Are millennials giving managers a wake-up call?

There has been a lot of press and articles about the so-called difficulties of leading millennials, which is the term used to describe people who have joined the workforce since 2000.

They are frequently stereotyped as: confident, creative, unconventional and innovative and difficult to recruit and retain. But, are they really very different from previous generations –  maybe they just have a different environment to operate in?

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has been with us for about 50 years now and despite its flaws it provides a useful model to reflect on the needs of millennials. As a reminder the hierarchy consists of five levels:

  • physiological – a base level of needs of food, water, shelter
  • safety – for example physical security, economic – job security etc
  • societal needs – such as a sense of belonging, love
  • esteem – e.g. acceptance and being valued• Self-Actualisation – which is achieving one’s potential across all facets of life, making a difference etc. If we accept that these human needs are common to all generations, why is that millennials seem to be more pre-occupied with the top end of the pyramid?

Management Direct article on Abraham Maslow

I suggest that the environment that millennials have grown up in enables them to focus more on their higher needs. Compared to previous generations there is a much better welfare state safety net – at least in the UK – which addresses the Physiological needs for food, shelter etc (accepting that there are flaws in the system!),  TV, media and Internet ensure people are more aware of local and global opportunities to make a difference. It’s far easier to find examples of someone that has already done it (whatever your ‘it’ happens to be), reducing the personal risk of embarking on something new.

So what? Millennials are reminding managers and leaders what all humans require. The needs of Millennials are really no different to other generations – they just feel safer expressing them!

“Millennials’ needs are no different to other generations”

Managers and leaders should aim to meet the physiological and safety needs of each person and support individuals’ sense of esteem by ensuring everyone in the organisation feels respected and valued and able to reach their potential.

How you can help your team members achieve their life goals, not just their work ones?It might mean providing courses for career advancement or paid/unpaid/flexible time off for example to serve as a magistrate?

Ask your staff about their personal objectives and you can I help them to achieve them, and while you’re at it – what are your own objectives?

headshot of the regional chairBlog by David Sullivan, Acting Chair, CMI Southern

Do you agree with David’s perspective?  Share your views with us.

CMI Resources

Use your CMI Membership benefits to access Management Direct for more information on managing millennials.

ManagementDirect search results on millennials