Organization dynamics are changing at a rapid pace. Both technology and globalization have established footholds in the way business is conducted as well as the way employees collaborate.
This has led to a broad discussion on how traditional organizational structures are becoming obsolete amidst a more nimble and fast-paced way of working. One of the catalysts in this change resides in the human capital equation, in particular, the influx of Gen Y or Millennial workers.
Thanks to early exposure with internet and mobile technologies, Gen Y’s expectations of communication methods between themselves and with others demonstrates a fundamental shift in attention, responsiveness, and their view of the world of work.
While many companies embrace the speed, persistence, and energy provided by this demographic, few employers are taking active steps to address the inevitable shift of Gen Y from Individual Contributors to Managers. Now more than ever business leaders need to build frameworks that will adequately equip this segment of future managers for success.
As a talent pool, Millennials crave feedback and their assumption is that the comments made about their performance will be positive. It’s not that Gen Y can’t take negative feedback, but the general focus in their upbringing in both academic and parental treatment often over-rotated on giving praise (with the ability to snag a trophy whether you placed first or last).
Translated to a work environment, Millenials can be sensitive to taking criticism or find it difficult to hear unwelcomed opinions that don’t jive with their view of the world and performance. “It can take as little as two months of no feedback from the boss, being left out of decision making processes, or having ideas ignored to drive Gen Yers to leave their jobs,” according to Row Henson, a human capital management specialist for Oracle. Further, she says that forcing them to work only with predetermined skill sets erases potential.
Boomers or Gen X Managers must take this eagerness for achievement to heart. The first step in providing a path to management is to leverage the strength of the Gen Y employee and adapting their passion to a process that allows them to differentiate the personal style of others in managing the output of a team.
The goal is to focus on Gen Yers confidence in their personal excellence and couple that with a strategy they can use to help others perform at their best. Provide recognition for what the Millenial has accomplished and the potential he or she has first and then provide them pointers on how to build a solid foundation of management practices.
Generation Y does not like to waste time on seemingly pointless projects. This attitude can leap to how they manage particularly in the first few months of a supervisory role. Balancing their individual workload in addition to the deliverables of others can quickly overwhelm the Gen Y Manager leading to disengagement if they aren’t allowed to stop, learn, and readjust their approach on-the-fly.
Observing Gen Y management behaviors takes time and patience and a willingness to jump in and coach for improvements quickly. The old school expectation that a dutiful protégé follows and observes what the more experienced leader does is over.
It is important for employers to realize that embracing this change in thinking will help them connect faster with Gen Y workers moving up the career ladder. At the same time, it is important for Gen Y to realize that it is important to work well with everyone, regardless of age.
Once the environment is set for Gen Y Managers to be successful, like any other shift in job responsibilities, setting the right expectations is critical. This idea goes beyond simply giving Gen Y Managers a set of tasks to check off and prove they can manage people, but rather a philosophy is required to enable these new leaders to scale team motivation over time.
That means taking small team wins and leveraging those wins across more complex projects. This teaches the Gen Y Manager about motivation and ongoing employee engagement (not to mention the satisfaction of being able to extend praise to others for their accomplishments).
The key message to deliver when coaching and mentoring Gen Y for management is to emphasize that no matter who you are dealing with, it is important to remember that people are individuals. As such, Millennial Managers must learn to guard against the mindset that just because some top management may appear to be ‘dinosaurs’ in their ways of doing business, it does not mean that they are not effective at managing people and the organization. Millennials can learn from this example and adapt the best practices that equally align with their personal approach to management.
Tony Deblauwe is a Workplace and Career Expert and founder of consulting firm, HR4Change. He has extensive experience working in high-tech companies supporting Human Resources, Organizational Development, Talent Management, and Executive Coaching. A certified coach, he is the author of the best-selling and award-winning book on dealing with difficult bosses called Tangling with Tyrants: Managing the Balance of Power at Work.