In a previous management role had to build a team quite quickly and it inevitably included young people – the so called Generation Ys or Millennials. I found them to be incredibly talented and energetic but, I must admit, I struggled to manage them and felt they lacked certain skills. Skills such as how to talk to people, to be effective and contribute at meetings, to build rapport with colleagues and clients and a lack of practical skills. So I seemed to spend a lot of time managing and developing them which took me away from my real job of winning business.
I was curious as to whether I was the only one struggling with this and so spoke to other Directors and to the Generation Ys themselves and they reported feeling the same kind of frustrations. There seemed to be disconnect between the generations and it occurred to me that this wasn’t good for business, productivity or staff happiness.
Looking at the research I realised that this was a global problem. This got me thinking.
Why is this happening and what is so very different about Millennials?
The young people coming into the workplace now have been called the most challenging generation to manage to date. For some people this is proving true. They have different needs and drivers and they expect different rewards. The old ways of managing are not working for them and they need their managers and employers to display a different set of skills. This isn’t about indulging them, that’s not what they want, it is about accommodating them. If managers don’t do this the Generation Ys will become frustrated, disengaged and often, simply move on to another job.
This impacts organisations badly because this high staff turnover affects morale, profits, productivity, talent attraction and even hampers growth. It also means that Managers are getting more and more stressed and disheartened because they can’t do their job and they’re spending too much time managing their team.
It’s a problem for many organisations. But it can be solved with a ‘top down bottom up’ approach. Managers need help to understand what makes this generation and the generations coming after them tick. If they do this and learn what their teams need they can, as Managers, develop new skills that will greatly help them deal with younger employees more effectively and take advantage of the skills they bring. The younger generations also need to be made aware that there is more than one way to view the world and that their Managers may not not see things in the same way as them. When Gen Ys understand what managers want from them they can better manage expectations and develop more rapidly – reaching their potential and achieving the advancement they often crave.
By addressing this, organisations will reap the benefits saving money through better retention and increased productivity; because, as studies prove, organisations that have engaged, happy staff are more profitable and sustainable.
How does this affect Management?
The benefit for Managers is that they can free up time they would have previously spent micromanaging the younger generations, experience less frustration and play a vital role in helping develop the next generation. Younger employees benefit by knowing what is expected of them and will understand why they often need to do mundane tasks that make up their role. They will be more likely to take responsibility for their career progression and find meaning in their work. When they feel valued, heard and challenged Gen Ys are more willing to stay.
A Senior Learning Manager in Financial Services Sector sums up where we should be heading when he says:
“On the whole I am impressed by the eagerness, drive and positive attitudes of this generation. But they need an environment where they they can flourish and thrive. Many mangers lack the self awareness needed to check and amend their own behaviours and feel threatened and uncomfortable.
I believe many of the biggest issues for mangers is that they lack certain skills themselves, perhaps in the arena of emotional intelligence and self esteem, and lack the ability to frame and build relationships with the younger generation. This doesn’t mean they need to aim to become ‘Gen Y-esque’; they can be professional but it does mean that there must be mutual respect and Managers should be prepared to praise, not just criticise and the feedback should be genuine and authentic.”
This echoes recommendations made in a global research report published by Ashridge Business School which said that organisations should hold on-boarding education for graduates and sensitisation workshops for managers. It also went on to say that both sides need to look for a balance – compromise may be needed by all.
I think the future lies in managers being provided with the means and the support they need to develop the skills that will make them feel confident, comfortable and energised when working with the younger generations. This means that they can benefit from the knowledge and the changes they bring without feeling undermined or threatened. Younger generations need to feel appreciated and see their role in the development of organisations, products and services as valuable and engage with their employer to produce their best work and thrive.
I believe that the experience and knowledge of the older generations coupled with the energy, passion and drive of younger employees is a powerful combination that can take organisations from merely functional to absolute peak performance. And how amazing would that be?