It Doesn’t Take a High-Priced Consultant to Teach You How to Manage Millennials

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I’VE SAID THIS BEFORE, but it bears repeating: Good management — smart, savvy, people-focused management — is at a premium and getting harder and harder to find. And if you think I’m wrong about that, here’s the latest evidence to prove my point.

Two of the bibles of the business world — The Wall Street Journal and Fortune magazine magazine — recently had stories with this mind-boggling news: Large companies are so confused by Millennials that they’re willing to pay big money — up to $20,000 per hour — to so-called Millennial “consultants” to try to better manage them.

Yes, you read that right; the quality of management is so bad at so many companies — large, successful, well-known companies — that they are mindlessly paying “consultants” huge amounts of money to tell them how to manage their youngest employees.

As the great Dave Barry is fond of saying, I am not making this up.

Why pay high-priced consultants about managing Millennials?

Here’s how The Wall Street Journal puts it:

People born in the 1980s and 1990s now make up the largest single generational group in the workforce, and managing them has become a source of agita for big businesses such as Oracle Corp., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Coca-Cola Co.

Millennial issues also have become a source of income for a host of self-anointed experts who say they can interpret young workers’ whims and aspirations — sometimes for as much as $20,000 an hour. Oracle,  Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc. and  Time Warner Inc.’s HBO have retained Millennial advisers  to stem turnover, market to young people and ensure their happiness at work.”

OK, I get all of that. Millennials are different from other generations and good managers need to adjust how they manage when it comes to handling the Gen Y workforce. But, is that any different from what managers have had to do with other generations? Are Millennials so very different that managers at Oracle and Time Warner simply can’t cope with them?

If that’s the case, it would be better for those organizations to simply go out and get some better managers.

That’s because there is no one-size-fits-all approach that will work for Millennials than it will for any other employees in your workplace. One of the keys to smart management is dealing with employees as individuals, not as members of some larger group that they’re assigned to simply because of their birth date.

They’re different, but so is every other generation

Here’s what I said about this back in 2009:

In my personal experience with the Millennial generation — I hate the nonsensical and meaningless Generation Y tag that some use to describe them — I have found that there is no one way to characterize or manage them. The three Millennials that I am closely related to are as different as any three people you would find on a street corner. And the classroom of Millennials that I teach writing to each semester at a local university follows this same pattern…

The notion that the Millennial generation is so unique and different from generations before them is nonsense. They are different, yes, but so is every other generation, and it’s something that managers have dealt with long before pricey leadership coaches came along and decided we needed their services.

To me, this is just another way to bash the Millennial generation and prey on insecure (or clueless) managers and executives in order to squeeze a few dollars out of them.”

I hate to say this, but those words are even truer today than they were when I wrote them seven years ago. Fortune made this very point when they wrote that:

Source Global Research, which tracks the consulting market, estimates that U.S. organizations spent between $60 million to $70 million on generational consulting last year. More than 400 LinkedIn users globally list themselves as a “millennial expert” or “millennial consultant.”

Companies’ ideas about Millennials often are wrong, said Jessica Kriegel, who has a doctorate in education. Though she describes generational consulting as “a complete racket,” Oracle hired the 32-year-old in part to train managers and executives in communicating effectively with young workers.”

They’re not aliens from Mars

Yes, you know this is completely out of control when one of the very consultants selling high-priced Millennial management “consulting” refers to what she does as a “racket.” And, it makes me wonder about the state of American management.

We seem to live in a world where the clueless, out of touch manager doesn’t ever seem to get fired, and you can see this on most episodes of Undercover Boss. Instead, they get celebrated, paid like Midas, and bring in overpaid consultants to do what they should be doing — figuring out how to effectively manage the many generations and personalities on their staff.

I don’t understand why managers, particularly high level executives, would want to abdicate this critically important responsibility to a consultant with iffy credentials as an expert on generational differences.

The late great Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, certainly understood this, and he explained it pretty simply:

Executives spend more time on managing people and people decisions than anything else, and they should. No other decisions are so long-lasting in their consequences or so difficult to unmake.”

Millennials aren’t aliens from Mars. They are simply a newer, younger generation, and like every generation, they bring along their own strengths and weaknesses, their perspective and outlook, their foibles and sensibilities.

The key is treating employees — all employees — as individuals

Experienced managers don’t need overpriced consultants to tell them that they need to treat employees as individuals, regardless of their age, and that the trick in all of this is to understand — and respect — the differences each one brings and adjust your management style accordingly.

Learning what makes people tick, and what motivates them, is the key for any manager, and that’s the same no matter if you are talking about Millennials or anyone else.

So, remember this: You just got $20,000 worth of free advice on how to handle the newest and largest generation of workers. Use it accordingly, and feel free to send that consulting payment my way if you are so inclined.

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