When we think of the term "millennials," we think about young kids graduating college and starting their lives. But the truth is, the oldest members of the millennial generation are in their mid-30s. They aren't just starting out. Many have been out of college for a decade or more already. They're leading teams, running divisions, sitting at boardroom tables, and in some cases, even running their own companies.
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"We promote when an employee is ready, regardless of age," says Kendall Wayland, vice president of operations at Uproar PR, a public relations and communications agency that employs millennial managers. "While we have managers of all ages, typically they are from the middle-to-older part of Generation Y. We look at a lot of different elements when we are getting ready to promote someone. Are they doing all necessary tasks well according to their job description? Are they taking initiative? Are they seen as a leader within the agency? Age is not a factor that plays a key role. When you are ready, you are ready."
One major drawback of hiring a younger manager might be their lack of experience, but even this can be offset by the right corporate culture.
"While you can be energetic and fully capable of day-to-day activities according to the job description, there are just some situations that young managers haven't faced yet in their careers," says Wayland. "What we like to drive home at Uproar is that you work on a team, and even managers need to know when to pull in help if they are in over their heads. We do not feel asking for help is a sign of weakness, but instead a sign of strength."
With that in mind, Wayland lays out three strengths that younger managers can bring to the table:
1. A Fondness for Change
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"Younger managers might not have as much experience to draw on, but they are willing to take change head on. Overall we see millennials are more optimistic about change, where older generations tend to be cautious and would rather maintain status quo," says Wayland.
"We have found that overall, younger managers bring a higher level of enthusiasm to the job, which has a wonderful trickle-down effect on the rest of the team," Wayland says.
3. Openness to Feedback
"Gone are the days when feedback is given only at a yearly review," Wayland says. "Young leaders seek out feedback more often and look for ways to successfully implement it into their everyday tasks."
Creating a New Corporate Culture
Other companies wishing to explore the idea of promoting younger team members to management positions can take a cue from organizations like Uproar and start by fostering an environment that promotes a team mentality.
"Although there are managers 'in charge,' it's more about working together and less about hierarchy," says Wayland. "We see that collaboration is key to the success of the team, and ideas are appreciated and valued at any stage of a career regardless of age and title."
Additionally, at Uproar and many other companies, the relationship between management and employees is less distant than it used to be.
"In the past, it was one person in charge and the success of the team was all on their shoulders," Wayland says. "Now it is more about how we can complete this goal together, rather than commanding how something should be done from a person at the top."
As older managers begin to retire, businesses would be wise to leave age out of the equation when considering employees to replace them.
Wayland offers these parting words of warning for other companies: "Millennials, more so than any previous generations, are willing to leave a job if they do not feel appreciated or that their talents are being put to good use. In order for employers to be successful in retaining talent, they need to be open to change and willing to put in the time to make their culture a priority."
Workforce demographics are changing, and companies that want to succeed will need to change with them. Maybe a millennial manager won't be the best fit for every management slot, but counting out candidates based on their age could cost you what would have been a valuable manager – and may provide one to your competitor.