In today’s shifting workplace, the million dollar question seems to be: how do you effectively lead and manage millennial workers?
Typically defined as those between the ages of 19 and 36, millennials currently account for 30% of the American workforce. And as more and more baby boomers retire, the millennial influence on work in America will continue to swell.
But this is natural, after all. As one generation phases out, another takes its place. So, what is all the fuss about?
The onslaught of news, videos and opinions out there would have you think that millennials are nothing but lazy, entitled, brats content to hide behind their screens and never interact with a human face to face. As with most generalizations, this may apply to some bad actors within the group, but is largely untrue and unhelpful to those looking for concrete ways to rally their teams.
For those leaders in the CRE community, looking for strategies for managing millennial brokers effectively, how does one sift through the BS and siphon out some truth?
The truth about millennialsThe key, according to Dylan Simon, Senior Vice President of Investment sales in the Seattle branch of Colliers International, isn’t to focus on leading millennials, but to focus on better leadership overall.
Dylan leads a team of six CRE professionals — some brokers, some administrative and professional staff — all under the age of 30. He believes his background in tech and working with startups led him to the view that in general, millennials aren’t lazy. Rather, they tend to put values ahead of economic drivers, which can be confusing to older generations.
Another key differentiator between millennials and previous generations, according to Dylan, is that they tend to focus on the “why” of what they’re doing. Rather than blindly taking direction from superiors, you may hear millennials asking for more context and pushing you to link their work to the big picture.
The reason for this, is that unlike the Gen-X’ers, millennials don’t want to settle for the status quo. They want to use the efficiency tools available to them to seek out better, faster ways of doings things. Dylan feels that millennials have created an economy of efficiency over hard work for the sake of hard work approach.
Focus on the individuals, not the stereotypesWhile it’s important to be aware of these differentiators, Dylan feels that generalizations only get you so far when it comes to leading millennials.
“The most important thing is to know the personality type of everyone on your team and what inspires them to do great work. Whether you’re a millennial or not you still fit into a unique category.”
According to Dylan, there’s no “toolkit” for managing millennials. Like all generations, there will be bad actors but in the end, everyone — gen-x’ers, millennials, baby boomers — just wants to be successful.
Dylan likes to take an individual approach to leading his team to success.
In one example, Dylan recounts working with a young broker who was driven to move up the ranks quickly. Rather than put the employee in his place, Dylan chose to empower him.
“It’s a matter of letting them know the broad goals of the team and giving them the tools to get there, but letting them figure it out on their own. I like to say, ‘here’s what we want to do, how would you go about getting there?’” said Dylan.
The most dangerous phrase in the industry is “that’s not how things are normally done.” Dylan says that with that attitude, you risk deflating your team’s enthusiasm and sense of pride in their work, not to mention stagnating innovation in the industry as a whole.
CRE leaders need to get on boardWhile Dylan has clearly put a lot of thought and energy into his innovative approach to managing millennial brokers, not everyone in the industry is following suit. While the topic of effectively managing the millennial workforce is certainly up for discussion among senior leadership in most brokerage firms, there tends to be a disconnect between this discussion and the brokers they eventually hire.
The reason, Dylan postulates, is that leaders often hire brokers that look and act just like they did. In turn, these young brokers assume that following in the footsteps of their superiors will lead them to the same success.
In an evolving business landscape, this simply isn’t the case.
The bar for CRE brokers is higher than ever. “You can’t just say ‘I’m not a numbers guy’ and get away with that anymore. You have to be able to add value to your clients on all levels,” said Dylan.
As we shift toward a value-driven sales cycle, relationships will continue to matter, but providing value in the form of thought leadership, data and technology matters just as much.
Millennials are well equipped to rise to this new bar, but it’s up to the leaders of today to empower them to get there.