Supervising the Millennial Generation
July 10th, 2015 by tds admin
A new generation is making its way into the workforce. Young people from Generation Y, also known as the Millennial generation, who were born roughly between 1980 and 2001, represent the bulk of new employees. Meanwhile, Baby Boomers are retiring and Generation X is assuming their leadership roles. Because Millennials have a vastly different way of living, working and learning than their predecessors, they want and need to be led differently.
The Generation Gap
Members of Generation X, now in their 30s and 40s, are seen as fairly independent and individualistic, working hard to reach their goals on their own terms. They appreciate a relaxed work environment, but have a lot of initiative and value some structure. Their Baby Boomer parents were likely workaholics and probably had a lot to do with shaping their work ethic. They are, however, less committed to staying with one employer for a long time period than are Baby Boomers.
Conversely, Millennials, who are currently just entering the workforce, are more team oriented than independent and take on more of a global perspective. They are strongly connected to their parents and many are still dependent on parental help and support. Research shows that there doesn’t seem to be a desire or need to break the connection.
This just skims the surface of the differences between the generations. With one supervising the other, some training – and a lot of compromise – is necessary to ensure success.
The “Why” Behind Generation Y
There are several theories on why Millennials believe and behave so differently than previous generations. It’s largely held that they are more team oriented and prefer to achieve goals as a collective rather than independently because they grew up during the time when “everybody got a trophy.” If you’re unfamiliar with this notion, it became quite popular at one time for team sports to give a trophy to everyone who participated instead of just to the winning team members. For this reason, Millennials have been dubbed “The Trophy Kids.”
As a whole, parents doted on this generation. While most members of Generation X tended to be latchkey kids or watched largely by caregivers because their parents were working, many members of Generation Y were the pride and joy of their parents and probably had one parent at home. That parent was likely to involve their children in extracurricular activities and team sports, where they learned group achievement.
School has also been a purveyor of the “everyone is a winner” philosophy. As students, Millennials were probably allowed much leeway and graded in such a way so as to not damage their self-esteem. Some schools even stopped using red ink when grading because it was considered too harsh for young egos!
Millennials at Work
Because Millennials are more team oriented, they feel most accomplished when their team reaches a goal. And while they have a reputation for expecting success quickly – wanting to reach higher levels of position and salary sooner – they also tend to want to spend more time with their families. This can seem paradoxical to employers from different generations, but it can also result in more productive employees who work harder to get their jobs done faster so they can get home to their family. Their desire to be promoted can also be a positive sign that they have the drive to do what it takes to succeed.
Members of Generation Y also tend to want the flexibility to work from home or off-site, dress casually at the office and do the exact opposite of anything that could be deemed “corporate.”
Because of their global viewpoint, Millennials may see work-related issues as having little significance compared to the problems of the world, so their attitude may appear to be lackadaisical to their Generation X superiors. But it may just be that Generation Y is motivated by different things than their predecessors, such as how solving a problem can benefit the whole as opposed to the one.
Also due to their upbringing, members of Generation Y want to know up front and regularly what’s in it for them. They want to know what they will receive if they do a good job on a project. For this reason, they tend to request frequent performance reviews and can benefit from daily feedback. However, if those reviews are too harsh, they could be adversely affected and might even leave their job, especially if they know they can simply move back home if they lose their income.
Supervising the Future
The new workforce may appear to have some unrealistic expectations, and employers certainly can’t completely alter their operations to appease the younger generation. But if companies don’t make at least a few changes, they won’t be prepared to acquire or, more importantly, retain Millennials, which could deprive them of a generation of productive and valuable workers.
Here are some steps you can take to prepare for the future workforce:
- Be aware of gaps. It’s sometimes helpful to have a third party do an assessment of your business to identify any generational differences and see whether they’re impeding productivity.
- Prepare leadership. Transitional leadership training can teach supervisors how to better engage and manage the next generation.
- Think “team.” To motivate Millennials, begin looking at the team’s cohesiveness and achievements instead of individual goals.
- Be flexible. Allowing for more flexibility on the job, such as telecommuting or redefining the work week, can help retain younger workers who want to spend more time with family.
- Provide mentoring. Train Millennials at being more adept at individual innovation.
- Motivate. Let younger workers know what they can achieve or attain if they stick with the company for any length of time. Provide regular performance reviews (weekly or daily), listen to their opinions and allow them to take part in decision-making. Millennials need to know how their job makes a difference and why it’s of value to the company.
- Speak their language. Find creative ways to deliver training and other information to younger workers. Millennials aren’t likely to be motivated by a 200-page manual or traditional classroom training and they probably won’t stay engaged with a program that spans a long period of time. Meet them where they are with technology, more hands-on, team-oriented training and programs that get them up to speed quicker.
Organizations like TDS provide coaching and mentoring to managers to help bridge the generation gap. An in-depth assessment can determine if and where the gap exists, while learning and development programs can provide transitional leadership training (Baby Boomers to Generation X) and teach managers how to better engage and supervise Generation Y.
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