millennials and how hiring managers need to manage their Millennial employees expectations, what can you tell us on this aspect?

As you know, I am a communications strategist where I deal with clients and particularly with change management issues and help in communicating good messages and bad messages. Often our communications strategies do not include bad news. We do communicate bad news but not in an authentic way. We always say “actually we are doing, this, this, this and that”. But again, Millennials are looking for authenticity and honest feedback. They actually do not care so much about their boss being vulnerable. They don’t mind that, but actually we do mind. And that is something that we have to learn and not only in our communications strategy but also how we carry ourselves as leaders, because being humble and having a human face is something that many of us are not used to. Showing our weaknesses is something that many of us are not used to or very comfortable with. And that I would say is also a trigger.

Building Trust with the Millennial Workforce

NiQ, can you tell us your view on flexible working hours and whether this is something you have incorporated in your company? 

In our company, we do not believe in work-life balance. In our company, we work with life in capital letters and work on the side. There is no balance. Life comes first. Work is a part of life. If you think that they are separate entities then it doesn’t make sense because we spend a majority of our work time in the office. So, we want to be proud of what we do and fill it with passion and compassion and impact in our society. We trust that people will come in from 9 to 5. We don’t time clock and this includes the junior people. We do not ask for sick leave certificates because you can go to Mongkok and buy them for 20 bucks. That’s a waste of time. So, there is an element of trust.

Austin, why do you think there is a thirst from the Millennials for this work-life balance? 

Millennial employees do not want the extra hours to get a massage or do their hair. What they are asking the organisations to do is to trust them. Trust that they can do the work but give them the tools to do so. And this is what ultimately the millennials are asking their managers to do. And as an organisation, you must think about what you are going to do about that. Also, it is essential to lead the organisation with compassion and you have to lead these Millennials with compassion, not with empathy. I know that people are going to say that this is bad. But no, not when you are working with Millennials. There is no point to empathize with them. They are suffering for sure. But as an organisation you need to sit down with them and be compassionate and say “Ok, I understand that you have this issue. How can we work together and make it better for you so that you can contribute to the organisation?”

Developing Millennial Talent

According to our survey of hiring managers, Millennials seem to have a know-it-all attitude and don't want to learn more. However when we collected feedback from Millennials, they claim that they do want to develop. Austin, do you think there is miscommunication there? Can you give us some insights? 

Austin: I think it’s actually expectation. As a manager, you’re expected to know how to manage but you don’t really know how to develop. I think in doing so, we miss the opportunity when the Millennial comes up and asks a question. This is their opportunity. We need to seize the opportunities here on a level packing, rather than be professional as a manager.

Yes, they might think that they know it all but you, as managers, you have the experience. You can guide them and you can utilise their skills such as their technology savviness for example. They will know the best way to get things done quicker than we will be able to figure it out. But, they want to be picking your brains, they want to be on the same level packing as you. They don’t really treated as subordinate. They want to be a partner. They want to be involved in teams. As organizations, we want to look at it as a potential partner, a potential team member. How then can we develop or how then can we create opportunities for them to learn? And it then goes back to the point that I was saying earlier about the fact that it starts from the moment you write the job description. The moment you think that you are going to employ someone. Do you think beyond the job scope? What can you do to actually develop this individual as they come into the organisation? I think that’s important.

Samuel: I mean once again, we were once young, right? And we all actually do have that Millennial heart here and we do actually long for the three big things and I am talking about autonomy, about mastery and about purpose. These three things are still and will forever be truthful. And I think we all believe in it. And one thing about Millennials is that they tell you how they feel. They tell you honestly what they don’t like and what they do like. So, it’s not that they are different from us. They are just people but younger, they are fearless and they are honest. So, it’s how we actually cope with it ourselves and it prompts us to think and prepare ourselves as leaders and as hiring managers. Are we still looking at us as being up here and knowing it all and telling them what to do? Or are we open and telling them that we don’t know everything? 

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