Leading Young

August 27, 2012 — Leave a comment

imagesI run into quite a few people who complain about the current generation of young employees coming into the work force.  They are irresponsible.  They make too many demands.  They come across with an attitude of entitlement.  They lack commitment to the organization.  Within my organization, Cru, we are constantly recruiting and taking on “twenty somethings” employees.  No doubt, every generation has its uniqueness.  But there are two principles that you can’t ignore at an organizational level:  you must have new hires or you will become extinct, and you aways need an influx of the next generation to remain relevant and forward thinking.

Much has been written about the current Millennial generation in the work place.  For my money, they offer a fresh outlook and vibrancy that is sorely needed as we continue on in the 21st century.  I desire to learn from them-and I hope I can offer something in a fashion where they can learn from me.  Here are five principles to consider in working with the Millennial generation.

1. Create an environment of inclusion and collaboration.  There was a day when new employees were expected to be silent and learn from the sages of the organization.  Those days are gone.  First, you will never hold a Millennial’s attention if they can’t find their voice within the organization.  They will simply move on.  Second, our culture and economy are changing far too rapidly to ignore the voice of the youngest contributors.  We need to know how they think and react to the current culture in order to remain effective and relevant.  There are appropriate ways to draw this generation into collaborative environments where their voice can be heard and the organization benefits.  I don’t find that there are many of them who want you to simply had over the keys to the organization.  They want to learn and they know that those who have gone before them have much to offer.  But they also want to contribute in ways that matter.  Where are you creating a platform for the youngest within your setting to be heard?

2. Empower early, but appropriately.  What has always been true is that people learn best when given some genuine responsibility.  Providing an experiential, hands on learning environment, will enhance the leadership development of the emerging generation.  To empower anyone means that you vest them with real decision making authority, entrust them with real resources, and provide clear accountability.  Anything less and someone is only a contract laborer.  To raise up leadership for the future you must empower them in appropriate ways that match their abilities and current maturity in order for them to grow.

3. Develop them in cohort settings.  Millennials, on the whole, like to learn in group settings.  Our tendency over the years has been to develop people in a one on one, rather isolated environment.  But there is great value in creating a setting where a small group of employees who are of a similar age can learn together and from each other.  Development becomes a facilitated experience where group learning takes place around sound principles and clear goals.

4. Hold them accountable to work completion instead of time spent.  This is not something that is generation specific or new.  Organizations have been recognizing this trend for some years-mainly driven by new technology and flexible work sites.  But the Millennial generation expects it.  They have grown up in an online world where even their educational experience has been built around distance learning and deadlines.  The concept of a 40 hour work week in a set cubicle is fairly foreign to them.  Set deadlines and expect quality-but don’t confine them to one place and set hours.  Provide and encourage collaborative space, but hold them accountable for job completion.

5. Continue to focus on character.  This is a generation that actually craves mentorship and apprenticeship.  That opens up some great opportunities for character development.  With every generation there is the need for character development.  No one will outperform or out live their character.  In my opinion, if there is one particular place for the Millennial generation to grow in their character it is in making and keeping commitments.  The world they have grown up in as tended to cater to them.  Therefore they feel the freedom to pick and choose their commitments-which are often short lived.  This does not bode well for work or life.  If you have the opportunity to mentor the youngest generation in the workforce, help them make and keep commitments that will shape them and build their integrity.  Beyond the work setting, help them with commitments financially, relationally, and  towards personal stewardship.

What are your thoughts or what has your experience with this generation taught you?

Gary Runn

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