Understanding Your Younger Employees

August 30th, 2016 by

Company leaders often complain about the unrealistic expectations of their millennial workers. Today’s youth, a.k.a. ‘millennials’— are said to be:Multiethnic Group of People Social Networking at Cafe

  1. difficult to manage
  2. likely to quit at a moment’s notice
  3. careless (i.e. they make needless mistakes as they forge ahead blindly without permission)

The youngest generation does differ from the older ones. But this has always been true.

Leaders within the organization should see how questions and challenges (i.e. Why does it have to be this way?) from their youngest employees can spark action to help their companies change for the better. In the process of listening, leaders will soon realize that young people want the same things we all do. Remember, millennials are vitally important to fill the void left by aging baby boomers and Gen Xers.

Keep in mind that many millennials continue to bear the burden of tens of thousands of dollars in student-loan debt. The debt has understandably influenced their decisions to join or leave companies.

Actions HR leaders can take to help create a better employer-employee relationship with millennials:

  1. Build bridges with data. Utilize people analytics to understand your youngest employees better. Gather data to track tenure, movement, performance evaluations, and attrition, as well as qualitative data to gauge engagement and find ways of increasing it. Share the results with middle managers so that they can connect the dots and tailor their management approach accordingly.
  2. Over communicate clarity. All employees are eager to hear from top management. However, younger employees expect this to happen at hyper speed. They are looking for real-time, two-way communication that allows input from everyone, followed by fairly immediate action. HR can help address this need by creating feedback platforms which allow employees to ask questions about specific topics and to engage on follow-up feedback requested by supervisors or senior management. This approach provides unprecedented visibility into issues and solutions and facilitates continuous improvement.
  3. Develop a culture of mentorship. Most young people thrive on collaborative work and support from colleagues. Meaningful personal relationships are crucial to help employers to hang on to their young workers.  Best practice is to partner new employees with an assigned sponsor who helps them to navigate the culture. Also encourage your new employees to reach out and form other mentoring relationships.
  4. Focus on professional growth. The ‘younger generation’ has grown up watching entrepreneurs reach the height of success before age 30, taking on responsibilities usually reserved for older executives. Many young professionals want a chance to flex their entrepreneurial muscles. They can quickly become frustrated by the lack of advancement opportunity in today’s flat organizational structures. Any kind of movement that promotes professional development is a plus (i.e. temporary projects over and above the day job). Additionally, young workers are typically energized by rotational programs. Other opportunities may include exposure to senior leaders, cross-functional work, and community service—elements that millennials value highly.

Every workplace has questions that need to be answered, and the sooner the better. Reach out to CAI’s Advice & Resolution team to get your questions answered today!

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Tom Sheehan brings 20+ years of extensive, broad based strategic, tactical and practical HR experience to CAI’s Advice & Resolution team.  He advises HR and other business leaders on talent management, organizational effectiveness, employee engagement, M&A’s, and employee relations.

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