Blog list ...

How to manage millennials - communication

When managers look at their younger subordinates, they should be thinking “how can I get the best from these people?”

Unsurprisingly, as with all staff, effective communication will play a key role. Research by Neuro-Insight discovered that both genders in the millennial age group found a female digitised voice more compelling that its male equivalent. Estate Agents Hamptons has recently reported a record number of Londoners selling up & heading north. So it seems that the key to effective communication is to have a digitised female voice assistant talking to millennials with a northern accent!

Failing that we need to identify the triggers which resonate with millennials and then use them effectively. Known affectionately as the “anxious generation” (Vogue 2018), this generation more than previous generations look for affirmation of their actions.

When communicating with any individual the starting point should be “what do we want this person to think, feel, do and/or know as result of this communication?” To achieve this, effective communication is about the right communication channel at the right time in the right way with the right message. 

With the “anxious generation” it will include communication using technology. This is their medium with which they have grown up. It is a preferred way through which they send and receive information. The use of texts and emails in business if used responsibly gives the opportunity to communicate immediately with individuals and groups through “their medium” and is key to integrating millennials. However on too many occasions they are used as a medium to hide behind.

Millennial’s are less forgiving of their superiors when they are poorly managed. Poor communication skills and poor management skills are related to each other. Condescending communication (which includes using the wrong medium to hide behind) is a guaranteed way to alienate any group of employees including millennials.

Effective communication with millennials requires planning, brevity, clarity and empathy.
  • Planning includes the medium which will be used, the timing and the location.
  • Brevity means delivering the message as succinctly as possible avoiding unnecessary elaboration and explanation.
  • Clarity means the use of clear, simple, precise language which is unambiguous and easily understood so that there is no doubt about what has been communicated.. 
  • Empathy is about communicating the message taking into account the individual’s needs. This includes understanding their values and beliefs plus using words which resonate with those values and beliefs.

managing millennials

Good managers know how to communicate with different personality types, so communicating with millennials should not be an issue?

Communication, especially with millennials, is key to building strong working relationships. Communicating effectively with millennial’s requires tuning in to their values and beliefs. As the “anxious generation” there is a greater need to communicate more effectively more often.

Providing constant and structured feedback is an invaluable tool in any managers armoury, particularly so when communicating with millennial’s. Feedback should be balanced and should describe the problem or success specifically. Successes should be highlighted and celebrated. Problems should involve the employee in developing and agreeing the solution and follow-up expectations.

A face to face feedback model which works well with all employees and with millennial’s is FEED. It ticks all their boxes in terms of brevity, clarity, empathy and involvement.

F – (frame) - the subject and the timing, e.g.: "Sam, I just need to take 5 minutes of your time to chat about the end of month report.” 

E – (evidence) – specifically what the manager has to say based on objective facts rather than subjective opinion, e.g.: “I have noticed you have missed the agreed deadline for the second month in a row, which I know is not normally like you.”

E – (evaluation) - the managers evaluation of the evidence and how this will impact positively or negatively, e.g.: “Late submission means that you miss out on the opportunity for your work to be highlighted to the main board.”

D – (discussion) - discussion on the above to agree the way forward, e.g.: “What can we do together to help you meet the deadline in future?” 


managing millennials

Author Malcolm Hewitt has worked within organisational development for over 20 years, and was appointed as an Industrial Fellow at the University of Surrey.

Malcolm has acted as a strategic partner and consultant for a wide range of well-known organisations in the Service, Leisure, Manufacturing and Construction sectors helping to plan training, resourcing and succession.


Communicating effectively  is what great managers have been doing for generations. Stereotyping all those in a particular generational group is a dangerous game to play. Playing dangerously, it was not long ago the “Hippy Baby Boomers” were the future and 10.5 million of them are still in our workforce. They were integrated into the workforce by the previous generation who had suffered through the war years and who were no doubt phased at times by the political views & carefree lifestyles of this younger group.

Perhaps having to adapt & change to integrate the next generation into the workforce is the price we pay for causing the previous generation a little apprehension. If we start with communication, we make a great start.


Millennials will be our future managers and directors. To help your thought process on this challenging topics, feel free to download our free eBook on the topic of Succession Planning.

 View your free Succession Planning video & e-book