What’s challenging millennial managers right now

As millennial incentive travel professionals begin taking seats around board tables and populating senior leadership roles, conversations are bubbling up about other changes these shifting leadership demographics are shaping.    

Often positioned as a “sandwich” generation that works with — and sells to — Gen X and Baby Boomer peers, while also motivating and needing to please Gen Z clients and colleagues, here’s what participants from a recent SITE webinar said makes millennials tick in today’s workplaces.   

Collaboration is the major key  

Millennial panelists were quick to identify “collaboration” as a major attribute they center in their own approaches to leadership, setting the tone for much of the rest of the day’s webinar.  

Throughout the session, panelists returned to the importance of being able to meet clients and colleagues where they’re at; respecting boundaries other individuals they work with set; and staying curious about the “why” behind certain decisions and the knowledge and expertise different perspectives bring that ultimately make projects and efforts stronger.  

Customized, tailored approaches to team performance 

The millennial managers on the panel made a strong case for giving everyone a seat at the table and encouraging colleagues to voice individual opinions and concerns — something that may gristle or stand out as quite a different approach than what past generations might have experienced early on in their careers.  

Gone are the days of adherence to a rigid hierarchy and treating service staff as anonymous automatons who can swap in and out with little to no notice, panelists agreed. Teams now see better performance — and increased employee motivation and engagement — when their millennial leaders are skilled at adapting and personalizing training and support.  

Millennial managers are also actively seeking out ways to integrate, call out, and recognize individual values that are helping help drive objectives forward, the panel noted. Doing so helps build culture, and can strengthen both team outputs and the programs buyers and supplier partners are collaborating on.  

Taking the “training wheels” off  

Speakers also spent time discussing how to empower and work with Gen Z colleagues, especially knowing how to strike the right balance to avoid too much or too little hand-holding when onboarding new industry professionals.  

One panelist suggested identifying projects early on that might not have the biggest impacts on the company’s bottom line but still matter to an end result or corporate goal, and using these as easy test balloons to let younger employees gain ground on. Sometimes we learn by trial and error, he explained. Letting young professionals lead early on, even on more minor projects, can produce independent learnings and lessons that grow confidence and abilities.  

Mentor and buddy systems were also popular potential solutions discussed by the panel, with one panelist comparing her past “buddy relationships” to a parent helping their kid learn to ride a bike.  

She stressed the importance of investing in training that’s muti-faceted and provides a balanced approach to role expectations, before removing any “training wheels” — and reiterated that she positions herself as someone her newer colleagues can think of like a parent, still running alongside the bike even once the training wheels are off, to help and support should things tip or fall the wrong way.  

One final piece of advice came from SITE’s Head of Education Elizabeth Sage, who moderated the webinar. It’s just as important to share learnings and lean in to confessing your own errors, Elizabeth said. It shows colleagues how to grow from mistakes, and demonstrates the resiliency and confidence needed to move on and do better on the next go.  

Keeping clients happy 

Millennials aren’t just changing the way incentive travel offices are run; they’re impacting incentive programs too, the webinar agreed.  

On the agency side, one speaker said that as incentive travel participant demographics shift, they’re seeing a call for more “meaningful moments” within travel rewards.  

It’s no longer enough to run through a checklist and tick off DEI or sustainability activities for a client to show they’re done. These elements now need to be front and center.  

This also aligns with an uptick in allowing participants to customize and personalize rewards. It’s about creating programs that help you meet like-minded people, the speaker stressed, while feeling like you’re an integral part of the team, enjoying the reward together.  

It’s also more important than ever, speakers said, to lean on planning partners to bridge different generational expectations. With more voices in the mix, it’s crucial to have partners who can help organizers provide flexibility and authenticity.  

SITE members can watch the entire April 5 webinar on-demand via SITE’s LearnHub — just one of many benefits SITE membership grants!  

Written by

SITE Staff


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