How Reverse Mentoring Can Benefit Millennials and their Managers

Generation X and Baby Boomers are increasingly serving as mentors to Millennials in the workplace, but the new trend is reverse mentoring, where Millennials provide guidance on new and innovative ways to approach the ever-changing demands of work.

The benefits of traditional mentoring — where an older, more seasoned professional trains, teaches and coaches younger employees — are well documented. Mentoring young employees helps them learn more about their jobs, their role in the company, their potential career trajectory and how to advance professionally; it also gives older employees an increase in job satisfaction and purpose, builds their career legacy and gives them a unique professional outlet.

While the benefits of traditional mentoring relationships are known, the benefits of reverse mentoring are less known. Reverse mentoring is the practice of matching older, seasoned professionals with younger employees with a focus on having the Millennials mentor up.

What Millennials Can Bring

Millennials often have a reputation for being lazy, entitled, needy — the list goes on, and the majority of these negative stereotypes about Millennials don’t hold up to the light. Millennials are loyal, team-oriented, innovative and goal-focused.

Millennials often bring a new perspective to the workplace, with a desire to see the “greater good” in their job, their role in the company and the company’s role in the world. Giving Millennials the opportunity to convey that passion to older employees who have been with the company a long time can re-energize and reignite the dedication and enjoyment long-time employees and managers once had for their jobs.

In addition, Millennials’ desire for transparency and honest communication can lead more seasoned managers to question the way they’ve “always done” things. This can lead to positive changes throughout all levels of the company, with an increase in experimentation, newly discovered efficiencies and new business development opportunities.

Reverse mentoring also gives seasoned professionals an opportunity to reflect on their own way of doing things and may widen their understanding of the way their organization and industry are changing. With reverse mentoring, older professionals have a unique opportunity to close their knowledge gap in areas like technology, social media, work-life balance, workplace trends and more.

In addition, a long-term Sun Microsystems study of about 1,000 employees found that employees who participated in a mentoring program were 20 percent more likely to get a raise — and that went for both mentors and mentees. In addition, employees who received mentoring were promoted 5x more often than those who did not have mentors.

How It Works

For companies, setting up reverse mentoring is easy, as it can work within the structure of the company’s ongoing, more traditional mentoring program. Cisco, for example, started their program by finding a champion within the organization to promote the program, set goals and metrics by which to measure success. Then, the company focused on recruiting mentees (i.e. older employees), and then recruiting mentors — the younger employees who indicated interest in participating. The company also provided the mentors with resources, tips, ideas and best practices for mentoring, as many had never been a mentor to someone in the past. Cisco’s former Business Operations Manager Laura Earle declared the reverse mentoring program a success, as it built relationships and helped all participants develop a better understanding of the company.

For a reverse mentoring relationship to work, many of the same rules apply as for a more traditional mentoring relationship. Both younger and older participants must keep an open mind and a positive attitude, trust each other, respect each other’s viewpoints and find ways to seek common ground. Both parties should set goals and commit to scheduling ongoing meetings to keep the relationship strong and growing.

managing millennials

Why Don’t Millennials Follow Directions?

Often when I’m speaking to managers of Millennial employees, I’m asked, “Why don’t my Millennial employees follow directions?” As a manager, it can be frustrating to give an assignment only to find out a week later that the assignment is not completed, or partially-completed. What’s the deal? There are two things to know about Millennials that can help you with this on-going management challenge: speed and specificity.

Speed

Since childhood, Millennials have been conditioned to receive guidance and feedback at a high degree of frequency.  Instant feedback on their computer-based quizzes and tests, Google searches, texting and Snapchatting with friends has all had a profound influence on the expectations of speed or response. Particularly in school, Millennials were tested, evaluated, graded and given feedback more often than any other generation to date. Older generations indulged in the virtue of patience simply because things took longer to happen back then. Older generations understand waiting. Millennials were not raised in an environment where waiting is a thing. Instant feedback on almost everything is the norm.

As a manager in the workplace,  consider ‘checking-in’ with your millennial employees a few times a day about the assignment that you’ve provided. You might think it is overkill, but to a Millennial, that’s normal. Frequent ‘check-ins’ allow you to assess their ability to stay on task on that assignment you’ve provided them to make sure they understand how to proceed.

