Q&A With Nikki Kinsey Riojas

Nikki Kinsey Riojas is a creative professional with 15 years of experience in marketing, communications and design. Not only has Nikki developed techniques to work more effectively with Millennials, she prefers working with twenty-somethings. She has led teams to extensive success in brand management implementation across all marketing collateral in print and electronic formats — including online and social media, and developed more tactics for greater productivity and a happier work environment with Millennials along the way.

Her work with Millennials has inspired the launch of The Access Institute, a leadership development organization that prepares recent college graduates for exceptional careers in professional environments — and helps managers to lead them. Read Nikki’s blog at www.themillennialmix.com. We asked Nikki to share Millennial insights with our audience.

Q: What Are Your Top Tips To Working With Millennials?

A: First, over communicate. Setting clear expectations for them is essential. As a manager, taking the time to invest in them as individuals goes a long way. They really want to feel like they matter. They need your praise but not as much as they need your time so that they fully understand their roles and responsibilities.

Secondly, find out how your employees like to be recognized for their contributions. Like the rest of us, some Millennials like public accolades, while others would be mortified. Some like cash. Some like to be recognized one-on-one, quietly pulled into a room. How do you figure out what works for different people? Ask them.

When I first ask them, I get blank stares. So, I give them examples. One employee really just wants a top-level person to know that she did a great job. Another loves to be in the spotlight. When I recognize her in front of a large group of people, she’s beaming all day. And another never wants to be singled out in a group but appreciates me pulling her aside and letting her know that she did well.

Q: What Do You Believe Is The Primary Misconception To Working With Millennials?

A: That they’re entitled, narcissistic and over-confident — that’s only a partial misconception. It’s true, but there’s a false sense of all those things. It doesn’t take long for every single one of them to mess up. When that happens, you have to pounce on them. What went wrong? How do you recover? What are you going to do about it? We’re going to work together to fix it. They usually fall back in line pretty quickly and things proceed more smoothly. From there, don’t keep bringing it up.

Q: How Do You Recommend Non-Millennials Shifting To Work More Productively And Seamlessly With Millennials?

A: There definitely needs to be a balance between how Gen Xers and Baby Boomers work with Millennials. Work best with the Millennials by clearly expressing what you need and how you need it. Give them the leeway to come up with the solution on their own — that’s really hard for managers to do. You have to set the guidelines for your staff from the interview process. If you want them to arrive five minutes early for meetings, tell them. If you want them to keep their cell phones out of site during meetings, tell them.

I tell the Millennials I work with, “Your career affects my career and I want us both to be successful.”

Q: What Else Do Non-Millennials Need To Know About Millennials?

A: From personal experience, this group of people need mentoring and career opportunities to keep them engaged in the job. It’s less about the project than it is keeping them focused on where they’re going in their career. They’re an antsy lot. I recommend sitting down and meeting with them at least once a month. You have to know how they’re doing as people. When I was a young manager, I didn’t care what they did on the weekend or how their relationship was going with their boyfriend. I figured out that this was important to our working relationships. Now I know every boyfriend’s name, every spouse’s name, their favorite band — and I am ready to have that conversation with them on Monday morning. It works.

Q: Are Millennials Growing Up?

A: Yes, but very differently and at a different pace than Gen Xers and previous generations. For one thing, they really haven’t had much in the way of being able to make life mistakes — helicopter parents and over-programmed schedules have prevented a lot of the risks inherent in the lives of previous generations. They don’t know what hard work is. They’re still on their parents’ insurance past their mid-20s. They’re the first generation that is predominantly single. They love entrepreneurial ideas and that way of thinking and want to be really successful at what they do. They think more succinctly than the rest of us. They can solve problems much quicker than we can, but all those other things have to be put in place before that happens.