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Millennial Management 101

3 min read


Generation Y is here, and it’s integral to business’ continuing success, Jennifer Kushell, president of Young & Successful Media and founder of, told business owners attending America’s Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C.

Also known as Gen Y, the millennial generation and the millennials, this group is between 12 and 31 years old and represents the youngest segment of the workforce. Many of its members are business owners. And — as the business owners in the room for Kushell’s session on “The Next Generation: Changing Business as We Know It” demonstrated through questions and comments — its members are often a source of frustration for employers and older colleagues in the workplace.

“The young generation may drive you crazy, but understanding them will help you be less frustrated,” said Kushell, who outlined some of the challenging traits that many members of Gen Y tend to demonstrate.

  • Many are struggling to figure out what to do with their lives and with the potential they know they have.
  • They haven’t been taught how to operate in the world of work, and it takes them time and guidance to learn.
  • Assuming individual ownership and individual responsibility in projects can be hard because they have been educated to work in teams and operate as a group.
  • They haven’t learned that it’s not what they do to follow the pack that makes them succeed, it’s what they do to stand out and to go above and beyond.
  • Instead of moving straight from college to career, they make this transition over the course of a decade or so; a period that has been dubbed “emerging adulthood.”
  • In their mid-20s, they often experience an identity crisis, called a “quarter-life crisis,” because life isn’t turning out the way they had hoped.

While they might present challenges, millennial workers also bring a lot of advantages and benefits to the workplace that can help make a business more successful, Kushell said.

  • Young workers are constantly connected to technology, and it’s part of their culture because they’ve grown up with it. Businesses can leverage this technology prowess and save time and money.
  • They are great people to hire to start and manage a social media presence, something many business owners are too scared or busy to do themselves.
  • They’re not only members of the workforce, but also members of your customer base. Some are buying from you now, and others are influencing their parents’ purchasing decisions.
  • They can help businesses innovate and remain relevant.
  • They want to do well on the job.

The key to conquering millennials’ shortcomings and capitalizing on their strengths is talking to them as individuals and getting to know each one who works with you, Kushell said. Other strategies:

  • Focus on development because young people need a lot of coaching and mentoring in the early stages of their careers.
  • Give them interesting work and show they’re a valued member of the team so they don’t get distracted by boredom.
  • Demonstrate integrity because Gen Y values integrity and wants to work for companies and organizations that show it.
  • Focus on what they accomplish not how they get the job done because young workers don’t want to be micromanaged.
  • Demonstrate a clear career path because young workers want examples and explanations of how you move up in business. This is something they haven’t been taught in school.
  • Offer opportunities for growth because millennials want to keep learning, developing and being interested in their work.