Specificity

Accelerating your check-ins is key, but another important element to get Millennials to accomplish their assignments is to provide directions to Millennials with a high level of specificity. Different generations have very different viewpoints on this issue. Boomer and GenXers embrace the notion of doing an assignment their way. They revel in the independence they have—they don’t need a roadmap, they just need a goal and they will likely get it done with little or no supervision. The viewpoint of Millennials is almost exactly the opposite. They are fairly dependent on you as a manager. They want very specific directions on how to do an assignment correctly, and also an explanation for why it is important.

Why is this? It’s because Millennials were raised in a highly planned and structured environment. From childhood, their lives have been heavily managed by their parents. Even their schools advocated a highly planned and structured environment. Free time and play was not something Millennials did—everything was planned for them.  Another contributing factor in their need for specificity is that they hate to take risks and hate to fail. An “opened-ended” assignment for them is viewed as a risk. Their viewpoint is “why should I take a chance on doing an assignment the wrong way when there is probably an already proven way to do it without error”.  Be assured that if there is a YouTube video on how to do something, they are on it.

A LifeCourse Associates survey revealed: “69 percent of Millennials say they like their supervisor to provide them with ‘hands-on guidance and direction.’ Only about 40 percent of Boomers and older Gen Xers said the same.” In response, many companies are doing away with the annual performance review. It is being replaced with more frequent meetings, updates, goal tracking and evaluations with more specificity. Major companies doing this include GE, Accenture, Deloitte and more.

As a manager, make sure to provide instructions that have clear goals and clear process with a roadmap that assures them they are going in the right direction. Providing them with frequent cycles of open and honest feedback will have positive affects — increased loyalty, professional satisfaction and more employee engagement. Millennials will feel valued, cared for and motivated to meet their goals. Incorporating these two simple elements—speed and specificity means they’ll be more likely to stay with the company for the long run, ultimately reducing recruitment and retention costs.

 

second wave millennial using a mobile device

Introducing the Second-wave Millennials

Just as you were starting to figure out how to manage Millennials in the workplace, a major generational shift is underway. Coming to a workplace near you: Second-wave Millennials.

Every generation has a first wave (older cohort) and a second wave (younger cohort). Each wave has slightly different traits because they were raised by the parents of two different generations. Older Millennials are First-wavers (as of 2017, ages 25 to 35), and were raised by Baby Boomer parents. Younger Millennials, coming into the workplace now, are Second-wave Millennials (ages 13 to 24) and were raised by Generation X parents.

As an entire generation, Millennials have broad traits and behaviors that are enduring and unique regardless of the generation that raised them. But within these traits there are subtle differences based on how Boomers raised them compared to how Gen-Xers raised them. These subtleties are apparent in behavioral shifts in the workplace — and managers should take note.

These differences include Second-wave Millennials’ seeming lack of capabilities in written communications for the business world. In addition, face-to-face communication coaching may be necessary to ensure Second-wave Millennials receive adequate training and development regarding eye contact, posture, voice volume, and pace.

In addition, Second-wave Millennials may have challenges around their own ability to solve problems and think critically. Managers may need to provide training on problem-solving processes and tactics.

Lastly, Second-wave Millennials tend to have less self-awareness about their role as a team

member in a workplace setting. Navigating their way as part of a team is often perplexing to them.

Second-wave Millennials, despite these challenges in the workplace, can be developed into incredibly valuable employees. They will give their full loyalty and talent to your company if you invest in them.

CoachingMillennials has been working with a group of curriculum designers to create six training modules specifically for the Second-wave Millennials in your workplace. Our signature program is called “Developing Your Emerging Professionals: Gaining the 4 Skills Required for Workplace Success.”

The workshop covers key skills such as self-awareness, communication, collaboration, and problem-solving. Contact me directly if you’d like more information on this workshop:

warren@coachingmillennials.com, or call (703) 559-9130.

concentrate at work

How Can I Get My Millennials to Take Their Work Seriously? 

This is a common question that comes up when I’m speaking or training executives who work with Millennials — “How can I get my Millennial employees to take their work seriously?!”

The idea that Millennials don’t take their work as seriously as their older professional counterparts is largely a myth. Studies have shown that in many ways, Millennials are workaholics. Almost half (48 percent) of Millennials “think it is a good thing to be seen as a work martyr by the boss,” — a higher percentage than any other generation surveyed, according to a research by Project: Time Off.

In addition, Millennials are more likely to forfeit paid time off than members of older generations, according to a Bankrate.com survey.

Work Gets Done, Just Differently

The difference in the way Millennials work is often the cause of the misconception that Millennials aren’t taking work seriously. Technology allows many employees to work anytime, from anywhere. For some employees, that means they need to spend less time at their desk in the office. Social media and online project management systems, email and mobile devices, remote desktops and more let Millennials stay connected to work wherever they are — and many sleep with their mobile devices, checking email before falling asleep and again before their feet hit the floor in the morning. (A Harris Poll survey showed 93 percent of Millennials have admitted to using their phones in bed.)

Getting the Best Work from Milliennials

If Millennials in a workplace don’t seem to be taking their work seriously, managers are often able to correct the situation through effective communication, goal-setting and mentoring.

Millennials are most engaged in their work when a few key factors are in place. They include:

  • Understanding their role in the organization. Millennials grew up with team projects and team sports, where they knew and understood their place and role in the group. They seek that same understanding in the workplace, and managers who communicate effectively about how a Millennial employee’s job is important can help Millennials feel more engaged in their work.
  • Understanding the organization’s role in the larger community, economy and world. Further, Millennials were raised with a sense of community and want to make a difference in helping make the world a better place. Millennials who know how the mission of their company aligns with their personal values, helps people and contributes to a “greater good” in society are more engaged at work. (Many companies have started encouraging volunteerism as both a team-building activity and to show corporate responsibility.)
  • Being provided with long-term and short-term goals and support to succeed. Millennials perform best when they have both short-term, achievable goals with the support to succeed, and long-term plans that include professional development and growth. Millennials like to achieve, and they look for a supportive network of colleagues to help them do so. (This train comes from their parents, teachers and coaches, who raised them in a supportive, encouraging setting and taught them they could do anything they put their minds to.) Cross-generational mentoring programs can provide Millennials with an understanding of how to grow and develop professionally over time, putting their short-term achievements at work into a longer-term context.
  • Enabling open, honest and transparent communications. Millennials are more loyal and engaged with employers who have open-door policies in the way they communicate. Millennials watched their parents fear the surprise layoff, and fostering a culture of openness, honestly and genuineness can help prevent employees from looking for new jobs based on false or incomplete information. Good communication and honest feedback can also help Millennials in their quest to achieve their goals and feel professionally fulfilled.

If All Else Fails…

If you are convinced that your Millennial employee is not taking their job seriously, start a dialogue where he or she does most of the talking and you do most of the listening. Make your case—put all the cards on the table, and do your best to listen. Sometimes it is hard to get to the root cause of the issue, especially if your relationship is strained or frustrating. If that still doesn’t work… well, not all hires are a guarantee fit to the role. But if this is happening with more than one employee, you might need some coaching of your own.

gamification

Game-ify Your Workplace

 

For a generation that grew up with Nintendo, Play Station, and Xbox 360, it makes sense that Millennials seek out fun ways accomplish tasks and achieve goals at work. It is estimated that 70 percent of the largest companies today are using some form of gamification to attract and retain their young talent.

Wait… What?

“Gamification” applies game technique to get people to achieve their goals. This is a real thing, and it is a $2.8 billion business. Think about it — Millennials have been conditioned to earn points, badges or rewards through games or competitions, and they like having targets set that are challenging but reachable with smaller goals along the way to measure progress and development.

In addition, because Millennials prefer to compete as part of a team, as opposed to individually, forward-looking companies have found ways to use game techniques in a positive way that encourages collaboration, recognition and support among employees of all ages.

A Growing Trend

According to Gartner Research, the gamification industry (primarily through apps and digital tools) will see significant growth in the next five years, with a market that could reaching $5.5 billion. There are already numerous vendors that can help businesses use the concept; one of the best known is a company called Badgeville.

Best Practices

But many companies are developing their own models and internal competitions that promote productivity. One insurance company, Chicago-based Assurance, has started a Digital High-Five program that promotes both positive, public recognition and competition. Employees can give other employees a digital high-five as a way to recognize good work. These are projected on LCD screens throughout the office for everyone to see. Employees “collect” high-fives, and each quarter the employee who accumulates the most wins an award.

Another insurance organization, Los Angeles-based Bolton and Company, hosted the “Bolton Rock Star Challenge.” To promote creativity and collaboration among employees, the company asked employees to nominate each other. Nominees received a guitar pick, and the person who collected the most guitar picks at the end of a 6-month period was proclaimed winner.

Millennials increasing believe that being successful long-term in their chosen career means meeting short-term goals and making steady, upward progress. Gamification is one way employers can help Millennials see the link between what they do at work today and how it helps their professional development for meeting tomorrow’s (or next year’s) goals.

Learn more about gamification and how it fits into recruiting and retaining the top Millennials — particularly in the insurance industry — in the soon-to-be-released white paper, “Maximizing Millennials for Insurance Agents and Brokers” from CoachingMillennials through the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers (CIAB).

Get on the list (by providing your email address in our Newsletter sign-up box) to receive a notification when the report is released.

How to Attract and Keep Blue-Collar Millennial Employees

Over the past two decades, the nature of hourly work in the United States has changed dramatically — with blue collar jobs making up a smaller percentage of hourly jobs and technological advancement that has yielded significant growth in productivity.

The result: A drastic decline in the demand for blue-collar workers, and a simultaneous “graying” of that workforce. As industries like construction, transportation and warehousing continue to add jobs and grow, being able to attract, train and retain Millennials will be critical to the health of those industries.

Unfortunately for the current leaders in these industries, Millennials — the very workers who in the years to come will be needed to replace outgoing blue-collar retirees — have shown little interest in blue-collar work.

For example, there is a declining percentage of 25- to 34-year-old workers in construction (6.9 percent in 2015, down from 7.9 percent in 2000). According to a 2013 Georgetown University study, 35% of 18- to 24-year-olds worked in a blue-collar job in 1980. By 2010, that share had dropped to 19 percent as the population of people that age in the United States grew.

Why is this happening? In addition to lower demand in some sectors, like manufacturing, blue-collar work has acquired a stigma that drives away Millennials, including stagnant or low wages, a lower quality of life in these careers and more. Millennials who are choosing hourly jobs are often seeking out those that do not necessarily require continuing education or apprenticeship-like training, such as jobs in sales.

How can managers in these blue-collar fields ensure they’re sending positive messages to potential Millennial employees?

Millennials grew up with specific, unique traits that seem to be remarkably inclusive and cut across demographic categories like race, gender and social class. These include being raised to feel special and central to their parents’ lives, feeling protected, believing they can do anything, being team-oriented, and feeling pressured to succeed and achieve.

For hiring managers, this means there are specific, actionable strategies they can use to attract and retain Millennials in their industry. They include:

  • Making Millennials feel like an important part of the team right away by helping them understand how their roles and responsibilities have a positive effect on those around them.
  • Providing counseling and support on life basics such as preparing taxes and saving for retirement, in addition to giving training on “soft skills” so they behave properly in the workplace.
  • Cultivating an upbeat environment and plenty of positive (and frequent) reinforcement that they’re on the right track toward achieving their goals.
  • Equipping Millennials with ways to obtain additional training to advance in their careers.
  • Emphasizing teamwork over individual competition in the workplace.
  • Defining and putting context around how the job they are doing makes a positive difference in the world around them.

In addition, hiring managers must make dedicated efforts in the hiring process to highlight the long-term career potential and growth in these fields. Counter negative assumptions and stereotypes with success stories and early, positive associations. For example, RV manufacturer Thor Industries offers tours to eighth graders and their parents, and also has a presence in schools that lets both audiences know about the well-paid, stable work environment the company provides. The marketing campaign Go Build Alabama, that highlighted above-average earning potential for skilled laborers and emphasized construction as an accessible field to people without college degrees, helped boost applications to apprenticeship programs in the state by 73 percent. Other states have started replicating the program.

Hiring managers should also promote teamwork and leverage Millennials’ team-oriented attitudes. This means recruiting friend groups and creating immersive, multi-day orientation programs that allow time for new hires to bond with their new co-workers. Allow connections during the workday through social media, text messaging and more without assuming these tools are hurting productivity — they can be incorporated into the ways Millennials are used to working.

On an individual level, Millennials appreciate having clear goals and frequent feedback as they work toward those goals. Millennials want tight cycles of feedback (not just a one-per-year performance review) because they have an innate desire to succeed and please those above them.

Managers and executives should also leave the door open for new hires to contribute their ideas. In industries where there may not be much room for this type of input, make it clear how the work Millennials are doing is integral to the team’s mission. Don’t be shy about expressing appreciation for both their work and their ideas. In addition, emphasize how the work their doing helps the larger world or offer volunteer opportunities to increase professional engagement and fulfillment.

While hiring managers of hourly workers in blue-collar industries say the jobs they offer can offer a steppingstone to a fruitful career, it is up to those same hiring managers to convince young job-seekers of this. That requires a new approach to hiring and coaching Millennials.

 

Millennial Engagement, Innovation and Creativity at Work

Almost a year ago, I started CoachingMillennials with two Millennials — my son, Nick, and Georgia Howe, whose father Neil Howe I had the privilege to work with and has done significant research and writing on generations. We continue to research, write and speak about Millennials in the workplace, Millennial issues and more.

This year, we want to tell stories of Millennials who are creative, driven and innovative. To do that, we’re asking to be connected to the hardest working, most inspiring (and inspirational) Millennials you know.

Let me know where you see inspired, motivated Millennials in your workplace, company or organization. Please email me at warren@coachingmillennials.com with your suggestions and connections.

While Millennials aren’t necessarily digital addicts, they are digital natives and are used to both taking in and presenting information in multimedia. We plan to use video, social media platforms and more to let Millennials tell their own stories about engagement, innovation, and creativity at work.

Narrative is an ancient and powerful medium. It inspires and transforms. It plants seeds of innovation and change. A vast majority of workplaces fail to reach their potential. But some do — and we want to go in-depth on how Millennials are helping. What are their stories? How did they do it?

We look forward to finding out from Millennials themselves and sharing with you this year.

Warren

workplace performance review

Millennials, Professional Feedback and the New Performance Review Model

If Millennials had their way in the workplace, the “annual performance review” would go the way of the fax machine and punch clock.

Millennials grew up with “Google” as a verb, as in “to google” virtually any answer to any question. More recently, services like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and other digital concierges make finding information even more effortless.

But technology is not the only catalyst that has conditioned Millennials to receive instant and frequent feedback: Ever since they were young, Millennials were tested and graded at an alarming frequency, all to track their short and long term goal attainment.

Millennials are uniquely conditioned, more than any other generation, to expect speed and frequency– especially as it relates the their performance goals. The dreaded Annual Performance Review, which was never very popular, is fast becoming an antiquated relic, especially for Millennials who crave real time feedback.

Studies have shown that Millennials appreciate hands-on guidance and direction from their supervisors on a more frequent basis, unlike employees from older generations. In a recent LifeCourse Associates’ survey, “69 percent of Millennials say they like their supervisor to provide them with ‘hands-on guidance and direction.’ Only about 40 percent of Boomers and older Gen Xers said the same.”

Providing frequent and tight cycles of honest and open feedback will more-than pay off in productivity and employee engagement. Engaged employees feel valued and have more professional satisfaction, tend to be more motivated, more likely to meet their goals, and more likely to stay with a company in the future.

Some of the top-rated companies and best places to work for have all but ditched the traditional, top-down annual performance evaluation in favor of more frequent, 360-degree reviews. These includes GE, Adobe and Deloitte.

Learn more about how to coach and retain these goal-oriented and feedback-craving Millennials in this white paper, “Employer’s Guide to the Millennial Generation: Your Six Keys to Maximizing Millennial Performance.”

Download the white paper here.

 

4 More Millennial Traits

Last week, we wrote about how Millennials were raised by their parents to feel special, sheltered and confident. Those three Millennial traits mark that generation’s personality, shaped by their parents and the prevailing cultural influences of the times.

But there are four more traits of Millennials worth paying attention to: Team-oriented, Conventional, Achieving and Pressured.

Team-Oriented

There’s a reason why group fitness classes are more popular than ever before: Millennials are the most team sports-oriented generation in history, thanks to the rise of organized sports and parents who focused on group participation activities for their Millennial children. This started early for Millennials, in schools that emphasized group projects and team collaboration.

This team focused orientation set the stage for Millennials’ preference and expectation of working in teams in the workplace. It also sets the stage for managers to play more of a coaching role. The managers who want to attract and retain the best Millennial employees should consider taking on a “coach” role. This means:

  • Building relationships is important, as Millennial employees want to feel like they belong to a team working toward a larger goal or the “greater good” in their career.
  • Cross-generational mentorship is appreciated by Millennials, who want to feel connected to people in other departments, be coached by people with more experience and want to feel part of a community.
  • Embracing open communication and frequent feedback will make Millennials feel welcome and like an important part of the workplace team.

Conventional

It is counter-intuitive to think that “youth” and “conventional” go together. The Baby Boomers led the way in their youth to be unconventional, anti-establishment, and counter-cultural. GenXers followed the Boomers lead by being non-conforming, but in a different, more rule-avoidance way. Millennials, on the other hand, are a truly conventional generation in may respects.

Gallup research revealed, “In addition to finding steady, engaging jobs, millennials want to have high levels of well-being, which means more than being physically fit. Yes, millennials want to be healthy, but they also want a purposeful life, active community and social ties, and financial stability.”

Millennials are waiting longer than their parents and grandparents to get married, have children and buy homes, but not because they don’t want to follow the conventional path of owning a home and raising a family. Millennials are delaying those things due to economic circumstances, i.e.–student loans and tenuous employment situations.

For employers, this means providing Millennials with predictable, stable opportunities to grow their skill set, and a clear career path. Millennials don’t like to “wing it”. They would rather have a plan that extends well into their future and know what to expect for their long-term development. Make sure you provide plenty of opportunity to explain benefits like health insurance, 401ks, and other benefits. Research has shown that Millennials tend be the most conservative when it comes to investing their money. They save at a higher rate than other generations, and are less likely to have their money in the equity market.

Achieving

Millennials want to achieve. Contrary to the common media narrative, they are an ambitious generation that wants to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others. As previously noted, Millennials’ parents were more involved and more positive in many ways when it came to how they were raised. Parents had high expectations for their Millennial children, that they can achieve anything they put their minds to and the sky is the limit

This was reinforced as they became older with historical markers that would have been improbable in the past, such as the first black president, the first female Presidential nominee of a major party ticket, and a wildly successful Millennial entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg who transformed the way all generations communicate.

Another indication for this ethic of high achievement is their education level. “Millennials are on track to be the most-educated generation in history,” according to the Pew Research Center. In 2015, about 27 percent of Millennial women had a bachelor’s degree or higher by age 33, and 21 percent of men did. Those are higher percentages than Generation X, the Baby Boomers or the Silent generation by age 33.

So, how does an employer manage an achieving generation? First, never dumb down your message for Millennials. It is condescending and they will see right through it. Set high standards in performance in the work that they do. Be clear about benchmarks and reward them at each step of the process, not just upon completion of a goal. Remember—Millennials grew up in a 24/7 news cycle, texting and IMing. Speed and frequency is important.

Pressured

A lot of that high-achieving attitude Millennials have comes from the pressure they feel to achieve. A survey conducted by Inc.com revealed 67 percent of millennials said they felt “extreme” pressure to succeed, compared to 40 percent of Gen-Xers and 23 percent of Boomers.

In addition to having highly-involved parents and frequent “measurement” of their progress in school, Millennials feel pressured to succeed at a younger and younger age. “In a strange way, the fact that most millennials’ parents raised them thinking ‘the sky is the limit’ and ‘you can do anything you believe you can,’ then when they don’t immediately find success, they feel bad about themselves, and pressure to ramp it up,” wrote Dr. Rose Kumar.

