5 Ways to Millennial-Proof Your Agency

Hi, my name is Mallory – and I’m a Millennial.

I know what you might be thinking: You’re one of those young whipper-snappers who grew up with the Internet, still lives with her parents and constantly posts narcissistic “selfies” on Facebook and Instagram. Wait ‘til you hit the real world, you Yuppie.

That may not be an entirely false generalization of the segment of the population born between the early 1980s and 2000. But there is more to us Millennials than meets the critic’s eye.

We grew up with technology, which means we can handle rapid change and digitization. Google and online database searches are second nature. We learn quickly and often by experimentation.

On the other hand, our childhood was heavily supervised. We are accustomed to being monitored, tracked and in constant interaction with the world around us.

Most significantly, there are a lot of us – more than 80 million, approximately. By 2025, Millennials will make up 75 percent of the global workforce.

While the number of Millennials is climbing, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are reaching retirement age. Members of these generations typically hold management and leadership roles in established organizations. These traditional sources of authority, however, won’t remain in the workforce for much longer.

What does this mean for your agency? Quite frankly, you will need Millennials to be managers.

It may be counterintuitive for some to place the youngest members of our nation’s workforce in positions of authority and influence, but just like preparing your home for a newborn baby, you need to Millennial-proof your agency.

The first step to Millennial-proofing your organization is to understand a Millennials’ unique needs and expectations. A UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School white paper identifies what Millennials want from their employers:

  • Coaching. Raised with constant contact and frequent feedback, Millennials expect the same from their managers.
  • Collaboration. Millennials are prone to interaction. Extend the “share” attribute found on social media sites into the workplace.
  • Measures. Clear structure and job assessments help Millennials understand their employers’ expectations.
  • Motivation. Millennials are driven by goals and the creation of valued work. Recognize their achievements and reward success.

How can your agency create an environment that meets Millennials’ needs and maximizes their potential? Experts from UNC recommend using technology to attract, develop and retain Millennials as critical assets in your organization.

There are countless ways to use technology to keep Millennials engaged. Here are five sure-fire tactics for Millennial-proofing your organization:

  1. Hook them with virtual tours. Millennials want to know what they’re getting themselves into when considering a potential employer. Offer online tours and employee testimonial videos to give them a 360-degree of what to expect from office life at your agency.
  2. Provide online training opportunities. Millennials like to feel equipped, but they also value convenience. E-learning and online training tutorials make acquiring skills as easy as watching the newest episode of “Orange is the New Black” on Netflix.
  3. Be flexible and consider teleworking or BYOD. The monotony of a 9-5 workday may not appeal to all Millennials. Teleworking is a growing trend in today’s digital age and may be a better fit. More so, the option of bring-your-own-device allows Millennials to tailor their work experience and foster individuality.
  4. Communicate clearly. It’s important to keep Millennials in the loop and ensure they understand what is expected of them. This can be accomplished by simply dropping a quick email, text or Google Chat message for frequent check-ins. Also consider a shared document (like a Google Doc) to track progress on projects or goals.
  5. Publicly post their achievements. Millennials crave recognition. Highlight a job well done internally through a company email announcement or externally on the organization’s website or social media pages. Millennials are more likely to produce high quality work if they know they feel valued.

Let’s face it: the appearance of the modern workforce is undergoing a youthful transformation. But Millennial-proofing your agency doesn’t mean spoon-feeding this younger generation of workers. It does, however, mean you need to be speaking the same language.

Technology is an ideal way to connect with Millennials, learn what makes them tick and tap into their wealth of potential. Is your agency is ready for this new generation of leaders?

HP’s mission is to invent technologies and services that drive business value, create social benefit and improve the lives of customers — with a focus on affecting the greatest number of people possible. Check out their HP for Gov group on GovLoop.

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Marie Koko

This one always makes me laugh when I see it in articles about Millennials: “The monotony of a 9-5 workday may not appeal to all Millennials.” Cuz really, does it truly appeal to anyone? 🙂 If a day ever does come when employees are judged by the quality and quantity of their work more than on where they do that work or at what time of day, I’ll be leading the parade!

Eric S. Mueller

I’m Gen X, but seem to identify more with millenials when it comes to technology. I’m continually frustrated by outdated heuristics, such as the belief that you’re only working when sitting in a chair in a set physical location, often in a cubicle or “open floorplan” office full of disruptions and distractions.

I’m also frustrated by outdated software (we still use IE8 in my organization) and locked down IT configurations (no wi-fi in our government laptops).

While I’ve known a lot of Baby Boomers I liked and respected, I keep saying I can’t wait for them to retire so the rest of us can get some work done.

Jon A. White

So, in order to “like” the article, I have to hit “It’s Awesome!” Jeeeeez… Anyway, the article IS very entertaining. Worth thinking about – not only for the workplace but also for the offspring with his degree AND a well-used spot on the couch. 😉 It’s a different world out there from the one us older folks grew up in. We have a challenge of understanding how to deal and work with millenials. A lot of the points raised by Mallory Thayer relate not only to working with millenials, but also to transforming the way the rest of us work. I am an advocate for teleworking, flexible hours and adoption of new technology in a working environment that is resistant to all of those. The millenials are my allies in this. All that aside though, the thing that REALLY concerns me right now is how to get them on board to begin with! Government hiring processes (where anyone is hiring at all) are not friendly to young, inexperienced workers.

