Millennials, digital natives born between 1981-1999, are accustomed to ongoing dialog and expect coaching in many different forms. In this knowledge economy, millennials know that learning is currency to be cashed in for other opportunities?whether with your company or another organization. Even in this challenging business environment, 56 percent of Millennials surveyed by The End Result said they would leave a job if the workplace was hostile, even if they didn't have a new job lined up.
Whether the company was high-tech or customer-centric, the results were universal: coaching is essential to managing Millennials effectively. Coaching does not need to take up much time. In fact, most Millennials prefer a frequent, quick checkins to a long conversation.
These five simple coaching suggestions will promote dialog, a key to engaging and leading this generation.
1. Offer encouragement
Millennials are accustomed to collaborative relationships—from their parents, teachers and sports coaches. Some have a fear of failure, so they are afraid to stretch out too far as they don’t want to disappoint. They respond favorably when they understand what it takes to meet or exceed the assignment.
Many managers feel that being a "self-starter" is important and that encouragement is a form of coddling. However, quick feedback once a week or so, along with encouragement about things that are working and feedback about things that are not, will result in a more productive employee. Once millennials receive consistent encouragement and coaching, the probability that they will become loyal and highly motivated employees increases.
2. Ask them how they'd like to be coached
Understanding their perspective can save a lot of time in the long run. Try not to get hung-up on a “Why is it always about them” mindset. For example, a quick e-mail or text back to answer questions combined with 15 minutes of focused time every other week for a more in-depth conversation could satisfy a millenial worker without requiring a lot of time or effort from a manager.
This generation is used to customization in so many aspects of their lives—from ring tones to playlists to tattoos. When you consider how they like to be coached and merge that with how you like to communicate, you will come up with a comfortable approach that is mutually beneficial.
3. Declare your intentions
Millennials want to know that you have their best interest at heart, just like their parents, teachers and coaches. This is especially important when you are asking them to do tasks and projects they may not understand. For example, to help them see how things fit together and what’s in it for them, you could say something such as “My intention is to have the best possible outcome for this project. Your ability to develop the client presentation gives you good visibility, which is good for our team.” Declaring your intentions in a clear and specific way not only shows your millennial employees that you are supporting their career, but it supports a relationship-style focus that is appealing to this generation.
4. Clarify boundaries
For previous generations, there were very clear social boundaries. There was a rank-and-file perspective in the workplace. But the line between work and play is merged for Millennials. In a recent meeting in a traditional Fortune 100 company, a newly hired millennial employee asked one of the visiting executives why someone on the team was promoted over someone else. Was this a good question? It may be, depending on the situation, but it was out-of-bounds in that forum. To the executive, this Millennial looked naive and immature. This new hire needs coaching to understand why it was not appropriate.
Providing clear expectations is critical. Lay out the rules with regard to Internet and mobile phone usage, dress, office and meeting demeanor and other business protocols. It will eliminate confusion and frustration.
5. Be consistent
Millennials pay very close attention to consistency in actions and words in the work environment. For example, if a Millennial was counseled for wearing a too-revealing outfit to the office, but an executive wore that same outfit, that inconsistency will be noted. Inconsistency is also likely to erode credibility and hurt working relationships. One could argue that it’s not just Millennials who spot inconsistencies. However, because they are blind to hierarchy and believe every colleague is basically a peer, they will call out hypocrisy.
Unlike previous generations, Millennials can (and do!) broadcast their displeasure via social networks. As the average Millennial has 220+ Facebook friends, they are not the least bit hesitant to share their feelings about injustices or major inconsistencies.
OPEN Cardmember Diane Spiegel is CEO of The End Result, a training company dedicated to leadership and supervisory education and creator of Sage Leadership Tools, resources to help the multi-generations in today’s workplace communicate more effectively.