Managing Millennials: 3 Keys to Engagement – and 3 Common Mistakes

Photo by Dreamstime

A colleague of mine who routinely speaks to college students accepts an offer to present a webinar to a company who employs a lot of young talent. Even though he understands college kids, this particular request is a bit out of his wheelhouse, but he decides to stretch himself and cover the topic to the best of his ability.

He sends me an email and asks if I will help him prepare by providing quick and simple answers to two questions:

  • What are 3 ways managers can engage Millennial/Gen Y workers?” and ,
  • What are three common mistakes companies/managers make with young talent?”

He’s a good friend, a great speaker, and I want to help him. I reflect back to the hundreds of times I’ve been asked for similar solutions by clients, associates, colleagues, and most often, by reporters. Resisting the temptation to be glib, or to go off on my familiar ‘there are no silver bullets’ rant, I decide to play along.

Here’s what I sent back:

Article Continues Below

3 keys to engaging Millennials

  1. Get to know them as individuals. (Learn what makes them tick away from the workplace.)
  2. Keep your rule book light and tight. Present a one page list of non-negotiables, not an encyclopedia of do’s and don’ts.
  3. Explain the ‘why’ behind the ‘what.’ Don’t simply tell them what to do without taking time to explain the rationale behind it.

3 mistakes companies/managers make with Gen Y

  1. Submerging them in a two or three day training program and assuming “they’re all trained-up and ready to cut loose.”
  2. Trying to manage young workers the way they, themselves, were managed when they were the same age. (“Hey, if that tactic worked on me, it will work on them.”)
  3. Thinking an annual performance revue — or even a 90 day revue — is sufficient feedback.

So…how did I do?

This was originally published on Eric Chester’s Reviving Work Ethic blog. His new book is Reviving Work Ethic: A Leader’s Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce. For copies, visit

Eric Chester is a leading voice in the global dialogue on employee engagement, and building a world-class workplace culture. He's an in-the-trenches researcher on the topic of the millennial mindset, and the dynamics of attracting, managing, motivating and retaining top talent. Chester is a Hall-of-Fame keynote speaker and the author of 4 leadership books including his newly released Amazon #1 Bestseller On Fire at Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in their People without Burning Them Out.  Learn more at and follow him at @eric_chester


1 Comment on “Managing Millennials: 3 Keys to Engagement – and 3 Common Mistakes

  1. Why do we keep thinking generational differences. Tell me what person would not like to be managed the way Eric suggested. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *