“A generation that is lazy and narcissistic,” states a Time Magazine article I read recently. My guess is your first thought, is that this quote talks about the millennial generation. In fact, the article is from a 1956 edition about Baby Boomers! My point? Millennials aren’t the first generation to be thought of as lazy or entitled. And it turned out not to be true for the other generations. So does that mean millennials aren’t that different from other generations?
Not so fast. On one hand, there are a lot of values that are shared by different generations, but the way generations feel they need to experience those values is different. So how do we best connect with the generation that now makes up one in three people of our workforce?
Set the Big Picture
As a consultant, one of the perks of my job is getting to help Northeast operations run their businesses better, but I also get to learn from what they do well. One thing I’ve found is that operations that provide opportunities and pathways to success are better at retaining millennials. Why? They make it clear that they offer a career with impact.
Millennials value what we are working towards and why we are working towards it. They are more likely to be invested fully if they know this. Being explicit with a millennials’ purpose and their involvement in the operation lets them know what’s in it for them and how they contribute to the overall goal.
Make Time for Feedback
Everyone underscores communication as a key to business success. But how that communication occurs is more important than ever. For earlier generations, top-down communication may have been valuable to build a strong and satisfied workforce, but today, there needs to be a two-way street.
Feedback has proven necessary for many millennials to get an idea of how they’re performing and let managers understand how best to relate to them. More than that, formal feedback should be presented on a regular basis; at least quarterly, if not monthly. Informal feedback happens almost every day – so take advantage of it!
Feedback delivery is also important. It’s been shown that giving positive feedback first followed by areas for improvement, is most effective. As an employer, think about how you communicate and if it returns the results that you want. Do you provide consistent, immediate feedback? Just like training a puppy, this could be the most effective feedback method for good employees you want to develop further.
If you as the employer are thinking about coaching rather than bossing, then you are going to create a work environment that people want to be a part of.
It’s Unkind to be Unclear
In one situation, an employer thought he was offering an advantage to his employee by leaving a project up to interpretation. While this employer was trying to be less “bossy” and leave room for creativity, I knew the employer was also very particular with results.
The general guidelines were not enough detail to give the employee confidence they were doing the project correctly and the employer felt anxious when the result wasn’t what they expected.
If you want something done a specific way, then say that. It will save both you and your millennial employee the stress of reading between the lines.
As an employer, ask yourself this question: What am I willing to take responsibility for?
Are you prepared to set the stage for the “big picture”, take time to give and receive feedback and be clear and open with your expectations? Millennials aren’t the first generation to require a “different” method of communication, and they won’t be the last.