All About NOW: Managing Millennials (and Everyone Else) in the Moment

July 6th 2015

Brittany, a twenty-something employee, received her annual evaluation. She got a pretty good review from her boss, along with a nice raise (at least in the boss’ opinion). 

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How did Brittany react? She was disappointed at the meager raise. She felt sure she was going to get not only more money, but a promotion, and was angry when she didn’t. Brittany did not believe the boss understood her contribution to the company, so she voiced her concerns to the managing partner (and, I suspect, to anyone inside or outside the company who would listen). Brittany has left the clear impression that she will seek opportunities elsewhere if his concerns are not dealt with.

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Sound familiar? It does to me. I’ve heard this from more than one client, and the scenario is increasing as the Millennial generation advances in the workplace. This group is the most confident, the most vocal, and the most open of any generation, and many Boomers aren’t coping particularly well. 

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Millennials are teaching us very important things about management. Here are a few suggestions, based on my own totally non-scientific research.

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  1. Abolish the annual or biannual employee evaluation as your primary evaluation tool. This generation has made it completely clear they want rapid feedback. Give it to them. The time you spend in providing rapid feedback (which doesn’t have to be huge) will be more than made up by the decreased drama that comes from clear, consistent communication. 
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  3. Debrief after every major project. First, ask your Brittanys how they think they did. Then let them know what you thought of their performance. That simple sequence and interchange will give you the basis for a truly productive conversation. It is during these conversations that employees learn what it takes to get to the next level – and they’re all interested in progressing. 
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  5. Don’t sugarcoat your information. It’s tempting to go easy on this very privileged generation, but studies tell us that they appreciate straightforwardness. Boomers often tap dance around difficult conversations.  Millennials are more likely to speak plainly, and to respond better to straight talk.
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  7. Connect with your employees through the work itself, not through your HR and compensation processes. Have your mind and your eye on your team. Correct, teach, and praise in the moment. Feedback is needed now, not six months or a year from now. 
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  9. Assume your employees will leave you. I don’t know a single Millennial who plans to stay at his or her company indefinitely. The employment picture has changed forever in this regard. Understanding and accepting this will allow you to work in the moment, focusing on what really matters.
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These five suggestions apply equally well to workers from every generation. Do you remember how many times you walked out of your own evaluation when you were an employee thinking “What a load of ****?” This new generation is different only in their willingness to vocalize previously unspoken thoughts.

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No doubt about it: Millennials are creating all kinds of irritation in the workplace. While they certainly don’t have it all figured out as their optimism might suggest, their thinking is both disruptive and innovative. Leaders of professional services can use such thinking to their advantage if they will get over themselves and pay attention.

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leadership, management, generations, Millennials

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