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Leadership calendar    Jun 27, 2016

Sausage Making: Managing & Motivating Millennials

Recap from the 2016 CEO Summit Sausage Making session on Managing and Motivating Millennials

Millennials have been the topic of conversation at a number of the recent Edison events, and it’s no secret that they do have a bad rap. One of this year’s Sausage Making sessions at our annual CEO Summit was around how to best manage those damn millennials within your workforce!
Before delving into solutions about how to most effectively manage them, we needed to take a step back and identify what is it that’s different about them? A number of different points were made, but the most commonly held view was that millennials simply value things differently than everyone else when it comes to the work environment.

Many articles have been written about this topic. Millennials are typically described as entitled, spoiled, needy, lazy, and even narcissistic. But we have also had discussions about how they are hard-working, hungry, well educated, and have a tendency to have more trust toward authority figures. For them, compensation is just one part of the equation, and more often than not, it’s not even the most significant part.


The following list of values came out of our discussion:

“Culture” which they often view as synonymous to “perks.”

They expect the stereotypical Google environment.  They view everything from ‘thirsty Thursdays’ to flexible vacation and work-from-home policies as the norm.

They care about the people they are going to be working with.

As one of our CEOs stated, millennials work for people not companies; their satisfaction directly correlates to the health of the relationship they have with their peers and immediate supervisor(s).

They care about the mission.

They care about a company’s mission and their part in the whole grand scheme of things. They want to have an evident impact both internally and externally.


They want a role that empowers them with the right blend of flexibility and responsibility.

This mentality is quite different than what many of our CEOs were used to. And to their credit, they admitted that it has presented challenges on a number of fronts. Such expectations have significant personal and organizational implications, so to foster such an environment is easier said than done.


So, as a CEO, what can you do to best manage them and position them and the rest of the company for success?

While there is no perfect playbook or formula to deal with these sorts of expectations across your workforce, our CEOs did discuss three common challenges:


This was one of the two most-cited issues. Millennials have presented our CEOs with a consistent flight-risk, which makes scaling an organization difficult as it causes hiccups in initiatives and morale.

As mentioned before, millennials often work for people versus the company itself, so the number one thing a CEO has to do to measure flight risk across their millennial employee base is monitor the interpersonal dynamics. To effectively do this, the line of communication from top to bottom has to be as open as possible.

Resistance to sign NDAs.

Surprisingly, this was another commonly cited issue. Although, after hearing the turnover issue over and over again, it makes sense. Millennials have displayed a lack of willingness to sign non-disclosures and non-competes, as they want to keep their options open. The best tactic we heard to combat this was tying the non-compete and non-disclosure to the employee’s option agreement versus their employment agreement.


As one of our CEOs put it, millennials start one week and expect to run the place the next. With that being said, many of our CEOs preached about how millennials might be the most valuable members of their teams due to their creativity and ingenuity.

As a result, effectively managing HPLEs (high potential, low experience) poses quite a challenge, as you need to strike the right balance between caving into and curbing their expectations. To do so, CEOs must ensure there is a transparent and consistent feedback loop between the employee, their supervisor, and the next level of the company’s hierarchy. A path to grow within the organization must be clearly stated to them and it is best to chart out iterative steps up in the organization on a consistent basis versus bigger promotions with longer periods in-between.

As mentioned, there is no magic playbook, but across our portfolio as a whole, we have a number of CEOs that have been through the movie before and have seen what works and what doesn’t around managing and motivating millennials in the workforce. What tactics and strategies have worked for you?