As an experienced manager, you already know that not all employees will respond the same way to the same communication styles and coaching techniques. Some employees appreciate criticism, some resent it, some prefer a hands-on approach, and some thrive when their managers take a step back and allow them to take full ownership of their projects. These preferences and quirks don’t always correspond perfectly to certain identity factors, like age or background, and it isn’t easy to divide employees along clear lines (for example, it’s never wise to assume that men like to be treated one way and women another). But in some ways, millennial employees tend to stand apart from their gen X and baby boomer counterparts, and taking note of these differences can help managers to understand the needs of this unique demographic. Here are a few tips that can help you maintain productive relationships with your younger workers.
Treat them like adults but respect their lack of experience.
Generations ago, a 22-year-old person could be considered a fully realized adult, but in today’s complicated world, that expectation just isn’t reasonable. Respect your millennial employees by recognizing the limits of their experience. When they make mistakes, coach and teach, don’t berate. Help them grow; don’t insist that they step into the workplace already knowing everything they need to know in order to succeed.
Technology is great, but it isn’t everything.
Just because your millennials have mastered social media does not mean they’re “tech-savvy”. It doesn’t mean they can manage an SQL database or update a legacy IT system or even confidently connect their own devices to the company network. Again, keep your expectations and assumptions under control, and keep communication channels open. Explain what needs to be explained, and ask what needs to be asked.
Recognize the way they’ve been raised.
Studies show that when compared to their gen x and baby boomer peers, millennials tend to be more empathetic, more comfortable with supervision and oversight, and more willing to take innovative risks. Some of these “millennial” traits are simply products of age; everyone goes through similar growth phases during their early twenties. But some of these traits are unique and have not appeared prominently in previous generational cohorts. This may be due to rise of the internet, hover-parenting, a 24 hour news cycle, a cultural shift, or any number of other factors; we may never know for sure. But if you keep an open mind and listen carefully when your millennial employees tell you who they are and what they need, you get the most out of these relationships, and you’ll attract and retain a group of hardworking, ambitious future leaders who will choose your company over the competition.
For more on how to build strong relationships with valuable young employees, turn to the Cleveland County staffing and management experts at PSU.