Develop Millennials in the Workforce

Ready to develop your millennial workforce and see your company reach new heights!? It might seem like an idyllic dream, yet it's more realistic than most people think when mindsets and processes are slightly changed. 

If you are just joining the conversation, this is the third article in a series of attracting, developing, and retaining millennials. Our first discussion covered the communication gap between generations. The second blog was all about attracting young people to businesses and now we can jump into developing millennials. 

Before we go too deep, let's get rid of the elephant in the room. As a former college instructor and current consultant, I have repeatedly heard slights and insults regarding millennials. Can we just agree we all want our businesses along with ourselves to be successful?

If the answer is yes, then the insults must be replaced with solutions. 

Millennials are changing the workplace. Rather than staying with one company for decades and working toward a linear path, they want to be purposeful, desire flexible work schedules, and seek consistent coaching and feedback (Forbes). In short, they do not work like previous generations.

This presents a problem for most employers who are unsure of how to lead them. But the fact is, millennials currently make up the largest generation of workers in the United States and are here to stay (PewResearch)!

Businesses can be successful if they learn to harness the talents of this technologically-savvy, purpose-driven generation in a way that is profitable to the company while also providing meaning to employees.

Our collective goal should be developing young people for a brighter future. But how can this be accomplished? We will look at two areas which are critical for millennial development, especially if you are a manager, executive, business owner, or future leader. 

You Spell Leader - C O A C H

Some will scoff at the idea of managers being coaches, but it must be done for proper millennial development. Think of how young people were raised. Specifically, in the education system, they were bombarded with standardized tests which constantly graded them and placed them on a spectrum of academic "success." This combined with social media has created a culture of daily assessment. How do I line up with others, where do I rank academically, why am I not doing better professionally?

Simply put, my generation is used to continual and immediate feedback. This is both good and bad. The negative should be obvious. Young people can have trouble with creative problem solving, self-starting, and second guessing their decisions because they are looking for validation from others. If you are a manager you have likely received too many emails from an employee asking questions when you just wanted them to start a project. 

However, there are positives to the constant feedback. Millennials have the ability to move quickly as we are always connected. Someone recently asked how they could get a hold of me. I thought for a second and replied: call, text, email, Slack, Basecamp, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, or possibly carrier pigeon. My point was I am always connected and ready to respond. This should be a coaches dream. Many young people are ready to work and are easy to reach, but they do need coaching. 

A great coach sees potential and pulls it out of people. This is a mandatory skill to develop millennials. I have been honored to lead many teams, and here are some tips for coaching.

  • Be patient: this can be the most difficult part, but remember we all start as novices.
  • Think incrementally: when I was a personal trainer I would tell clients, you can't imagine what your body will be doing in 6-weeks. I did this to get them prepared, but for the first couple of weeks we did basic exercises and then within a few months they were doing advanced movements. Do the same with your employees. Start them on the fundamentals and increase the difficulty incrementally. 
  • Praise goes down, blame goes up: this is a phrase I live by and view the mindset as essential for true leadership. Praise always goes to the those you lead and blame always comes to you. If your employee made a mistake, 99% of the time it was your fault. Be a leader and take ownership.

That is really all it takes to be a solid coach. Be patient, increase challenges in stages, and always provide praise while accepting blame. In the case of millennials, they desperately need these characteristics from their leaders as they thrive under coaches, not bosses.

How do You Measure Output?

This will be a touchy subject, but one which should be acknowledged. As part of the BizLatte team, I oversee operations and do market research to improve our consulting and coaching offerings. Part of this research has rested on the idea of production and output. 

I have met will multiple millennials who have a large complaint about work. Maybe you will relate. They are upset because they can get their job done in 4-6 hours and then have to stay at work with nothing to do. These people are intelligent, efficient, and have figured out how to utilize technology to accomplish tasks quickly. Then they wait for something else to do but are not allowed to leave the office. This mentality will make it unlikely for businesses to succeed because their workforce will become bored, resentful, and eventually leave.

The United States' economy is continually shifting to knowledge work which is dissimilar to the past. Few people are measured on how many widgets they produce in a day. This alters how long it takes to do a job. Some days, work can be completed in 4-hours while others might take 10- or 12-hours. Clear metrics of success need to be identified if you really want to develop your young workforce.

  • Is it okay if an employee leaves after 6-hours if they have met their daily demands?
  • How do you measure production?
  • Is remote work or partial remote work a possibility if your worker is more productive at their home office?
  • If a worker must stay in the office, do you have something for them to do?

I meet with executives frequently and I am surprised at how often these questions have not been asked or answered. These questions are essential to develop millennials. I would encourage you to think through the answers if you oversee a team. If you are struggling to find clear answers, here is something to try.

Ask your team to come up with a "dream list" of items which would help the group and company. Maybe a more efficient process to a problem, researching competitors, or anything else. Edit and approve the list, then put it in a common place. If an employee finishes their work in 4- or 6-hours they can start working on the dream list. This will give them a sense of authority, help the overall team, and allow you to find your A-players. 

I still remember being a waiter over a decade ago and the way we scheduled shifts was terrible. I asked if I could look at the issue during down time at the restaurant and within a week we had a new process which the team, including management, liked. This little bit of responsibility made my day and kept me busy.

Play the Long Game

Developing millennials does not happen overnight. We know the current business culture has multiple generations working side-by-side, in some cases with high-tension between the cultures. There should be deliberate attention to solve these issues.

Bringing in young talent is just the beginning of the solution. The next stage is development. Millennials have vast talents which can be amplified with proper coaching. Leaders should view millennial development as a long game which requires patience. We all need this mindset. 

For young people, success does not come quickly. Listen and learn from those who have come before you. For more experienced generations, take the time to coach and set clear standards of expected production. Together we can build a unified team to improve our businesses. 

The BizLatte team would be happy to help with this millennial development if your team is unsure how to move forward in this process. See our consulting services for more information to enhance your millennial team. 

Next week we will reach the peak of our discussion as we look at the ways to retain your properly developed talent.

Matt Avery