There’s a famous quote attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald: “The rich are different from you and me.” For a generation of older managers, a similar sentiment could apply to their understanding of Millennials in the workforce. They’re just somehow different. They want different things, they’re motivated by different incentives, they have have different values. To paraphrase Mr. Fitzgerald, “The Millennials are different from you and me.” Which poses distinct management challenges. Which is why I was interested to read about a recent study in Harvard Business Review. It suggested the secret to managing Millennials can be summed up in one word: coaching.
The study shows that Millennials want, and do well, with feedback – and, comparatively speaking, lots of it. “They crave — and respond to — a good, positive coach, who can make all the difference in their success,” Willyerd writes. “Millennials told us they want more feedback from their managers… Most Millennials want feedback at least monthly, whereas non-Millennials are comfortable with feedback less often. Overall, Millennials want feedback 50% more often than other employees.”
According to the study, Millennials look to their direct manager (as do most employees) as their “number one source of development.” Only 46%, however, felt that their managers provided the development feedback they were looking for. In short, “There’s a lot of room for improvement,” the article notes. This is entirely consistent with other studies, as well as my own observations. No matter what employee population you’re dealing with, employee development is a chronically neglected management function. In the all-too-busy everyday world of business, the demand for employee development consistently exceeds the supply.
Feedback and inspiration – “For coaching to resonate,” Willyerd notes, “managers should also consider a young person’s psyche. In an analysis of psychological tests of 1.4 million college students from 1938 to the present, Millennials were found to have more self-esteem while also having more anxiety and a higher need for praise. Great coaches understand this, and know that to create a winning team, they need to meet people halfway in their coaching needs. Specifically, Millennials have told us that they want managers to:
“Inspire me. In all aspects of their lives, Millennials engage with causes that help people, not institutions. The team and the mission, especially tied to a higher purpose, are far more compelling motivators than a message of ‘Do this for the company,’ or ‘Work on the department goals.’”
To me these data-driven insights all make a great deal of sense. I often say management is hard but not necessarily complex… and just because something is common sense doesn’t mean it’s commonly practiced. Most employees, regardless of their age, want feedback and communication from management, and generally don’t get enough of it. For a generation of Millennials who’ve grown up receiving a great deal of feedback, much of it positive, these needs are even stronger. And can pose substantive challenges for managers who are not as feedback-focused.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that managers should neglect accountability and control – always core responsibilities of management – simply that they be approached from a slightly more personal, positive, coaching perspective.
As this new study indicates, when it comes to reaching Millennials, it may well be an approach that delivers more positive results.
Por Victor Lipman