Coaching Millennials: How to Work with Generation Y
Arguably, no generation has been analyzed and talked about as much as millennials. Also called generation Y, these youth were born roughly between 1980 and 1994, and they comprise the base of the young workforce. As an employer or manager, you no doubt have millennials on your team, and to coach them toward success, you need the right tactics.
1. Focus on Candor
Candor is simply the practice of being honest and straightforward. It means you dole out compliments when due but aren't afraid to be direct about when your employees need to make changes. That helps streamline communication differences between generations. It's important to remember that not everyone is coming from the same place, and beating around the bush often just leads to confusion.
2. Individualize Training Efforts
Millennials are used to a world that's tailored to their wants and preferences. The majority of this generation doesn't remember a time before the internet, and that has affected how they engage with the world. When you're hanging out online, the ads you see are based on your browser history. When you listen to music streaming services, the apps use powerful algorithms to hone in on the tunes you'll like.
While coaching millennials, it helps to keep those experiences in mind. Millennials have almost always had customized experiences in media, and they want that reflected in life. To that end, it helps to start with a training template that you can tweak for the individual needs of members of this generation.
3. Provide Flexibility
If you are in an industry that can support the practice, consider giving millennials (and others in your office) free time. Many companies have found advantages in earmarking a certain percentage of time or a set number of days per month for employee-selected projects. It can be surprising to see what employees come up with, and in many cases, the new ideas or direction isn't something management would have come up with on its own.
At the same time, millennials have also grown up under the rallying cries of "live, laugh, love", "follow your heart", and "find your passion". Raised in that environment, this generation tends to believe that passion-filled careers are the best. By extension, when they are given a bit of flexibility to try projects their own way or come up with their own projects, it makes them more engaged and happier. Happy employees are productive employees. Happiness also boosts retention which saves you money on hiring and training.
4. Learn From Them
Whether they are coaching millennials or any other generation, successful managers learn from their employees. They realize that information can't just flow from the top to the bottom. Organizations thrive when they have a diversity of ideas and when employees feel like they are being listened to. While all generations may crave that, millennials are more likely to demand it and let it have an impact on their performance.
5. Don't Over-Focus on the Negative Differences
Millennials have gotten a lot of bad press. They've been referred to as the “me-me-me” generation and have been called entitled more than once, but adults have lobbed insults like that at youth for generations. In fact, when talking about the rebellious youth of the 440 BC generation, Socrates wrote:
"The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”
As a mature Gen Xer or baby boomer, it can be tempting to focus on the negative aspects of millennials, but that isn't helpful when you're trying to coach a team. Instead, try to see and appreciate what millennials bring to the table, and remember, it may not be negative, it may just be different.