In the workplace, this means recognizing the stress that they are feeling. A stable salary and clear expectations of their role goes a long way to reducing this stress, and can really improve performance, but smart companies are taking it up a notch. Wellness workplaces, programs that encourage physical exercise, a balanced diet, meditation, and a healthy social network are all part of a growing trend in the workplace that all generations can benefit from.

One common theme that runs through all four of these traits is the need for employers to set clear expectations. Research performed by Gallup found that one of the strongest correlations to workplace performance was an employees ability to understand what is expected of them.

Employers shouldn’t “wing it” when it comes to attracting and managing Millennials. Have a plan. Be clear. Think long-term.

zuckerberg

3 Notable Traits of Millennials

Special, sheltered and confident — those three characteristics are among the major traits of Millennials.

Every generation has its own personality—attitudes, behaviors and traits that are shaped by experiences in their formative years. In a generation’s youth, the prevailing cultural, social, and economic environment creates a permanent imprint that lasts a lifetime. This imprint creates signature traits.

For Millennials, there are generally seven of these traits – three of which we’ll address here: special, sheltered and confident. (Watch for next week’s blog post for the other four.)

Special

Members of the Millennial generation were raised believing they are special and important by their parents who kept a close, watchful eye on them.

In addition, Millennials are used to constant or near-instantaneous feedback on their work, thanks to growing up in an era of testing, measuring and ever-faster technology. For managers, this means Millennials in the workplace want faster feedback cycles, more frequent communication on goals and an open-door policy on communication.

It also means mentorship programs are important to them and something they seek out. And companies are responding: A 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey revealed that more than two-thirds (68 percent) of Millennials who had been with their job for 5 or more years had solid mentors in the workplace.

Sheltered

Thanks in part to the 24/7 news era, the parents of Millennials were constantly reminded of the dangers of the world. In response, many Millennials grew up more “sheltered” than previous generations.

With closer relationships to their parents than earlier generations, the economic realities of post-college life for Millennials often means moving back home — back to the place where they felt special, engaged with, wanted and important.

At the workplace, managers of Millennials may take on elements of parenting by taking a more hands-on approach to working with Millennials. Millennials will appreciate managers who give them reachable, incremental goals and rewards for meeting them. Plus, managers should realize that Millennials want to work for someone who “has their back” in the workplace and collaborates with them.

Confident

While Millennials like feeling protected and affirmed, they are also quite confident. Those same parents who raised Millennials to feel special and wanted also raised them to believe they could accomplish anything they put their minds to.

Growing up in an era of self-made billionaires (Mark Zuckerberg is a Millennial), participation trophies and the election (twice) of the first black president, Millennials were raised with the attitude that they can achieve anything they put their mind to.

For managers, that means striking a delicate balance between hand-holding and granting independence and leadership opportunities. It also means trusting them to make solid decisions and manage themselves with proper guidance.

Check out the second part in this series on Millennial traits next week.

millennials are digital natives, but not digital addicts

Myth: Millennials are Digital Addicts and Avoid In-Person Communication

Millennials are digital addicts. They post Instagram photos from the dinner table, check Snapchat before they get out of bed in the morning and are more concerned about losing their phone than losing their wallet. Combine this with their inability to have a face-to-face conversation, and, well… the essence of humanity hangs in the balance.

Not so. Studies repeatedly have shown Millennials appreciate in-person engagement through their daily interactions, and in the workplace a strong majority prefer to interact with colleagues in person.

Millennials appreciate flexible schedules and the ability to work from anywhere, and they incorporate digital technology into almost every aspect of their life — but they say digital doesn’t outweigh the value of having a real conversation as part of building strong relationships. Communication for Millennials is not an either/or proposition with digital and in-person. It’s both.

Today, all generations are digitally dependent, but Millennials are the only generation that literally grew up with the internet, search engines, texting, and social media. This makes their interactions with technology more comfortable and seamless with their daily routine. They are indeed, “digital natives,” but it does not means they replace digital interaction at the expense of face-to-face interaction.

