This column is part of Globe Careers’ new Leadership Lab series, where executives and leadership experts share their views and advice about the leadership and management issues of today. There will be a new column every weekday. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.
Millennials are unlike any previous generation. They are non-conforming, vibrant and passionate to their core. They do not follow the conventional path, and they have high expectations of themselves, of others and of life. They are committed – but their commitment is very individual. Self-aware, they follow a career path of their own design and are not willing to settle or adhere to expected behaviour the way their parents did.
Millennials, defined as those born between 1980 and 1999, follow their passions and are intent on living lives of purpose (but do not presuppose that purpose means doing charitable work). Passion is critical. It’s one of the main motivators that gets them up and going every day.
When you manage millennial employees, as I do, you need to fuel that passion and harness it to meet organizational objectives. This often means finding a balance between adapting the workplace to millennial employees and helping millennials adapt to your workplace. More than 80 per cent of our work force is made up of millennials. For the health of the company, we must continually be committed to finding the best ways to manage, motivate, train and retain them.
Based on that experience, here are five important techniques managers can use to get the most out of their millennial employees:
1. Clarify your expectations
While employees with more experience may naturally pick up on and adapt to your office culture, you need to explain expectations to millennials. Some areas to cover are typical hours of work, dress code, etiquette and organizational values.
There need to be conversations about these guidelines (not memos or notices on bulletin boards) because the explanation needs to include the rationale behind the guidelines. Just as important, explaining the rationale gives you, as a manager, the opportunity to reflect on where there is room to be flexible. For instance, millennial employees will put in the work required to complete a task, but they may prefer to start their day at 10 a.m. – not 7 a.m. If there is a reason why the work day must start early in the morning, explain that. If not, can you be flexible about start time if it means you get a more productive employee?
2. Give them the tools they need to thrive
Young talent may be clever, keen and equipped with all the creativity and skill in the world, but if they aren’t given the right tools, they may struggle to contribute. Millennials should be given training on time management, conversation etiquette (e-mail conversations, face-to-face chats, formal meetings) and presentation skills (instilling the concept that nearly every interaction is some type of presentation) to help them work as part of your team. Arming them with these skills is an important way for managers to get the most from their employees.
3. Show them why their work matters
Millennials need to understand how they connect to others and how their work contributes to the end result. They will be more motivated when they understand the importance of their individual contribution. During training, share an organizational chart with millennial employees. The focus should be on the work and the process rather than titles and hierarchy. This helps them connect the dots between each step and see the importance of their individual contributions.
4. Give them regular feedback
Regular feedback is critical for millennials. They need to know how they’re doing and they need to know there is a development plan in place. Regular check-ins ensure that employees and managers are aligned in terms of their expectations and evaluations. These are the best ways to ensure continuous growth and improvement for a young employee. Put in place a formal schedule of 30- and 90-day check-ins followed by 360-degree reviews, remuneration accountability and career development plans that reflect your millennials’ individual merit and pace of growth.
5. Share the big picture
Even at the interview stage, I emphasize that we are not doctors; we are not saving lives – but that our work does have an impact on the lives of the people we work with and the clients we work for. To instill this sense of responsibility, we develop BHAGs – big hairy audacious goals – to create this connection for millennial employees so they are motivated to achieve organizational objectives.
Create engaged millennial employees by sharing the big picture with them and encourage them to share their personal goals and motivations. This helps you better understand your employees and provide personalized incentive systems or rewards. It also lets staff know they are valued as humans, not just employees.
Nicole Gallucci (@BOOMbanter) is head curator of Boom Marketing in Toronto.