4 Tips for Managing Millennials

Robin Reshwan

There's a lot of talk about how millennials are very different from other generations when it comes to their views on careers, success and professional growth. How to manage and motivate what some call the "trophy generation" is a hot topic of conversation and a concern for many businesses and managers.

The good news is that millennials are just people -- people born between 1980 and the early 2000s. Like most people, they aim to have a job where they are valued, make an impact and develop their skills, all while being interested in what they do and being fairly paid for their effort.

However, there's one significant trend specific to millennials, as identified in the "Workforce 2020: A Millennial Misunderstanding" report, released by SuccessFactors and Oxford Economics. Younger generations feel better and do better at work with more feedback. You could probably say that about most people, but more experienced workers don't typically crave the same amount feedback or at the same frequency.

Below are four tips on how to create a management plan that will give your millennial professionals the direction they need to succeed.

1. Admit you have a problem. As in most recovery programs, the first step in millennial management success is actually admitting you have a problem. Very few of today's busy managers have a plan to give feedback to their employees on a regular basis. People have big jobs with multiple priorities, so it's easy for managers to fall into the "no news is good news" style of management. Recognizing that your environment is such a place is the start to creating corrective action.

2. Create a lesson plan. We expect every teacher to come to class daily with her plan of what information she would like to pass on to her students, but how many managers have a similar strategy with their employees? Think about the business problem each of your team members is solving with their role, and then write down several key business skills, traits or activities necessary to address said problem. These things are the lessons you need to impart to that employee.

For example, say you are the manager of a customer support team at a technology company. The key business problem your team addresses daily is how to resolve customer issues completely with the least amount of time and minimal amount of escalation. The key skills and activities required are product knowledge, knowledge of available solutions, communication skills, problem resolution tactics, knowledge of when and how to escalate, documentation, research and the expected results per employee. Now that you have outlined the requirements, think about each employee and in what areas she excels and struggles. An ideal plan will praise and expand the employee's strengths while addressing his or her weaknesses.

3. Be specific. Talking in theory can make for an interesting conversation, but coaching specific items and tying expectations to measurable (and attainable) results yields the best outcome. This is especially true when working with millennials, since they have less working experience. Often, your newer employees don't know what they don't know, so they aren't even aware if there are better options available or if their performance is subpar. Quantifiable goals or objectives give a well-needed measurement tool and allow for detailed, productive coaching conversations on how to achieve success.

Not sure if you're specific enough? Ask your newest employees to write out the key business problem (or problems) they were hired to solve, how success in their role is measured and how they think you would grade their performance so far. Their responses will show the clarity of your message.

4. Be positive but realistic. Most people appreciate being recognized for doing well. Make sure you stop to point out successes as you see them. This does not need to be formal; just plan to give "'atta boys" as they arise. Also, don't save the praise to be bundled with the negatives when you discuss what they need to improve.

This does not mean you just walk around telling everyone how great they are. You still need to coach through the areas that need to be developed, and we all have those. However, effective coaching, just like good teaching, should not be negative most of the time.

Discussing desired results is a forward-thinking way to draw emphasis to what is needed and expected before it's too late. The opposite is trying to manage after poor performance. It is much harder to motivate and improve performance when you are addressing failure versus coaching along the way to reach intended objectives.

In summary, millennials are people too. They're just new(er) people to the workforce, and as such, they want and require more direction on a regular basis. Most managers probably have that direction (good or bad) in their heads, but the key is to share this information with your employees in a productive manner along the way. Your team morale and performance will greatly improve as a result of your planning and attention.

Robin Reshwan is the founder of Collegial Services, a consulting/staffing firm that connects college students, recent graduates and the organizations that hire them and a certified Women's Business Enterprise (WBE). She has interviewed, placed and hired thousands of people across a broad spectrum of companies and industries. Her career tips and advice are used by universities, national clubs/associations and businesses. A Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Robin has been honored as a Professional Business Woman of the Year by the American Business Women's Association. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and as a Regents Scholar from University of California, Davis.