In our global conversations about generational disparities in the workforce, no group has received as much attention as millennials. Generally defined as the bracket between 1981-1996, millennials span between the ages of 23-38. As is the case with change in the workplace, millennials have been met with a mixture of curiosity, trepidation and confusion.

Chip Espinoza, recently named one of the top 15 global thought leaders on the future of work by the Economic Times, has devoted years to researching and writing on the relationship between managers and the young professionals they manage. Espinoza compiled his research on effective and ineffective methods of managing millennials into the first of three books, Managing the Millennials: Discovering the Core Competencies for Managing Today’s Workforce.


Effective Management

It’s just good management,” Espinoza explained. “The concepts work with all generations, it just becomes exponentially more important for younger generations transitioning into the workplace.”

The 9 Core Competencies for managing millennials that Espinoza uncovered all share a common thread. “Millennials have a different perspective on what they want out of work and how they want to work. There are two things you must have to keep a young professional: a career advancement plan and a good quality relationship with their manager.

With that in mind, Espinoza laid out the core competencies he found consistent among effective managers of young professionals.


9 Core Competencies:

  1. Show the Big Picture: “Young professionals don’t have the experience to think systemically. They value simplicity but might not understand how changes impact other people in the organization.”
  2. Make It Matter to Them: “The last place they’ll go with a question is to an authority figure. They’ll exhaust themselves looking for answers on their own, and that lack of communication can be perceived as disinterest in their work. Overcome that appearance of indifference by helping them see their values in their work.”
  3. Include the Details: “Millennials value multitasking. It can sometimes come off as a lack of focus to management. I stress to managers they can include details and set mutual expectations. Millennials don’t mind detail – they feel like you are setting them up for success.”
  4. Build A Relationship: “Another perceived weakness of a young professional is that they are self-absorbed. But work might be the first time they have encountered an authority figure they perceive as not only not for them, but as antagonistic. People don’t leave companies, they leave managers.”
  5. Be Positive When Correcting: “Managers get exhausted because they see young professionals as being defensive when they give feedback. The worst thing you can do as a manager is stop giving feedback, but most managers only find time to give feedback when something has gone wrong. Young professionals have to believe you care about them and you are giving them this feedback to help them succeed.”
  6. Don’t Take Things Personally: “A perceived weakness of young professionals is that they are abrasive. Sometimes when a CEO asks a question, they don’t want an answer, they just need to ask it. Young professionals take people at their face value, and they’ll jump to answer.”
  7. Put Their Imagination to Work: “Young professionals can have a lot of ideas, but It might take them outside of their assignments or roles. If you have someone struggling with that, they might not be finding meaning in their work or might not have ways to self-express. Work with them to find that within their job description.”
  8. Create the Right Rewards: “Every generation values rewards. Look at what they value rather than assuming one size fits all. I worked with a CEO who offered to take his team to a dinner as a reward. I asked him, ‘do you think it’s a reward to go to dinner with you?’ The reality is that it’s just another night at work for them. Ask them what they value.”
  9. Be Flexible: “Young professionals want autonomy. They don’t mind accessing their work life during their personal time, but they want to access their personal life during their work time. They want work-life blending rather than work-life balance. Determine what productivity looks like in action and start the discussion there.”


Why Try?

“But why are we having this discussion about generations?” Espinoza asks, “It’s just demographics. The danger is that a lot of people in management look at millennials and think that, ‘they will eventually start thinking like us, so we don’t have to change.’ Managers waste years of engagement thinking like that.”

The core of Espinoza’s work is simple, “The people with the most responsibility should be the first to adapt.

“If you really focus in, if you understand their value system and the points of tension, the odds are that you will be able to retain them, train them and move then through the company.”

Chip Espinoza

Chip Espinoza

Author, Speaker, Consultant

Recognized globally as a leading authority on the subject of generational diversity in the workplace, Chip Espinoza was recently named a top 15 global thought leader on the future of work by the Economic Times. Chip co-authored Managing the Millennials: Discover the Core Competencies for Managing Today’s Workforce, Millennials@Work: The 7 Skills Every Twenty-Something Needs To Achieve Greatness At Work, and Millennials Who Manage: How To Overcome Workplace Perceptions and Become A Great Leader.