PhotoThe post-Baby Boomer shift is currently underway, and it’s bringing with it some interesting changes to workplace environments.

As the youth bubble continues its rapid expansion, the workplace is set to be comprised of less than 20% boomers and more than 20% second-wave millennials by the year 2020.

What does this mean for managers and leaders? Bruce Tulgan, founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, Inc., says this shift in numbers will cause a change in the very nature of the employee-employer relationship.

He describes this “Great Generational Shift” as a long-anticipated turning point with a whole new set of challenges for employers.

Strong leadership

Tulgan says that along with the influx of young employees comes a new set of behaviors and employee expectations. The generation -- described as having been raised by “helicopter parents on steroids” -- is a notably high-maintenance one, with its own ideas of what makes a good leader.

“Millennials are the most likely to question or challenge employers’ rules, managers’ instructions, employment conditions, and established rewards structures,” says Tulgan, who says that weak leadership can lead to diminished employee productivity.

For a manager to be most effective amid the demographic shift, Tulgan says they’ll need to be strong and highly-engaged. This will entail working hard to provide each worker with regular guidance, support, and coaching. The more structure the better.

“Strong,” he says, “means doing more for some workers and less for others, based on their performance.” Rewarding discretionary effort is especially important in the post-Boomer workforce.

High-maintenance employees

In addition to being more likely to question employee policies, Millennials are also more likely than previous generations to make specific requests regarding work conditions, said Tulgan in a white paper. 

According to Tulgan, managers will need to be ready to field questions and demands pertaining to the assignment of tasks, problem solving, scheduling, work location, dispute resolution, coaching, recognition, and promotions. A leader who is highly-engaged with his or her employees will be able to draw forth a millennial’s best efforts, enabling them to thrive in the workplace.

For more information on managing millennial employees, check out Tulgan's books on the subject: Bridging the Soft Skills Gap and Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage the Millennials

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