Recently I came across yet another article about how Millennials should be treated so that they don't lose interest and quit. I hadn't read one for a while, because I've never accepted the usual opinions that Millennials or any age groups are entitled, lazy, or impatient.
I think these negative generalizations are not only false, they are damaging when we are trying to motivate and inspire people of any age. Instead, we should focus on the positives, because intrinsic motivation rarely arises when trying to lead from a negative perspective.
The article that caught my eye was "What Great Leaders Know About Leading Millennials", by Craig Bloem, published in Inc. Once I started reading, I realized it was written positively and contained some great advice applicable to more than Millennials. I encourage you to read the original article. Here is my take on the four suggestions for leading Millennials, Gen-Xers, Boomers, ...!
Create network connections, not just downward information flow.
Effective communication with your employees is not about getting directives from the top down to your worker bees. Most people, not just Millennials, want to interact with others in their organization.
This means encouraging and facilitating employee input and feedback, up, down, and across your organization. It also means encouraging workers to develop social connections that extend beyond the workplace.
Today's workers (often regardless of their age) see their workplace as part of their social context, not something separate from it.
Create opportunities for personal and professional growth.
Increasingly over the past few decades, people have made multiple career changes during their working lives. I made my first major career change in 1988, leaving academia for the forest industry. In 2008 I changed professions again, from forestry to management consulting.
As changing employers and careers becomes more commonplace, much of the stigma and trepidation about changing jobs has fallen away. Workers today are more willing than ever to change jobs if they find themselves stagnating or moving forward too slowly. The challenge for employers is to provide opportunities for personal and professional growth within your company, so that your employees know they have a better future with you than elsewhere.
Remember that the work environment is part of their social context, so those who are challenged positively will help attract more motivated workers. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true.
Create a sense of purpose.
Most people, not just Millennials, perform best when they see their work is meaningful and worthwhile. They are personally aligned with your company's core values and their work allows them to utilize their strengths and interests. This is another source of powerful intrinsic motivation.
Be a coach, not just a boss.
Try to focus your directives more on results and less on methods. Empower employees to decide how best to meet their goals. There are limits to this of course, such as in cooking burgers at a fast food restaurant. Regardless of how regimented your systems and processes need to be, look for ways that you can challenge your employees to think and be creative.
This comes back to creating opportunities for personal and professional growth. It is entirely possible for imaginative people to have rewarding and challenging careers working in a franchise environment. The key is having leaders who actively search for and provide opportunities for employees to grow personally and professionally, not just follow the manual.
Craig Bloem concludes with the statement "That's how you lead every employee, because then the generation doesn't matter". I couldn't agree more.