10 Ideas to Manage the Workforce of Tomorrow

If you are in a leadership position today, here are ten ideas to help you successfully lead the newest generation of workers—Millennials or Gen X. They are different and here is why.

Provide a Structured Environment: Gen X workers may well be the most protected generation of children ever raised. Parents, sometimes called “Helicopter Parents,” have hovered over them from birth. Organizational leaders should take a clue from this fact and set up definitive guidelines regarding work responsibilities. Tell workers what you expect and what parameters guide their work practices. Structure sells—freelancing fizzles.

Encourage. This group of workers becomes more highly motivated when encouraged by their managers. Positive strokes for the folks are the buzz words that will make a difference in personal performance. On the other hand, negative feedback can be devastating because Millennials fear failing. Encouraging workers has always been important but in today’s workforce, the value of this type of leadership is growing exponentially.

Use Teams. Gen X students grew up in a very social, multi-cultural and collaborative environment that now carries over into the workplace. Their strong ability to network and willingness to be connected 24/7 is a real strong suit they bring to the table. Use teams and you win. Isolate workers and your productivity and profits move south.

Value Their Ideas and Opinions. Millennials want meaningful work. They are goal oriented and want to contribute. They believe in themselves and want to be heard. Involve them in decision making. Give credit and encouragement when they make contributions. Valuing their contribution is visionary leadership. Ignoring the good they can bring to the organization is leadership gone blind.

Use Multi-tasking. Multitasking takes on two phases: Tasks controlled by the conscious mind and those controlled by the subconscious mind. Although in childhood, Gen X workers watched TV, talked on the phone and did their homework all at the same time, in the workplace there are times when multitasking may be less efficient than doing each task one at the time. Gen X workers feel doing multiple tasks is commonplace and doesn’t faze them. That opens the door for giving them multiple assignments. It’s a way of life and a challenge to work this way. Do it and you get positive engagement with work activities. But a word of caution for leaders—carefully assign and evaluate the effects of multitasking to assure yourself that you are getting the highest productivity from workers.

Incorporate Technology. Most organizations understand that to survive, they must embrace technology. And, that position is a great fit for the new generation of workers. They grew up with TV, the Internet, laptops, cell phones, beepers, iPod’s, Blackberries, Palm Pilots and video games. They love technology and have absolutely no fear using it. They have led a high-tech lifestyle. Listen to their input on this matter and you’ve energized and utilized them to the max.

Provide Leadership and Guidance. One of the downsides of this generation is that they don’t want to lead. They want strong leadership but it is not a job they wish to pursue. That provides a challenge to the management team because it is their job to develop new leaders. By encouragement, utilization of their skills and desire to do a good job, good leaders can change thinking and find those few who are willing to undertake the responsibilities of leading others. In the meantime, provide them with good, strong leadership and they will produce for you.

Capitalize on Their Networking Abilities. In point # 3, I mentioned their networking abilities. This characteristic is so important because business is built on relationships.  And, Millennials are good relationship builders. Capitalize on that strength in an organizational team environment as well as with your customers. Remember, these workers are social by nature so relating comes naturally.

Understand Their Loyalty. Because of their structured home environment, Gen X youngsters accept authority well. They even trust authority and like their parents. But they bore easily and have a short attention span. If your workplace does not match their expectations, they are gone. Like their attention span, their loyalty can sometimes be short. Leaders need to understand this brand of loyalty and keep the challenges coming and the work exciting. Menial tasks will definitely move them out. This may be the biggest challenge facing today’s workforce leaders.

Provide Work that is Fun but Provides Time for a Balanced Lifestyle. I recently spoke to a group on the topic, How To Master Your Time and Bring Balance to Your Life.  The convention session was held at 8:45 on a Sunday morning. Over 300 people filled the room to capacity and a large number were turned away because of the fire code. That tells me folks are looking for fun and balance. Become a creative leader by making your work environment enjoyable while allowing time for workers to be with their families and enjoy time away from work. If you want to keep Gen X workers, that may be your only choice.


Billy Arcement, MEd is a Professional Speaker, Leadership Strategist and President of The Results Group. He wrote the book, Searching for Success, now internationally published. He co-authored, Journeying on Holy Ground—Christian Strategies to Reach Your Personal, Professional, and Spiritual Destiny. L  ©2012. All rights reserved. Use by permission.