Managing Today’s Millennial — Eyal Gutentag
The overall fluidity of today’s employment market is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. The average worker first embarking upon a career presently can expect to change jobs at least half a dozen times, often pivoting to multiple industries and numerous roles in the process. It’s clearly a telling indicator of the overall level of satisfaction in an office environment.
This level of transience is quite the contrast from prior generations; many of whom, like my own parents, emigrated to the United States in the hopes of a better life, discovered a niche skill they possessed, and then leveraged it.
For my father, it was a diamond and jewelry business he began in Queens, NY upon arriving here from Israel with my mother. It was good, old-fashioned grit and determination that allowed him to provide a comfortable upbringing for both me and my sister. Witnessing this level of work ethic and sacrifice made a huge impact on me that still resonates to this day.
But the “American Dream” that many of our parents and grandparents had chased has drastically changed. With the influx of well-funded startups, it’s now not nearly as common for someone to start in the mail-room then gradually work his or her way up the corporate ladder within the same company over the course of decades. Nor is it as easy to monetize a particular skill set and sustain it over time.
Simply enough, successfully scaling a business in our modern-day economy typically requires more than just hard work and hustle. It also necessitates an innate ability to effectively lead others around you. And presently, no demographic is infiltrating the workforce more rapidly than the Millennial Generation.
Millennials — usually defined as those born between 1980–1995 — have generally been perceived in a negative light by many. However, terms that they are often defined by, like “entitled,” or “restless,” as defining characteristics, I tend to see as positives.
As a proven growth and performance marketing leader who has run $100M+ budgets and 100+ person teams for such companies as ZipRecruiter and Uber, I’ve interacted with my fair share of Millennials (AKA: Generation Y). I’ve noticed they tend to gravitate toward environments that are high-risk, high-reward and encourage innovation. And where I’ve seen the most success from them was through cultivating a culture of empowerment through the lens of a growth marketing mindset.
Growth marketing is the epitome of innovation. It relies heavily on experimentation, A/B testing, ostensibly a “build the plane as its flying” approach. It requires a high tolerance of uncertainty and failure, along with a keen understanding of how to analyze and interpret to identify where to invest and where to pull back.
Although these activities tend to be in stark contrast to what motivated previous generational employees, it seems to fit perfectly for the average Millennial. For them, working a job simply to pay the bills — regardless of how good the pay and how stable the environment — pales in comparison to an atmosphere that provides purpose and empowerment.
Sitting all day isolated at a cubicle won’t cut it; teamwork and interaction are essential. Rigid office policies like being chained to a punch clock won’t suffice; instead, focus on flexibility, problem-solving and bottom-line results.
When I arrived at Uber, I immediately aimed to build an organizational structure that not only encouraged innovation but ensured there was an organic path for high achievers to grow rapidly. This proved a challenging task, as I was surrounded by smart, hard-working & ambitious colleagues. This entailed creating smaller teams and new leadership roles, thus allowing first time managers to take a swing at managing earlier in their careers, giving them an opportunity to grow while helping Uber scale rapidly. Ultimately many of these organizational chart strategies were adopted by operations teams totaling thousands of employees across the country and beyond.
When hiring, I tend to focus more on person over pedigree. I’m not necessarily looking as much at prior experience; what is more important to me are natural abilities that can easily translate over, such as interpersonal skills, analytical rigor, adaptability, and character. If they possess all of these, most anything else can be learned.
All of this, of course, requires a paradigm shift of sorts for the non-Millennial employer. But this is also a positive. Since most in that generation don’t require (and, frankly, despise) micromanaging, it actually frees up time for the manager to concentrate on more macro-level, big picture tasks. And as a result of focusing on progress over process, scalability often occurs at a much more rapid pace.
The reality is, Millennials are not nearly as enigmatic as many make them out to be. Like most of us, they crave respect, appreciate a work-life balance, and want to feel like they’re making a marked contribution for a worthy cause. By providing these critical features to them in their job, it should not only lead to an increase in productivity, but in job satisfaction, as well. And, typically, when someone is satisfied with where they are, they’ll tend to stick around.
Originally published at https://www.eyalgutentag.com on August 21, 2019.