Darrell Hamilton

Good post. It seems like every generation wants a “unique” list of what they need in the workplace and all the lists are amazingly similar — decade after decade. I’m one of the boundary line Gen Y- Boomers (depends on where you define the boundary) and I have always had more in common with the Gen Y and Millineals than the boomers — if you read the supposed categorizations. I really believe all people are at nature the same and are looking for the same kinds of things. It is just that the available tools are changing. All generations are looking for recognition and the freedom to get their work done without excessive oversight. Flex hours and telecommuting are just some current practical ways to get that done.

On the other hand the management issues are also the same and they haven’t gone away just because we have a more tech savvy workforce now. There will still be that bottom 20% of the workforce that consumes 80% of a manager’s time. They will be the ones that make it hard to have the flexible work hours and the telecommuting. That is because that added freedom to work in a flexible environment also comes with the ability to cheat on the system. It will be hard enough in the private sector but the government has unique challenges. The government has rules that make it nearly impossible to get rid of even the worst of underperformers. You have to collect a mountain of proof in order to have enough justification to let someone go. The easiest way to collect that proof is through constant observation. However, if you let some of your people telecommute (because they can handle it) but not everyone equally, then the slackers will cry foul and use the difference in work environment as their excuse for not performing as well as those who got to telework. The path of least resistence is to do it all the old fashion way. It takes a creative manager to be able to get work done and allow the use of the new innovative tools.

Marc Lerro

Good information about the newest workforce cohort.

It’s important to remember that boomers are defining new territory with retirement expectations. Thanks to advances in health and fitness and to changing financial strategies, boomers – even feds – may not be retiring as expected.

All the more reason to expand discussions around generations in the workplace.

Kate Battiato

Sorry to be the only naysayer, but this characterization of my generation by one of our own makes me cringe. This reinforces all of the childlike stereotypes of our generation, from the title all the way down to the “spoon-feeding” reference at the end, without adding any new or insightful understanding on how our generation stands to improve the alarming state of affairs in the public sector. What about our impatience with bureaucracy and motivation to cut through red tape? Public hiring managers, I implore you, forget about the virtual 360-degree tour and opt instead for creating a culture where Millennials can contribute our energy and ideas without being squashed by rigid hierarchical structures and organizational inertia.

Mallory Thayer

Thanks Kate for your comments and honest criticism. To clarify, I absolutely recognize that these above suggestions will not attract all Millennials or work for every workplace, as each individual and company has different needs and methods (quite frankly, I probably wouldn’t find a 3D tour valuable myself). However, they for a general audience to bring attention to the differences between the older and newer generations based off of the suggestions from the UNC business school (as cited in the post). I agree that a major struggle for Millennials is breaking through bureaucracy in a system that is static and stale. Check out this article from the Atlantic that speaks exactly to that: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/08/the-outsiders-how-can-millennials-change-washington-if-they-hate-it/278920/
Also, check out GovLoop’s NextGen Summit, coming up next week. It is geared toward the younger generation in government and preparing them to be effective leaders in a system that is not tailored for rapid change.
Once again, thanks for your comments, and I hope this helps!


The post is focused on adapting the workplace to the millennial. Nothing is said about the need for the millennial to adapt to the culture of their employer. Nothing is more frustrating than dealing with a new employee who tries to change things without understanding why they are done they way they are. You must master the rules before you can change the rules. You have to earn your seat at the table. It’s called paying your dues.


Right on. Why does the workplace have to adapt to the millenials? When I entered the workforce 45+ years ago, I had to adapt to my employer and what he wanted. One thing I notice about millenials is that they are impatient to get ahead and are frequently unwilling to labor in the vineyard like we baby boomers had to do. As they graduate from college, they expect to be hired with no experience and just the education and then wonder why they remain unemployed. They also think that technology can both identify and solve all problems–digital solutions for an analog world. Well, we inefficient carbon units are not digital computers or robots. We have feelings and needs which go beyond Maslow and Herzberg. However, I do agree with mentoring, but it has to be in an environment of mutual respect. Even though I am old as dirt, I don’t have all the answers nor am I a subject matter expert. No one is a subject matter expert no matter how much they think they know. Just because I am old and grey does not mean that I cannot be innovative or cannot change, but I am also not a beta test site for every new idea that comes down the road either. Just because I am more deliberative and don’t jump right away for every new idea, does not mean that these new ideas have no merit nor that I will not adopt it once I analyze it based on my experience and training. One of my biggest peeves is the rush to adopt the IBM philosphy of management, that anyone can manage any operation without knowing what the people that do that operation do. I come from a generation in which the philosophy was demonstrated abilty and technical competenance, not that my generation has alwasys followed that philosophy. For what it’s worth, this is my 2 cent contribution.