Millennials Don’t Always ‘Prefer’ Digital Communications

While Millennials are used to processing a lot of digital information and some seem to have the ability to multitask more efficiently than previous generations, they don’t always prefer digital communication. Studies from the Pew Research Center show that although Millennials send more text messages than members of other generations, their use of the telephone is the same as older adults. And when they can’t figure something out, they would rather talk to a person than get help online. “For many Millennials, person-to-person contact is still a reliable and effective solution to their problems — not something they fear or avoid,” Nielsen Norman Group reported.

This applies in the workplace, too. A Fortune/IBM study shows that when it comes to learning new professional skills, Millennials prefer face-to-face interaction and in-person coaching and mentoring.

Additionally, although many people characterize Millennials as a generation of over-sharers, that same Fortune/IBM study revealed Millennials are more likely to draw a firm line between professionalism and personal sharing than older generations.

Other Generations are Digital Addicts, Too

It’s not just Millennials who love technology. A Nielsen study found that older generations of adults are just as addicted to their mobile devices. Baby Boomers are more likely to use technology during a family meal than their Millennial or Homelander (sometimes called Generation Z) counterparts. More than half of Baby Boomers (52 percent) have admitted to using technology at the dinner table – 12 percent more than Millennials and 14 percent more than Homelanders.

Tips for Managers and Employers

What does all of this mean for the people who manage Millennial employees?

First, don’t assume that Millennials are less communicative than other generations — but be aware that it may be through different mediums at different times. Millennials will appreciate employers and managers who have found flexibility in integrating communications technology in the workplace.

Second, be open to Millennials’ suggestions to new communication tools that can help them (and you) communicate. Many Millennials are using systems like Slack or Asana in managing projects and messaging co-workers about project statuses.

Finally, nothing will replace in-person communication. It’s still key for all employees to have the opportunity to have in-person meetings, and for Millennials, in-person meetings are the best way to show that you care about them.

 

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How to Coach Goal-Oriented Millennial Employees

It’s counterintuitive, but Millennials in the workplace are far more goal-oriented than their Boomer and GenX counterparts.

You may be thinking that Millennials are starry-eyed dreamers, but that was the Boomer generation when they were young. Or maybe you are thinking that Millennials are slackers, just drifting to and fro, but that was GenXers when they were young. Of the three generations currently in the workforce, Millennials are decidedly the most focused “on the prize.”

Like all generational traits, their heavily goal-oriented ways started with how they were raised. Millennials were measured and monitored relentlessly growing up by their parents and teachers with a focus on opportunities for growth and meeting their goals. From grades to test scores, credentials and certifications, trophies and rewards, Millennials are familiar with measurements of success against objective benchmarks. Goal attainment is their sweet spot.

In the workplace, it’s no different. Millennial employees crave frequent feedback and progress assessments. An MTV Millennials in the Workplace survey revealed 80 percent of respondents said they preferred “real-time feedback” over more traditional (often annual or semi-annual) performance reviews. Executives at many companies are adjusting to this Millennials mindset by offering more frequent reviews, more forward-looking feedback, and guidance and support to help ensure Millennials meet their professional goals.

There are discussions in some of the most respected companies to banish performance feedback reviews entirely, and replace that onerous process with live, real time feedback. In addition to offering faster feedback and review cycles, managers should establish clear benchmarks, objectively-based performance measurement, incremental goals and rewards for achievement. Providing Millennial employees with short-term goals that can be measured will improve their performance and help them remain professionally satisfied at work.

As digital natives, Millennials also respond well to using technology as a measurement device. Think about the fit-bit device for the workplace. Project management software and systems that introducing a ‘gaming’ element to the workplace (such as those that offer badges or points for achievement) can move Millennials forward at work.

A just-released white paper from Coaching Millennials provides six effective strategies every manager can use to attract, coach, and keep top Millennial talent. Along with helping Millennials focus on and achieve their professional and workplace goals, the white paper discusses the work environment, communication and much more. Taken together, these strategies can get any employer on the path to better performance from their young professionals.


white-paper-frontt

Download the white paper (free) here.

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