Millennials as Bosses: Forget Face-to-Face, Online Messaging New Norm for Communicating with Direct Reports, According to Korn Ferry Survey


- Gen X and Baby Boomer Bosses Believe They Work Harder than Millennial Bosses –

- Clear Path for Advancement Critical for Millennial Managers –

EDITOR’S NOTE: Survey results at bottom of release 

LOS ANGELES, March 12, 2018 — As millennials (born 1981-1996) are increasingly moving into management positions, a new Korn Ferry (NYSE:KFY) survey shows they are favoring a different way of communicating with their employees.

In the February 2018 survey of more than 1,500 professionals, 55 percent said online messaging is the most common way for millennial bosses to communicate with their direct reports, followed by email at 28 percent. Only 14 percent said their favored way to communicate is in person, and 3 percent said via phone.

The survey found that when interviewing for management positions, millennials say that making an impact on organizational culture is most important to them, with salary being the least important.

“The way bosses communicate with their staff has a huge impact on organizational culture,” said Samantha Wallace, Korn Ferry North American Market Leader, Technology. “Millennials grew up using screens as their primary form of interaction, and while online messaging and email are effective, efficient tools, face-to-face communication is needed to create an inclusive culture.”

When asked what they wish millennial bosses would do more of, the largest percentage (29 percent) said face-to-face communications, followed by keeping their bosses informed at 27 percent.

When asked what they actually do best, only 10 percent said keeping their bosses informed and 3 percent said managing up to executives. The top response for what millennial bosses do best is creating flexibility in the workplace (65 percent).

However, millennial managerial approaches may not be seen as positive by bosses of different generations. Seventy percent of respondents say Gen X and Baby Boomer bosses believe they work harder than their millennial counterparts.

The survey did find though that managers believe millennial bosses are qualified. Seventy-five percent of respondents say they believe millennial managers have earned their role.

“Members of the millennial generation are really coming into their own in the workplace,” said Wallace. “They may not approach management the same way as bosses from different generations, but instead of fighting change, adapting to the dynamic culture millennials bring will help companies succeed.”

The survey also found that compared with Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, knowing what is coming next is critical for millennial bosses. Nearly three quarters (74 percent) said a clear advancement path (e.g. next two positions) is more important for millennial bosses, with 49 percent saying it is much more important.

“Millennials tend to value clear communication and feedback, and organizational leaders seeking the best and brightest from this generation must work closely with millennial managers to provide well laid out career paths,” said Wallace.

About the Survey

The Korn Ferry of professionals took place in February 2018 and garnered 1,537 responses.

Survey results

To what extent would you agree with the following: Older (Gen X, Baby Boomer) bosses think they work harder than millennial bosses?

Agree to a great extent - 33 percent
Agree to some extent - 37 percent
Neither agree nor disagree - 27 percent
Disagree to some extent - 2 percent
Disagree to a great extent - 1 percent

In your experience what is the most common way for millennial managers to interact with their direct reports?

Online messaging - 55 percent
Email - 28 percent
Phone - 3 percent
In person - 14 percent

When interviewing millennials for management positions, what do they say is most important?

Salary - 5 percent
Autonomy - 8 percent
Ability to make an impact on organizational culture - 25 percent
Getting ongoing feedback from executives - 3 percent
Career progression - 17 percent
A good work-life balance - 25 percent
Ability to work flexibly - 17 percent

Compared to older generations, how well do millennial managers do in 'managing up' to executives (keeping them informed, following through on executive initiatives)?

Millennial managers “manage up” much better - 17 percent
Millennial managers “manage up” somewhat better - 22 percent
Millennial managers are the same at “managing up” - 20 percent
Millennial managers are the somewhat worse at “managing up” - 30 percent
Millennial managers are much worse at “managing up” - 11 percent

When recruiting millennials for managerial positions how important to them is seeing a clear advancement path (e.g. next two positions) than older managers?

Much more important - 49 percent
Somewhat more important - 25 percent
About the same - 9 percent
Somewhat less important - 14 percent
Much less important - 3 percent

What do you think your millennial managers are doing best?

Encouraging flexibility in the workplace - 65 percent
Living up to the company culture - 10 percent
Keeping their bosses informed - 10 percent
Managing up to executives - 3 percent
Face-to-face communications - 12 percent

What would you like to see your millennial managers do more of (pick top choice)

Encouraging flexibility in the workplace - 15 percent
Living up to the company culture - 19 percent
Keeping their bosses fully informed - 27 percent
“Managing up” to executives - 10 percent
Face-to-face communications - 29 percent

How common is it in your organization that a millennial supervises people from older generations?

Very common - 17 percent
Somewhat common - 42 percent
Somewhat uncommon - 30 percent
Very uncommon - 11 percent

On average, do you think millennial managers you’ve worked with have earned their leadership role?

Yes to a great extent - 19 percent
Yes to some extent - 56 percent
No to some extent - 19 percent
No to a great extent - 6 percent

About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is a global organizational consulting firm. We help companies design their organization – the structure, the roles and responsibilities, as well as how they compensate, develop and motivate their people. As importantly, we help organizations select and hire the talent they need to execute their strategy. Our approximately 7,000 colleagues serve clients in more than 50 countries.

Sign up for Korn Ferry updates


Dan Gugler
+1 310 552-1834

Asia Pacific:
Malte Weyhe
+61 2 9667 2604

Michele Lally
+44 7387 092650