A Gen Xers guide to working with millennials

Dark Horse Agency digital strategist Nic Jameson’s tips to managing millennials.

It was literally by accident that I ended up with a crew of clever millennials in my charge.

I think it’s both the stage my agency is in, and also the industry (digital and social media marketing) that has attracted them to the positions I had available. As such I’ve learnt a great deal about the employment pros and cons of a millennial workforce.

To help guide other Gen Xers through the millennial jungle, I’ve prepared some tips and tricks after 15 years of working with this extraordinary, yet sometimes boggling generation.

They hate a phone call

Almost every millennial I’ve worked with has needed strong encouragement to actually pick up the phone and make a call. They’d rather send three billion emails than make one phone call. They’re a generation that’s grown up with social media and ‘chat’ functionalities, the written word is their preferred comms method and phone calls freak them out. One of my team used to have to work up the courage for a phone call and make notes in preparation. Hold their hand on this one – the more they do it, the better they’ll get.

They love workplace flexibility and work-life ‘balance’

I have many thoughts on the concept of balance – and the fact that it’s total bullsh*t. But millennials love flexibility, it means they can enjoy their lives outside of work and their many social activities and relationships. If you want to tap into the millennial workforce, you need to look at how your organisation manages workplace flexibility. I’m talking hybrid working arrangements, flexible working times, time in lieu and workplace social opportunities.

Their emotional intelligence is set to high

During my working life, I’ve had managers yell at me, seen them tell people they’re useless and throw workplace tantrums. We Gen Xers are used to sucking it up and saying nothing. Millennials are more tapped into their emotional intelligence and don’t respond to or manage this type of interaction at all. If my frustration boils to the surface and I’m vocal in the office, I can literally feel the temperature of the room change. Managing millennials requires a more measured approach. They don’t do uncomfortable.

Don’t worry about asking what they need… they’ll tell you

This one’s self-explanatory. Millennials have an abundance of workplace assertiveness, they know their rights, they know what they need and they’re not afraid to let you know.

They’re social media and tech ninjas

For my industry, this is obviously built into the job descriptions. But it’s also incredibly handy, as having a digital presence for every business becomes a necessity, not just a nice-to-have. Make sure you recognise their additional skills appropriately and don’t try to create unicorn positions. And spend time learning from them, they love to teach you.

They love a shiny thing

So make sure you and your business are that shiny thing. Millennials won’t stick around for long service leave or a gold watch, and if you’re not careful, another shiny position will grab their attention. I think they’ve been unfairly tagged with a lack of loyalty… what it really means is you have to keep them feeling challenged and valued. Being ‘shiny’ means constantly checking in, keeping those feedback loops open and make sure your organisation walks its talk.

Learning and experiences are worth their weight in gold

Millennials are hungry for both experience and knowledge… they’ve literally grown up with a computer in their pocket and as such have an insatiable need for constant learning. I think this is an amazing asset, because it improves my workforce value too.

Be prepared to be more than the boss.. you may also be a mentor, mate, mediator and mum

This generation doesn’t see workplaces as just somewhere to churn out the work and head home. Their desire for richer experiences flows between their social and work lives and as such they want relationships that are less surface in the workplace too.

Mondays are hangover day…

Don’t plan anything important on Mondays. Sunday sessions are alive and well in millennials social diaries. Give them a day to catch up and get back on track, by Tuesday they’ll be firing on all cylinders again.

Nicole Jameson, digital strategist and director Dark Horse Agency


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.