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Managing, Mentoring & Working with Millennials

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5 Management Tips to Bridge Differences

Two-thirds of corporate recruiters say their organization has a difficult time managing millennials and a similar number of executives give millennials low grades for work preparedness according to Deloitte – alarming because they comprise a third of the workforce. While it’s common to call them out as “different” or “difficult”, they may not be either of those things.

Remember when you were 24?

The uncertainty, ambiguity and even anxiety of leaving two decades of school for a whole new life? If you graduated in tough economic times as I did, the working world was an uncertain place, business had stumbled and wasn’t exactly inspiring. Even if the economy was good, the next 5-10 years were far less certain than they appear after 30.

Because we had little experience at that age, we also had less baggage; we could enter new situations less jaded and conversations genuinely listening. We hadn’t yet bought into what couldn’t be done; this enabled us to move forward but guaranteed we would make mistakes of ignorance. Despite that, it was easier to relax at the end of the day and enjoy life after work (wouldn’t it be nice to have a little of that back?).

Expectations for transparency and tools are very different.

Millennials are used to checking status themselves, anytime, anywhere. It’s self service to the extreme – want to know where a good place to eat is nearby? Look it up yourself and get immediate transparency to what others have to say. Want to know what Mary’s been up to? Look it up yourself. You are Mary? Just publish what you’re up to from your phone… without being asked.

They’re used to communicating instantly and constantly – without meeting, getting on the phone or doing a PowerPoint deck. They presume transparency and they presume other people are seeing, reading and reacting to what they communicate. It’s the push rather than pull model; transparency isn’t a fight, instead it’s a constant. Because they’re used to peer groups with the same communication norms, they are both able to and 70% prefer to work independently and coordinate digitally according to PwC.

For all that’s been said about their views on personal privacy, the workplace reaps the benefit of their natural transparency — instead of the forced march to share facts and status in reports, read outs and meetings.

Imagine the potential capacity breakthrough for an enterprise: less meetings and reporting but real time transparency. 

Unfortunately, most companies are far from that transparency ideal and the means of communicating about work may even appear crazy: the spreadsheet lists of what people should do, the PowerPoint dashboards on what they are doing, the SharePoint sites with what they’ve half done, the emails on why they can’t do it and the status calls to make sure no one has time to do it.

Millennials are used to having “an app for that” – integrated with a thumb stroke. They’re used to getting status and tools themselves, and learning a new tool habit in a heartbeat. They haven’t yet decided learning new ways of doing things is too hard.

Millennials may also be slightly baffled or resistant to the amount of busywork that surrounds or even equals the amount of meaningful work, which can make managing them difficult… but aren’t we complaining about that too? Meaningful work and work/life balance are more important than financial reward, and career development is what Millennials most want from organizations reports PwC.

While some report that this generation is less engaged in their new jobs than prior generations of young people, Gallup reports that almost 80% of their older colleagues aren’t engaged in their jobs either. A Deloitte study reports 75% of Millennials would actually like their companies to do more to develop future leaders  and 70% of a young person’s learning happens on the job. 

Welcome to the team!

So welcome young people to your team and enable them to succeed. In addition to remembering what it was like to be 24, keep these 6 tips in mind to smooth out the differences and engage your young, talented team members:

  1. Know when you hire them that you’re signing up to be leader, mentor, coach, and manager — a wonderful opportunity and an obligation.
  2. Communicate goals, share how their work supports the mission, and be transparent.
  3. Provide more frequent feedback and positively reinforce work well done to contribute to on-the-job training.
  4. Respond to mistakes by providing guidance on expectations, alternative approaches, and logic for different decision making. Remember you didn’t hire for their experience, you’re helping them build it.
  5. Share your lessons learned, subject matter expertise and leadership skills. Inspire and engage them with both wisdom and kindness.
  6. Avoid training them to hide the ball, bogging them down with irrelevant tasks, or expecting them to be effective (or happy) with productivity tools older than they are.

While they’re on our teams, be open to being inspired yourself! Let’s borrow a bit of their fearlessness, embrace the experience of helping others, appreciate their transparency bias and value their interest in work/life balance – these are things our workplace and we genuinely need.

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