Lately the issue of how to motivate and lead the newest crop of college graduates (the millennials, I believe they are called) has been top of mind for some of my baby boomer clients. And I've had the chance to talk with a few 20-somethings who are struggling with how to work with us older folks.
This is an important thing to get right. There are far fewer of these young workers than there were when we baby boomers graduated from college. Competition will be stiff for the really good ones. If you want to attract and retain the best, you will want to know more about what floats a 24 year old's boat.
Wanting to learn more myself, I turned to LinkedIn and asked, "If you are 20-something, what would you advise a 50-something manager about how to help you engage in the organization, flourish and contribute?" Here's what I learned.
Cristine Clarke reported on a recent conference where she heard seven core traits of this young generation: achieving, team oriented, special, sheltered, confident, conventional, pressured.
This generation grew up with tons of recognition - almost constant cheering from the sidelines. Don't wait for miracles before you notice and point out great stuff - recognize and celebrate often.
Don't micromanage these folks. Focus on and measure results - not time or effort. Agree to challenging goals and coach (not boss) them to success. Be flexible on time. They will work long hours if that is what it takes to achieve the goals they have agreed to. But they want the flexibility to be "on" or "off" when it works for them.
Many in this generation are less motivated by money than those in the baby boom generation. More money won't get you more effort. If you want their passion and brains at work, give these kids your trust and help them see how their work is making a meaningful contribution to big goals. Don't force them to labor on little bits of work without understanding how what they are doing matters on a bigger scale. Clearly link their work to the important and meaningful mission and goals of the organization.
These folks are more focused on a balanced and busy life - a life that includes non-work passions. Recognize and support their need to turn work off. If they're getting the results, cut them a lot of slack.
Inform them quickly, clearly, accurately and often. They want to know. One 23 year-old told me she and her friends are skeptical by nature. Give them information and the time to make up their own minds. When you do pass along information, use all of the tools this generation grew up with. Use internal blogs, text messages, email, Twitter and other tools to get the word out. If you don't know how to do some of these, ask your younger employees for help.
Mentoring and other forms of career development are not optional with this new crop of employees. Don't leave them floundering to figure out how the organization works and how to find their place in it. Find out what assistance they need and get if for them.
Given their focus on team, I suspect many of these kids will not respond well to internal competition. Look for ways to help people come together for the common good.
When all is said and done, of course, generalizations like these are always less than perfect. The real key to success in leading 20-somethings (30-somethings, 40-somethings, 50-somethings, any-somethings) is to treat each as an individual. Figure out what "floats her boat." Learn her strengths. Ask how you can help. Trust her and behave in a way that she will trust you.
People who contributed ideas to this article:
- Rachel Patout
- Whit Tice
- Cristine Clarke
- Eric Peterson
- Darcella Craven
- Lisa Sansom
- Marc Pitman
- Jan Simpson
- David Henderson
- Fazia Rizvi [Fazia offers up this list of resources for managing professionals.]
- Trista Harris [Trisa wrote advice for those working with millennials.]
- KellyAnn Bonnell [Be sure to checkout KellyAnn's blog on the subject!]
- Robert Gold