Survey Findings

Finding Three: Millennials Want Hands-On Guidance

Forty years ago, young Boomers were famous for wanting more personal freedom to direct their lives as they wished, without interference from authority figures in families, schools, or workplaces. In today’s workplace, these attitudes have been turned upside-down. It is the younger generation of workers—Millennials—who most welcome a closer relationship with supervisors. And it is the older generation of workers—those same Boomers—who least welcome a closer relationship.

In our survey, 69 percent of Millennials say they like their supervisor to provide them with “hands-on guidance and direction.” Only about 40 percent of Boomers and older Gen Xers said the same. That’s an astounding spread of nearly 30 percentage points.

This wide gap points to some marked generational differences. Boomers and older Gen Xers came of age tending to distrust leaders who “rank” them and believing that the best or most creative work is performed without supervision. Millennials, on the other hand, came of age tending to trust authority figures, and look to them for guidance. Not only do they want achievable short-term goals, they also want tight cycles of feedback and redirection from managers so they can minimize uncertainty and make sure that they are on track to achieve those goals.

When older managers first notice this about Millennials, their reaction is often dismay at having to spend so much time providing guidance. However, the Millennial need for more hands-on direction points to real workplace strengths that the smart manager will know how to leverage. Millennials want tight cycles of feedback because they want to please their boss and want to do the job the right way the first time. Energized Millennials are actually very good at minimizing the errors and inefficiencies of the daily workplace routine.