If you're lucky enough to be able to hire in today's tough climate, you'll likely score some pretty impressive candidates. Should you decide to think about hiring someone straight out of college or graduate school, here are 10 things to keep in mind when managing millennials: Highly educated: More so than any other generation, they have racked up bachelor's and master's degrees. Don't hesitate to put them on difficult projects and tasks. Tap into their tech savvy. Look to harness their energy. Team players: Unlike some generations, those born between 1980 and 2001 are used to teamwork. Some prefer it to solo projects. To lure them, companies should offer social-networking tools like status updates, blogs and wikis for them to collaborate on projects and tasks, recommends Dave Hersh, CEO of social software company Jive. Multi-taskers: Gen Y'ers and younger are hard-wired to IM while surfing the Internet, listening to music on their iPods and working for you all at the same time. Don't panic: They are being productive even if Panic at the Disco is playing in the background. As long as all their multitasking doesn't adversely affect the task at hand, let them be, recommends Gregg Ward, author of Bad Behavior, People Problems & Sticky Situations (Winding Creek Press). But be sure to be clear about what you expect from them. "Without clear expectations, millennials will go off on creative tangents and leave your important work undone," he says. Be flexible: Don't regulate how their cubicle should be decorated unless it offends. If they're more productive in the afternoon, slot them for that later shift. Allow them to work from home one day a week if you can. "The less you pay them, the more flexible you need to be," says Ward, who is also a certified management consultant and co-founder of Orlando-Ward & Associates.
On the other hand, don't bend over backwards. If you have a dress code, you have a dress code. If lunch is limited to an hour, the rule should apply to all. "Millennials need to be more realistic about the workplace," says Ron Alsop, author of The Trophy Kids Grow Up (Jossey-Bass). Be cool: If you can't throw money at them, make it hip to work for your business. Those who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, says Ward, want to feel like they're part of a special club. Starbucks, he points out, gives people who make coffee the special title of "barista" to make them feel different and special. Text-speak: Given the proliferation of texting, millennials talk the way they text: short and sometimes flip. Older generations find that jarring and not very business-like, says Alsop. Gently urge them to be more professional in their communications. Validation is key: They need more recognition for their work and contributions than most others. You can thank, or blame, their parents, says Alsop, who is also a Wall Street Journal veteran. "They want to know almost on a daily basis how well they are performing. They like positive reinforcement but also want to know early on before they get their performance review what they can fix. This may pose a burden for bosses who may not have the time to give them the feedback they expect." It's personal: One of the striking things about this generation, says Jive's Hersh, is the melding of their personal and professional lives. Leaving work behind when heading for home used to be a dream to strive for, but that is not the case with millennials. As a result, he finds himself on Facebook and connecting with his younger employees.
On the flip side, if you're a bad employer, their 2,000 friends will hear about it. All in the family: Alsop has even heard of situations where their parents take an active part in their children's career. "People have told me that they've seen parents ask for job applications, sit in on interviews, get involved in their work life after they're hired. Some parents even look at their work before they hand it in. It's totally unsettling." He recommends accommodating these families to a certain degree. For example, send both the hire and her parents the benefits package. But do be careful to set boundaries. In it for them: Don't be surprised or hurt if they decide to leave after getting as much out of their job and the company as they can. Expect about a year or two of work from them before they're hunting for another gig, says Ward. He believes it's because "they all think they can be CEOs at age 25." As a result, he adds, "give them projects that will challenge them, help them grow, and when it looks like they can't grow anymore, encourage them to grow even if it means somewhere else."