As I walk the halls of organizations today, I hear comments like:
“They want to be promoted as soon as they arrive!?!?“
“They think they know it all!”
“They have such a sense of entitlement…“
I hear these comments coming from Senior and Boomer managers about Millennials or Gen Y employees.
Leading Across the Generations:
For the first time in history, we now have four generations in the workplace. Today’s four working generations are named Seniors, Boomers, Gen X and Millennials. There has always been a generation gap between groups of people, but now it is more like a chasm. It is ironic that Senior and Boomer managers are complaining about the younger generation because, these are the parents that created them!
I’ll own up to it. I’m a Boomer parent. Many Boomer parents applauded every achievement our kids realized; we gave everyone on the soccer team a trophy. No more MVP players for Millennials, everyone received recognition. As parents, we asked for their ideas around the dining room table; we may even have let them take part in consensus decision-making about issues that affected them. We treated them as adults. One third of Millennials are only children so they grew up in an adult world.
So why are we so surprised when they bring these experiences and expectations into the workplace? We are shocked when they want on-going feedback? We bristle at their sense of self-confidence and self-assurance at such a young age? We resist when they want to be included in decision making. But why are we so confused?
We created them!
Now how do we manage them in the workplace?
Here are some tips for Senior and Boomer leaders to work optimally with Millennials employees:
• Provide On-Going Feedback
This is actually a best practice for all managers so you don’t have to treat Millennials any differently. Millennials are especially open to coaching since they have had a variety of coaches, therapists, tutors and helicopter parents supporting them throughout their short lives. They arrive in the workplace expecting a support system to help them succeed.
• Provide Training
Millennials are enthusiastic learners. Give them as many learning opportunities as possible but avoid the standard classroom approach. Make the training tech-laden, interactive, and fun! Millennials see work as play. Help them enjoy themselves and perhaps you can enjoy yourself along with them!
• Organize Teams
Millennials thrive with social interaction and collaboration. Encourage them to take part in as many teams as possible. They worked in teams during schools so they have more of a collaborative style than their elders who aspire for individual recognition.
• Mentor and Be Mentored
Let Millennials feel they can contribute by having them mentor their elders on technology. In return the elders can mentor the Millennials on understanding the organizational culture and transferring institutional knowledge.
• Be Flexible
This is another managerial best-practice. Since Millennials are so tech savvy, they do not see the need to come to a central office location. They can work and collaborate anywhere, anytime. Millennials also value their personal life and their personal time. This is another reason they crave flexibility. Flexibility is also another important best practice for leaders in the 21st century. Flexibility is one of the primary criteria for placement on one of the Best Places to Work lists: Fortune Magazine and Working Mothers Magazine.
The Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Places to Work and the Working Mother’s Magazine 100 Best Companies reports provide all the data one needs to see that flexibility in workplace environments translated to bottom line results. The top firms listed are not only flexible but these companies also have higher return on investment for their shareholders as reported by the analysts at Russell Investments. Every year Russell analysts compare the performance of a stock portfolio based on the Fortune 100 Best list to other indices.
Russell Investments states “100 Best companies have out-paced the rest of their Russell 1000 brethren in three-year total return by 26 percent.“
Millennials have so much to offer our organizations. They are quick learners and they are innovative. They welcome learning opportunities. They enjoy working in a collaborative environment. They thrive on challenges and want to have stimulating and meaningful jobs. They are more civic-minded. They want to be respected.
Sound familiar… don’t we all seek respect in the workplace?
You and your organization can acquire tremendous benefits from implementing some of these ideas and overcoming the knee jerk reaction to be turned off by people who are different, who show different values and different work styles. Leaders have always been challenged to work with different personality styles or employees who have different needs. Leading across the four generations is just another diversity challenge that requires the implementation of leadership best practices.
Can you step up to the challenge? As the economy improves and you hire more Millennials what will you do to prepare yourself so you are not frustrated by the style differences? How can you use leadership best practices to lead across the generations and meet the diverse needs of each generation? Would your company welcome a 26% ROI increase?
Barbara Miller is Managing Director of Artemis Management Consultants
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image Sources: tvsa.co.za, unr.edu, imgsgssl.jobing.com