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Decode the Mysteries of Managing Millennials
Decode the Mysteries of Managing Millennials

Practical Tips for Front Line Leaders to Engage Younger Workers

If you believe the statements made by some front line supervisors and managers, you would think that any worker under the age of 25 is determined to do the bare minimum, is unreliable and needs constant coddling. The problem with that thinking and the leadership behaviors that go with it, is that it will only serve to make your organization unattractive to the workers who will make up half your workforce in the next five years.

After reviewing the most current research on the subject by Harvard Business School and Ivey Business School researchers along with recent surveys conducted by Deloitte, here are a few practical solutions you can implement that will help maximize the productivity of your millennial workforce and get them to stick with your organization to ensure its long term success.

Provide Clearer Multi-Faceted Career Paths – We know that millennials like to see progress in their career. They are less willing than their older co-workers to be patient putting in time with the promise that someday this will all be yours. Consider creating multiple levels of achievement or mastery with clearly defined goals and outcomes. Some clients ask us to help them set up a company “university” where employees can develop a greater understanding of the company’s business and how they as an employee can add value to customers. Then after a period of continuous learning the employees can earn progress certificates that can be considered in future promotion decisions. Even in situations where there may not be many promotions to be had, keep boredom and stagnation at bay by investing in the training and development of your workforce so there is a sense of growth. At the very least front line leaders should lay out challenges for younger workers so they can gain a sense of mastery over their work.

Give Continuous Feedback and Coaching – The research shows that millennials are willing to receive negative feedback as long as it is accompanied by specific recommendations they can implement for improvement. Your baby-boomer employees might be okay with annual or semi-annual performance appraisals but your millennials expect their supervisor and manager to convey immediate, timely and specific coaching feedback. In flatter organizations, it can be a challenge for supervisors and managers to make time for coaching conversations while balancing a demanding workload. Now is the time to evaluate the tasks performed by your front line leaders so that they have time for, and are accountable for having coaching conversations with workers.

Involve Them in Problem-Solving and Decision Making – We’ve long known that when you involve employees in making changes and improvements it increases their buy-in, engagement and motivation. With millennials it is essential to get them involved in making changes.

Do Away With “Stupid” Rules – Young people have well tuned BS detectors and unlike their older co-workers are less likely to tolerate explanations such as, “that’s just the way we do things,” or “just do it because I said so and stop asking questions.” It is time to declutter your HR policies and rules that only serve to frustrate and demoralize workers. Justify every rule and policy with a logical reason or do away with it.

Avoid Demoralizing and Disrespectful Conduct and Communication – One of the biggest factors causing disengagement is demoralizing workers. Surprisingly many front line leaders can still be heard mistreating employees by being disrespectful, inconsistent, unfair and belittling or demeaning workers. Sometimes it is out of ignorance – the leader thinks it’s funny and no big deal, or lacks the maturity to treat people with respect while at other times it is malicious and part of a sicker culture. Hold leaders at all levels accountable for their behavior and provide the training and coaching they need to be more positive.

Change the Conversation to Remove Negativity Towards Millennials – Remember that your great-grandparents would likely harshly judge your work ethic just like you might judge younger workers as being lazy. Face the fact that each generation expects more from their employer and manager and will put up with less. Stop applying negative labels to younger workers and be more curious about what leadership and HR changes will engage them.

How We Can Help
Provide Front Line Leadership training either live onsite, through public workshops, by webinar or through the extensive online video library.
Conduct our workshop on Managing Millennials or Managing Millennials in Manufacturing to increase the awareness and skill sets of your management team.
Consult on the creation of a company university or revamp your performance management process or create a multi-faceted career progression path or help get rid of outdated policies.
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