Millennials in tech: Turning what makes them different into an advantage

Special Series | 26 Jul, 2017 |

It has become a standard part of any gathering of tech sector senior management; the “Millennials!” discussion. The generation that is referred to as Millennials grew up in a different world than the generations that now run and manage businesses. In fact, those of us who run tech enterprises are the ones that created the connected and screen dominated world that this young group entering the workforce grew up in. It is fun to complain, every generation has done it. But when the complaining is done, it is time to stand up and face the fact that millennials make up a growing part of the workforce. They are smart, they are driven, and they can make significant contributions to your business.

A good place to start in leveraging your Millennial workforce is identifying what motivates them. Every person is different, but this generation’s baseline can be significantly different. You and your managers need to reach out to the younger employees and understand not just what drives them in their work, but what their life goals are.

The next step is to modify a tried and true method. In the past, good managers in technology companies would identify the strengths of each employee and work to let the employee leverage those strengths. You need to do that with millennials, but you also need to acknowledge those strengths to them more. This generation has been encouraged and educated with this type of acknowledgment and it has worked to produce some outstandingly talented people. It gives confidence and overcomes hesitation. So take advantage of that instead of thinking there is something wrong with encouragement.

Another byproduct of the way this generation was educated and trained is that enthusiasm has been encouraged throughout their lives. And you can get all grouchy-old-person about it or you can realize that it’s a big positive, especially in a technology based business where you can face some pretty tough problems. Instead of grumbling their way through challenging tasks, tap into and encourage that enthusiasm.

The biggest complaint about Millennials in the tech workplace is that they feel entitled. They feel they want to be a CEO right out of college and don’t want to work for it. To a large extent, this is just not true. Yes, they want to progress faster, no they don’t want to wait. You can look at that as entitlement or as a drive to succeed. Leverage that drive by giving them challenges. They may not do as well as they thought and learn that some things take time. Or they may surprise you and show you that they can accomplish amazing things in very little time.

The older belief that you have to work your way up and take time to learn the business is actually just being slow and not pushing boundaries. When Millennials complain that they are not progressing in their career fast enough, give them more responsibility or more difficult work.

Which brings up the big question. What do you do if you work to understand the motivation of a young technology worker, acknowledge their strengths, leverage their enthusiasm, and give them challenges, and then they fail? Well, you do what you do with any employee of any generation: you work to fix it or you let them go. When a young employee fails it’s usually not because they are a Millennial, it’s because they didn’t have the experience, skill, drive, knowledge, or personality to succeed at the tasks they were given. The temptation is to throw your hands up and go “Millennials!” But they are employees like any other, with the same distribution of fantastic, average, and underperforming members as any other group. Leverage what does make them different and you will find and grow more of those fantastic workers.

Silicon Desert Insider is a weekly blog published every Wednesday on, about technology, trends, advice and more that could help your company. If you have an idea for “Silicon Desert Insider,” please email AZ BIG Media Associate Editor Jesse A. Millard at [email protected].

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