What Do CIOs Need To Know About Managing Millennials?

CIOs need to know a few basic things in order to lead millennials
CIOs need to know a few basic things in order to lead millennials
Image Credit: ITU Pictures

I’m hoping that we can all agree that the nature of our IT department’s workforce has been changing over the past few years. It sure seems like as the importance of information technology grows, the department keeps getting younger and younger and younger. What has been happening is that we have been employing more and more members of the so-called millennial generation. These employees who were born between 1982 and 2000 now hold the success of your IT department in their hands. Do you know how to manage them?

CIOs Need To Create Real Connections With Millennials

One of the key things that CIOs need to realize is that some companies can create workplaces that have far higher engagement rates than others. When you are managing millennials, you need to realize that this is especially true since they’re already hyper-connected. It does lead to the natural question of how can you foster stronger relationships with your younger workers?

The answer to this question is that you have to focus on face time. Give constant feedback. Hold regular meetings. Interact as often as you can and create opportunities for employees to interact at work on projects, cross-departmental teams, and at other times. Make sure that you ask for their input. And make sure that occasionally you make the input focus on you — what you could do better, how you could improve and how you could be a better leader — for that given employee.

When you are managing millennials you are going to want to go the extra mile and create connections outside of work. Many millennials see the workplace not just as a place to work but as a platform for social activities. Friendships and connections that extend outside the workplace create greater engagement and teamwork within the workplace making your managing job that much easier.

CIOs Need To Provide A Path For Growth

You can’t treat the millennials in your IT department simply as a group of people who are not unique. Your millennials expect you to create a “tailored” experience meaning they want to feel their career path has been created specifically for them. You may not be able to offer every employee a customized career path, but that’s okay. What you need to do for each of them is to listen to each employee. Give them individual attention. Find ways to help them grow in an area they’re interested in.

Why go to this effort? If millennials feel they are not making progress in their personal development, they’ll become disconnected and seek other opportunities and this is going to cause a lot of problems for you. Whenever possible, get employees involved in projects that are not only mission-critical but also create opportunities for learning and development. Do that, and you may find that retaining best employees — and attracting great employees — is easier than it has ever been before.

CIOs Need To Create A Real Sense Of Purpose.

CIOs want to create an IT department that causes their millennial workers want to come to work. Studies show that millennials are happiest and most engaged at work when they feel they’re making a difference. This means that you need to focus on both efficiency and effectiveness as well as making work more meaningful.

The best way to do that is to let employees play to their strengths. Millennials, more than any other generation, ask, “Does this organization value my strengths and contributions?” Determine what each person does best and figure out ways they can do more of it. Provide them with this kind of feedback and you will have workers who feel that their jobs really mean something.

CIOs Need To See Themselves As A Coach.

CIOs need to realize that millennials work best in groups, not in a hierarchy. They want to be mentored rather than directly supervised. An easy way to be a coach is to focus on empowerment of your workers. Explain a goal, give some basic structure and then give the employee the freedom to come up with solutions. Your workers care more when they feel responsible — and when they feel they have the authority that comes with that responsibility.

Remember: millennial employees aren’t one size fits all, and accepting sweeping generalizations is dangerous because it allows us to think we’re doing the right things when we’re not. Instead, forget the fact that one employee is a millennial and that another isn’t. Generational differences, while interesting, are only a small slice of what makes each individual team member different. To lead, you must first take the time to truly know the person and then adapt how you lead to the interests, needs, and goals of that individual. If you can do this, then your IT department will benefit from it.

What All Of This Means For You

The IT department that you are responsible for as the person in the CIO position has become younger as more and more millennials have started to fill it. What this means for you is that you are going to have to adjust your management style to better meet the needs of this generation of workers. You need to have a good understanding of what they are looking for if you want to have any chance of keeping them in your department. Your millennials want to you to create a “tailored” experience meaning they want to feel their career path has been created specifically for them. The person with the CIO job is responsible for creating an IT department that people want to come to work at. Millennials like their jobs best when they feel they’re making a difference. The CIO is going to have to act like a coach because millennials want to be mentored rather than directly supervised.

The millennials in your IT department represent the future of your department and your company. That means that as CIO you are responsible for making sure that they feel like they are making a contribution to the success of the company and that their contribution is valued. CIOs need to discover the correct way to manage this generation of IT workers. If we can get it right, then our IT department will be where the millennials will want to come to work and stay.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: When you are managing your millennials, what do you need to do with your other workers?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Most CIOs feel comfortable when they are dealing with the things that they know the best which show off the importance of information technology: servers, networks, software, firewalls, etc. However, in order to be a successful CIO we also have to be good at dealing with something else: people. In order to successfully manage the people who work in the IT department we first need to make sure that we understand how they think. If we can master this, then we’ll have smoother communication and stronger understanding of what motivates them. All of this will be good for our IT department.