Managing Millennial Developers

Paul Graham flanked by Y Combinator entrepreneurs. (Photo: Robyn Twomey)

It has been said many times that talented developers in today’s landscape have more options than they know what to do with. Many CIO’s say they are entitled and they delusions of being the next Zuckerburg. I’ve heard the comment “developers don’t know that being a developer is a good living” he meant that developers just want to be the next billionaire startup; they take for granted the good jobs available to them.

Understanding this problem is twofold; understanding millennials and how to make their differences work for you, and also putting millennial developers in context of the current startup landscape where the talented developer holds all the cards. As you build a talent pipeline, millennials will play a role, effectively managing them will be the challenge.

So what do you need to know?

1)     They work differently – Millennials are night owls. They may have a problem clocking in on time each morning but they will likely be the one shutting off the lights or sending out that late night email. They need to get in their work groove and the classic cubical environment is disruptive to this groove, that’s why they crave telecommuting. They are results driven, give them a task and freedom to complete it and they will amaze you with a creative solution. Look at the way startups manage this; their workspaces are open, they are not stringent with clock in times, and they create an environment where the creative juices can flow.

2)     They need to know the why – What may seem like laziness because they don’t seem fully engaged needs to be addressed with a dose of purpose. Most of them will look for jobs at companies with a social agenda or at least one that gives back to the community in some unique way. Finding what excites them and leveraging it is critical because once they are on board they will be a loyal workhorse for you. The mantra at most startups is one of “changing the world”, not selling more widgets. The mindset of the startup is one of purpose and vision, despite what the real revenue machine is. They know that people that identify with the vision are devoted.

3)     They need feedback – Millennials need to be reassured in their work, its what gives them energy. While it’s true that most millennials are driven by purpose and vision, much of their steam comes from the feedback they receive from a colleague or manger. They need to know they are on the right track. Many of their ideas are out of the box but guiding their creativeness in a way that does not stifle it can be difficult for older management. It does not all have to be positive either, constructive criticism is equally as important. The goal is being effective in their work, it is the same reason they feel the 9-5 workday is broken and why they are results driven. It’s about progress and not hours at the office.

Rarely is significant attention given to the generational differences of the talent pool, the focus tends to be on the ever-changing technology. However just as technology is in a constant state of flux, so is your work-force. Staying on top of the differences will guarantee you are getting the most from your employees.

For more reading check out the recent blog post by Forbes about the myths of millennials, do you agree with any of them?


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