Managing Millennials in 2013

22 / Feb / 2013

By Jordan Linford


Anyone who runs a call center is probably managing several millennials falling in the 18 to 25-year-old range. At Focus Services, over 70% of our call floors are dominated with millennials. Call floors already face the challenge of a high turnover ratios, but as the millennials have joined the workforce over the past few years, this ratio has sky rocketed.

In the book Titled “Keeping the millennials: Why Companies are losing billions in turnover to this generation and what to do about it” by Sujanski and Ferri-Reed (known experts in human relations) note that the inability for management to understand how to properly manage this generation has been an expensive mistake. I would like to share a little bit about how we have successfully managed our millennials.

1. Up and Down Management vs. Cross Management

2. Stimulation and Motivation

3. Value vs. Seniority

We have seen the age-old war of generation versus generation since kids bought Beatles albums and freaked their parents out with crazy Rock ‘n’ Roll. The generation gaps have varied in size and scope, but this gap is never been wider than it is between the Baby Boomers and the Millennial. Gen X had their moments with the dawn of the cell phone and grunge rock, but it still wasn’t that far off from where there parents had come from hair metal of the late 70’s and the internet boom of the 90’s. Millennials came and smashed the chasm wide open. These kids are smart, they are tech savvy, they are on the cutting edge and they interact with other people in completely new and different way. We can spend all the time we want trying to mold them to our way of thinking, but we might have more success trying to lick our elbow.

Up and Down Management vs. Cross Management
Up and down management is what us old folks are used to. The manager hands down orders, there is a communication line, we follow it. It has worked just fine and there is no right or wrong here. It is simply a human relation thing. We move up and down this line.
Millennials are not used to this type of information sharing. They are used to a more of a cross management style where everyone’s contributions matter. This isn’t to say everyone should get a reward for playing, but instead it is merely a manifestation of the wiki phenomenon of the information age of which they are all products of. They know how to get info just the same as you do, and sometimes better. Yes, experience matters, but we are talking to generation that lives in flat world and they know a lot and they want to share it.
Managers would be wise to keep an open line of communication with their Millennial employees, these kids are smart. Ask for feedback and make sure you give it, they need to hear it, they want it.  They want to know that if something didn’t work, why didn’t work. The old 1950’s boss style does not fly with these kids. Think Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. These are the business leaders they know and admire.

Stimulation and Motivation
There was a time where a television playing ESPN on call room floor was crazy, where putting a video game system and couch in the break was considered a major distraction. While I am not saying you have to do this, it is the mentality behind it that I want you to understand. This group of Millennials like to be motived and stimulated. These are the kids that play x-box, text, and listen to music at the same time. They have learned how to multi-task, it is a part of who they are. Create an environment where they can be motived with goals and objectives that are tied to rewards. Give them a place that they like to be. Stop worrying about slacking off, that is what coaches and team leaders on the floor are for. Create the environment they will like, give them incentive to stay (other than pay) and you will create a valuable employee.

We order our employees lunch on a regular basis, we have fun contests daily, we have relaxing break room where they can unwind and hang out. These are just a few of the things we have implemented, many at the request of our younger employees. We love our employees and we have some of the best agents in the world and we want to treat them like it. Our turn over rate is among the lowest in years and in the industry.

Value versus seniority
This sounds like a threat to the old folks like myself as I have placed them at odds against each other; however, they can be harmonious if the structure is in place; but the bottom line is you can’t ignore talent. We see millionaires being made younger and younger. They want to be recognized based on their ability and talents, not seniority. If they don’t feel rewarded according to their abilities and talents, you bet they will go somewhere where they can get it. Show them you value ingenuity and ability over seniority.

I hope these tips help. We have implemented these strategies with great success. We have among the highest retention rates among the Millennials in this industry. If you have any other questions about Focus Services or our Call Floor Metric Software, ClearVIew. Just click on the hyper links.