5 Key Tips to Managing, Mentoring and Motivating Millennials

March 3, 2015

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Recruiting, retaining and growing young and new talent is more important than ever before, but the majority of businesses are ill-equipped to do so. Deloitte’s 2014 Millennial survey found it costs $ 15k-$ 25k to replace a millennial, and by 2025 70% of the workplace will be millennials.


So it’s a pretty big deal, right? All of you nodding your head, do read on…


From my experience training and developing millennials on a daily basis, and working with their managers to help ensure their skills are continuously developed and coached back in the workplace, bridging this gap is hugely important and understanding is the first major step.


However before we go any further I feel the need to stress the difference between understanding a millennial mindset and simply being ageist towards young people. Many individuals hold a grudge against young people and hide it behind the ‘millennial mindset’ excuse. Quite frankly it’s counterproductive behaviour, and just plain wrong.


“They’re overly ambitious, they’re lazy, they’re too entitled, they don’t understand their place”: these are ageist remarks from people threatened by the younger generation, and they’ve been muttered by crusty old corporates before the term millennial or the millennials themselves were even a twinkle in their dad’s eye.


What defines a millennial? Well technically anyone born between 1980-2000 is both a millennial and a Gen-Y, however the term has really struck a chord with the latter half of this group due to its positive, progressive undertone. As a result the widely accepted definition, and the one to which I am referring, is professionals from 18-25 years old today.


So, with my rant out of the way, here are 5 key points I personally believe you need to consider when working with a millennial staff member:



Embrace Feedback and Give Clarity


The importance of feedback in the world of a millennial is phenomenal compared to other generations. This is a generation who has grown up with social media, and if the picture of their quinoa berry chia seed pudding didn’t receive 20 likes, retweets or pins it wasn’t worth eating in the first place; a generation whose helicopter parents and teachers have encouraged them from their very first step, and helped them become their authentic selves.


This constant recognition has turned millennials into feedback junkies, and naturally this mentality will be taken into the workplace. Managers need to be aware of this, and manage it correctly. Don’t ignore, don’t put it off until after their quarterly performance review. Use this thirst for feedback as an opportunity for coaching great behaviours.


“Millennials are too entitled and want to be CEO next week”…Ageist! Of course there will always be millennials who do fit this description, but you’re telling me young Gen-Yers, Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers didn’t have their own ultra ambitious apples in the basket?


Most professionals want to climb the corporate ladder, millennials are just a little louder and expect a bit of clarity. Use feedback as your leverage point. Coach your staff member to align all feedback to a clear, concise and achievable progression plan. This will help ensure a more motivated and productive future star.



Encourage Collaboration


Another big difference between millennials and generations past is the way they have learnt to learn. Schools, where people are at their most malleable, have changed the way they teach to focus on collaboration and teamwork.


When I was at school you sat at your desk, you did your own work, you got your own grades. This is not the school millennials know at all; tables are set up in pods with everyone facing each other, discussion and idea sharing is encouraged, group work is constant, and collaboration is king.


Susan Cain points out in her book and TED talk ‘The Power of Introverts’ (below) the negative aspects of this educational evolution, and she does have a point. But it’s not all bad.



This millennial thirst for collaboration pops up in meeting rooms, conference rooms and board rooms all around the world every single day. And whilst I am not saying every single meeting should be an idea-orgy, collaborating on ideas and looking at problems from a fresh perspective is something you should encourage when your millennial staff member is invited. Listen, appreciate, and respect their ideas. Do not squash their thirst for involvement! The biggest gripe from delegates I train isn’t that their ideas aren’t implemented, but that they themselves feel ignored. Think about the repercussions of getting this wrong.



Social Awareness and the Importance of Communicating Your Why


Millennials as a generation are more socially aware than any group in history. The interconnectedness of social media and the subsequent freedom for people from all around the world to share ideas, find and engage with like-minded individuals is the world millennials certainly live, breathe and feel. This creates much stronger sense of community and global conscience.


And further to this, what are the topics which have dominated their formative years? Climate change, oil spills, terrorism, debatable wars, GFC’s, corporate bail outs, the list goes on. As a result millennials feel far less aligned with the business world, certainly less so than their suit and tie predecessors and new managers.


So what does this mean for corporate’s? Again it’s not all doom and gloom, but you need to look a little deeper into what your company actually does and communicate the greater ‘why’. Simon Sinek’s brilliant TED talk on the topic (below) shows the importance of communicating in this way from a leadership perspective, and it is even more important when leading millennials.



Stop talking purely around commission structures and profit, and look to tap into the intrinsic motivators. Communicate what your company does to help a community and you will start building a loyal tribe of motivated millennials.



Flexibility and Work/Life Balance


This is a tricky one to handle if your company simply forbids it, but the reality is millennials crave and expect worklife balance. These are not the walk in the door at 8:30 and leave at 5:30, head down, bum up generation. If this sounds scary for you and your company now, I’m sorry but it’s only going to get worse, so you best embrace the future.


Millennials are masters at the very tools which have been developed for this very purpose: instant messaging, smartphones, tablets, video conferencing, cloud applications. They are also extremely proficient at multi-tasking as a result of growing up in an increasingly disruptive world. So let them!


In my experience using a WFH day per fortnight or month as a carrot for hitting KPIs is an extremely effective way to leverage this thirst for balance. Flexibility and understanding that your employee’s life is more important than their work is key.



Action in Learning


Millennials are extremely confident and want to get in and get things done. They are less attuned to theory and much prefer action. For me this is particularly evident in the training room.


Running training for millennial sales professionals, this need to actually practice what is learned is crucial. Whether its learning the more intricate details of negotiation skills, advanced questioning techniques, interpreting eye accessing cues and body language, presentation skills and everything in between, applying the theory in a practical setting is key to making the training stick. Role plays, exercises and the peer feedback sessions which immediately follow are in many cases a more important part than the theory itself, and the feedback commonly is that this is where they have learnt the most.


So what does this mean for managers?


When training or coaching millennials it is important to focus on skills they can put into practice now, and a blended approach of theory and practice will yield the best results. Coaches should embrace side-by-siding on sales calls with a debrief on the positives and negatives after each call. For face to face meetings give them bite sized chunks of the agenda to make their own and deliver in real life experiences with customers. If you have recently sent a staff member on a presentations skills course get them to give a presentation to the management team upon their return. This stretching out of the comfort zone is critical, and millennials embrace it and grow from it more than most.


Similarly don’t bombard staff with either too many objectives at a time, or skills can’t implement straight away. At this stage of a millennial’s career it is important they’re introduction to corporate learning is uplifting, stretching, effective and very much based in the real world.


This is just one opinion based on my personal experiences working with millennials every day, and by no means am I professing I know it all. But I’m determined not to stop learning, and hope in some small way I’ve encouraged you to do the same.


So finally, whilst Deloitte have put managed to put a hard cost on getting it wrong, what do you think the wider cost really is? To yourself? To Millennials? To the wider corporate community?


And for those who get it right, what about the rewards? I would love to hear your thoughts…


Originally published on LinkedIn

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