I was part of a recent conversation at a book club where we debated whether or not society gives too many “passes” to Millennials (those born between 1982 and 1995). You know, customizing everything for their needs rather than having them work for it “like we had to do” and changing the whole structure of workplaces based on their needs (yes, very “back-in-my-day” type of a conversation, I know)
And I feel this way sometimes, even though some would consider me on the cusp of Gen Y and Gen X as I was born in 1979 (although ask any Buzzfeed quiz and I’m clearly Generation X all the way!)
I get it, change is hard. But regardless of change and differences in generation styles, there are areas where you should not give Gen Y the “pass” and areas where it’s still appropriate to expect Millennials to pull their own weight.
It is definitely advantageous to learn from Millennials and those who bring new communication perspectives to the table. However, don’t let Gen Y slide into the habit of sloppy communication techniques or worse yet, no communication at all.
How you can support them: Be clear about communication expectations up front. If your main method of company communication is through email, make sure your future leaders understand they will need to check their inbox multiple times a day. If you do not conduct company business via Facebook (ie: sending your boss a direct message saying you’re out sick that day) put it out there for them right away so they understand how to (and not to) use social media when it comes to job communication.
It’s important to ask Millennials how they prefer to communicate as well. Communication is a two-way street. The expectations you set for them should be reciprocated in what you provide as well.
I often get requests from those starting out (many who are Millennials) to meet for coffee or review work they have produced in hopes of getting some good advice and information to grow on. And while I completely understand the need to grow and learn from others, it should not be expected from Generation Y that those of us in leadership roles should move our schedules around to help out at any given moment.
Maybe that sounds a bit harsh. I don’t mean it to be.
My point is this: Don’t be afraid to say no and likewise, don’t be afraid to ask Millennials what they can bring to the table as well. Networking is also a two-way street (sensing a theme yet?) You can learn and expect certain things from Gen Y during a networking session just as they would of you.
How you can support them: Make the value of your time clear (but nicely). If it’s hard for you to get away from the office, offer to have a quick 15 or 20-minute phone chat instead. Prepare questions that you can ask them in order for both of you to provide value in the conversation.
It’s crucial to provide opportunities for success, but don’t continually hold the door open. Here’s what I mean:
I’ve had many a Millennial approach me with requests to guest blog on my company’s website or to work with me in a freelance capacity. But when I’ve reached back out to give deadlines, parameters and expectations, I’m met with silence on their end. Likewise, I’ve been in situations where Ys have asked for more responsibility but have a hard time completing the current tasks at hand.
There are great ways to develop leaders within your organization, but you also can’t twist their arm if they’re not willing to put in the work. Millennials need to step up their game as well and prove that they can handle more responsibility.
How you can support them: Assess their strengths and weaknesses and develop projects that support the former. Set realistic, obtainable goals for working toward growth and track those during bi-annual or annual work reviews. Let Generation Y know that you are on their team and support professional growth while, at the same time, setting clear expectations.
Millennials bring great assets to the table and challenge us to view the workplace in a new way. Likewise, it is just as important for organizations to hold on to values of ethics and hard work. And as with all of the areas above, communication is key.
Working with the next generation will be a benefit to everyone. Their growth depends on it and your organization’s longevity does, too.
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