A ‘millennial’ lesson in project management
The Millennial generation, which includes individuals born from 1980 to 2000 and characterized by an adeptness for technology use, is often classified as a modern challenge among human resources managers. The literature and informal works published on sources such as BlogSpot usually cite the unflattering features of members of this generation, ascribing, for instance, their lack of engagement with organizations to their laziness.
However, recent events between the citizens of Puerto Rico, a large proportion of which are millennials, and previous government leader demonstrate the potential capabilities of this demanding generation. Millennial citizens’ behaviors in Puerto Rico, captured by different forms of media (including international sources), were driven by their competencies, bringing new perspectives for organizations to the table and especially for those willing to embrace and manage complex projects.
Relationships to human resource management
The relationship between project management and human resources is strategic. Project completion and success are dependent on team management and planning, which concern human resource functions. When your organization is planning a challenging project, consider all the good that millennials can offer when they are adequately involved and truly committed to your organization.
Strengths of the Millennial generation
The following are some of the most relevant competencies and advantages identified from recent events in Puerto Rico:
- Leadership: The Millennial generation has been found to enjoy sharing leadership with high levels of confidence by persuading others. They exhibit skills in encouraging empowerment using a hands-on approach to relationships and strong communication skills mostly focused on the use of technology and social media.
- Advantages: Millennials can provide assurance in resisting pressures and in providing support in initial stages of a project, which are usually characterized by high levels of uncertainty. Their willingness to share leadership can become contagious, leaving others enthusiastic about the positive outcomes of a project while imbuing a sense of ease.
- Activism: Once millennials are aware of what is needed, they are not afraid of moving toward execution. Their “I want to be in charge” attitude can be expressed in many ways. Their notorious and emerging dissatisfaction confirms their willingness to make changes of substantial value driven by collective action. As such, they are not afraid of assertively speaking up about their beliefs.
- Advantages: When project planning is not going well, Millennial team members are not afraid of contributing opinions and concrete suggestions on ways to improve upon any strategy. They can be creative in redefining scopes and in identifying new methodologies. Therefore, they can prove very valuable in the monitoring and control stages of a project when changes in activities are needed.
- Energetic: Millennials work long hours. Their endless supply of energy and their convictions on the importance of social change nurture this drive.
- Advantages: Projects are usually long-term activities. Millennials can tolerate intensive workloads and communication demands and still perform tasks with a high degree of confidence and especially in periods of execution. They are also adept at juggling several responsibilities at once.
- Results-oriented: Millennials exhibit no difficulties with managing tight deadlines and constraints, as they are highly focused. They add passion to each step of a process once they understand its worth.
- Advantages: Once your project is organized and fully understood, Millennials can shorten the period of delivery. Since they like to be “in charge,” their constant eagerness may contribute to a more dimensional approach to a project. Millennials show no fears of embracing complex assignments when they understand its payoffs.
- Teamwork capabilities: The Millennial generation welcomes everyone and allows participation regardless of individual differences. They seem to be driven by results and to exhibit an amazing capacity for accepting ideas aligned with project goals. They are more engaged when their peers are already committed.
- Advantages: Millennial team members can be an asset to projects involving diverse human resources, exhibiting a capacity to integrate well with different groups without creating divisions. An ability to work with people from various sectors is a key characteristic of this generation. When pursuing international projects, involving Millennials may be the right strategy.
- Risk-takers: When they are convinced of the sound effects of their actions, millennials will not give up easily and put in extra effort towards achievement. Therefore, they show no reservations with creating disruptions and especially with those related to traditional thinking and leadership once they are persuaded that certain changes will lead to improvements. They value learning through lessons and even when learning results from making mistakes.
- Advantages: Millennials enjoy the feeling of contributing and of being part of something useful that extends beyond themselves. At the end of a project, they can serve as your best provider of feedback on lessons learned over the course of the project’s life.
This commentary centers on a specific event. The intense and sustained long-term effort required to achieve a given outcome calls for a new human resource management approach. Human resource managers should adopt more strategic-fit visions especially when there is need for constant changes over the course of complex projects.
The opportunities that this generation offers remain diverse. Specifically, in team management contexts, they can serve as central players even in the most complex “jigsaw puzzle-like” projects.
 This commentary focuses on lessons learned as a result of Puerto Rican citizens recently calling for the Puerto Rican governor’s resignation and author’s experience in team and project management. In no way should be interpreted from a political or judging perspective, as this is
not the author’s intention.
Written by Prof. Cynthia Sénquiz-Díaz
The author has over 10 years of hands-on private experience in the fields of human resources and project management. The author is a business and human resources administration lecturer and a candidate to a Ph.D. in management.