If managing millennials is a major topic of conversation — and frustration — in your organization, here are eight things managers and your organization can do that will bring out the best in your millennials. These practices will help you increase engagement and reduce professionalism and work ethic issues. Making these practices an integral part of your culture will also improve the effectiveness of your employer branding efforts, because you will provide a work experience that attracts A-list millennial talent.
As explored in “Your Millennials Are Your Canaries,” these practices will help managers become more effective at motivating ALL employees, not just your millennials. However, because this generation was born into societal norms of highly attentive adults, customized customer experiences — i.e. the Starbuckification of the customer experience — encouragement of empowered childhood activism and parental admonitions to make a difference in the world, millennials have higher expectations of the work experience than previous generations. Thus, supervisors need to develop more skillful and sophisticated approaches to managing these employees if they want to bring out the best in this generation.
1. Dial up the relational component
While an impersonal, transactional approach to managing sucks the life out of any employee, it is even more deadly with this generation, as they have grown up in a culture of attentive, respectful interactions with adults who showed interest in them. Finding themselves in an environment of disinterest and “you’re just a number” quickly destroys their enthusiasm. This is why managers MUST upgrade their relationship and communication skills if they want to help their employer engage and keep A-list millennial talent.
For a recent article on how to dial up the relational component, read “When Your Employees Want You to Really ‘See’ Them.”
2. Communicate the “why”
Whether it’s “Why we exist as an organization,” “Why this project needs to have THIS outcome,” or “Why this feedback is important,” managers and leaders need to be more consistent with including the “Why.”
3. It’s all about the conversation
Every better result you want will require having a better conversation than the ones you’ve been having. So get good at having the conversation. Oh, did I mention that this is why managers MUST upgrade their relationship and communication skills if they want to help their employer engage and keep A-list millennial talent.
4. Make feedback “Just something we do here all the time”
Having grown up in a culture of intense involvement by parents and other adults in their lives, millennials flounder in an environment where feedback is lacking. By making feedback — both positive and corrective — just a part of everyday work life, millennials get the information they need to know that they are doing the right thing or need course correction. Having a regular balance of “catching them doing things right” and pointing out areas of improvement takes away the sting of negative feedback and makes it like a videogame.
5. Manager as “How to Be a Great Employee” coach
While all people new to the workplace have a learning curve regarding what being professional means, this generation has had more than its share of challenges, according to research by Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania, among other sources. To bring out the best in millennials, managers need to accept that “rules of engagement” that might be self-evident to them are NOT necessarily so to millennials.
Being a “How to Be a Great Employee” coach also includes dialing up your concrete and specific communication skills around describing what desired behaviors look and sound like; specifically, as if you were narrating a video. By giving examples of what actions on their part contribute the most to your organization’s success, you help them provide the most value to your organization, and provide them with the direction required to succeed. This is another reason why managers HAVE to upgrade their people skills if their employer is going to enjoy high levels of engagement with this generation.
6. Intellectual stimulation, growth, and professional development: Satisfy and support these powerful drivers of employee engagement
The desire to learn and achieve mastery are hard-wired drives (just watch a small child’s non-stop obsession with figuring out how to do things like walk or tie their shoe). Thus, the more these are part of the work experience, the more intrinsically motivating the work is. Also, because young employees are especially excited about bringing their fresh perspective to work problems, giving them opportunities to do so boosts enthusiasm and involvement. Thirdly, millennials place a super-high priority on learning opportunities, especially those that help them grow their leadership skills
According to The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey: Winning over the next generation of leaders: “While millennials who are most satisfied with the learning opportunities and professional development their employer provides are likely to stay longer with that employer, only 24 percent of millennials report being ‘very satisfied’ with this aspect of their current work experience.”
7. Value, support, and focus the enthusiasm, confidence, and optimism of youth. Don’t crush it!
Instead of rolling your eyes at the millennial who is gunning for a VP position after 18 months on the job, get good at coaching him or her and channeling that enthusiasm. Instead of, “We’ve always done it this way” as the default answer to your millennial’s enthusiastic suggestion for how to do something better, make your default response, “Tell me more.”
8. The customized employee experience
According to The Hay Group’s Building the New Leader: Leadership Challenges of the Future Revealed: “(Companies) must understand every worker and customer as an individual, or lose out on talent and business… Engagement will need to be more personal, tapping into each employee’s needs, drivers, outlook and expectations.” Smart employers and smart managers are already doing this, by engaging employees in employee experience/management style customization conversations. Here’s one article that describes one type of management style customization conversation.