Full disclosure, I’m a Millennial and proud of it. This will not be the typical rant about employing Millennials that I hear way too often and I bet you hear as well.
I’ve heard so many business owners and managers complain about my generation. It really gets on my nerves.
My business is all Millennials except my husband, who is an Xer. I’ve been the main interviewer and trainer in our business for over 5 years. I’ve learned a few things that I hope you’ll find useful.
First of all, let me be clear on 3 points.
1. Every generation has its good attributes and its quirks.
2. Generations aren’t that different from one another. We’re still all human and 99% the same. Even though Millennials are “digital natives” who don’t know a world without a personal computer, we’re still not all that different.
3. The way Millennials are isn’t all our fault. We were raised by someone. We were nurtured to be the way we are – some for better and some for worse, just like every other generation. We can be nurtured to be better versions of ourselves. We can go from good to great!
Which is a good segue for the thing that really gets to me. I get really frustrated by all these barriers business owners and managers put up between themselves and their Millennial staff. Lots of Boomer and Xer (and even some Millennial) business leaders tend to think that to be a leader or manager means they have to put space between themselves and their staff. They have to get inaccessible and act higher or mightier or whatever. They start to act like it’s their way or the highway. Leaders are meant to lead and for many of leaders their definition of leadership is skewed.
I believe the key to working with Millennial staff (and to healthy leadership) is to remove those barriers and be authentic. Communication is key here. Actually talking. Maybe even texting when you can’t talk face-to-face. You don’t have to take it to the level of “family” and you can still set clear boundaries. But you HAVE TO COMMUNICATE! You have to take the time. This phrase is one of the most important I’ve learned:
“Be efficient with things but effective with people.”
I guess this idea comes from Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People but I’m sure I heard it elsewhere since I’ve never read this book. But I’ve totally know this to be true. When you’re efficient with people, you’re beginning to treat people like means to an end instead of persons worthy of dignity and respect. No one wants to be treated like means to an end… Millennial or otherwise.
So what does being effective with people look like. I have some tips today for hiring and working with Millennial staff effectively but these tips would probably also be helpful with your team in general – whether you employ Millennials or otherwise.
1. Take time during interviewing and on boarding to really get to hear their story.
I have a list of standard interview questions about work history, self-assessment, and future expectations. But I also have a few fun questions at the end of the interview. These help break the ice even more and I get to know how the interviewee responds to unexpected, more relationship building questions. One of my favorite questions is “How do you like to communicate? face-to-face, phone call, text, email?” This is beginning to show them that I want to communicate with them and in a way that works for both of us.
Then, when we decide to hire people, before they jump into the job, I personally sit down with them for 2-3 hours. We walk through the employee handbook. I tell them stories. I hear more about their story. This is huge for building trust both ways and sets up the expectations for communication. These 2-3 hours are highly effective and make a huge difference. When I haven’t done it, those employees have a much, much harder time overall.
2. Check in as often as possible just to see how they are doing.
Ask, “How have things been going for you lately?” Actually listen. Check back in about anything major going on in their lives – a breakup, new dating relationships, car troubles, whatever. Ask their plans for the weekend or the holidays. This isn’t just being nice. Their personal life can affect their work. There have been times when staff have been going through something truly horrible and I’ve been frustrated with their performance (sometimes to the point of wanting to fire them). Once I hear what’s really going on, we can figure out how to improve from there. This has literally helped people keep their jobs.
Take a genuine interest in them as humans – not just employees. Remember they are not means to your business ends. They are people and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
3. Give them your cell phone number.
Every single person on my staff has my phone number. They can reach me anytime they need. Yet, they know I won’t text after 9pm unless it’s a true emergency. They are great about keeping that boundary. I don’t get a huge number of calls or texts. From what I can tell just knowing that I’m accessible and I want to hear from them has value.
4. Be clear about an “open door” policy.
During training I am very clear that I want employees to feel comfortable with coming to me to discuss anything. I suggest asking if it’s good timing when they come to me to talk. I warn them I might want to wait until I’m at a good breaking point in the project I’m working on. I reassure them that I definitely want to talk with them and appreciate they are reaching out to let me know they have something to discuss.
5. Set clear expectations and explain the reasons why and the consequences to not meeting these expectations.
With regard to their work responsibilities, it might seem contrary to popular opinion but I highly recommend setting clear expectations. For example, showing up on time. If you want your employees to be at their desk by 9am or clocked-in and working at the time on their schedule, make that clear during training and explain why it is important. If you don’t have logical reasons, you’ll probably get push back from smart Millennials so take the time to really think this through. Why should they show up on time? Make it about the team – if affects others’ ability to get their jobs done or leave on time or whatever. You definitely can’t use reasons like, “Because I said so” or “Because that’s how we’ve always done it.”
Here’s the most important part of clear expectations: After you set the expectation and explain why that expectation is important, you need to share the consequences for not meeting the expectation AND you have to be willing to go through with the consequences. What will happen if they show up late once? How about chronically showing up late? What should they do if they are going to be late because of unforeseen circumstances? Figure these things out and be ready to follow through. The worst thing you can do is make empty threats and share consequences but not follow-through with them when warranted.
Okay, I’ll stop my rant now. I hope you’ve found something useful here. I recommend trying 1 thing new at a time and give it time for it’s full effect. Review the transcript below this video on our blog and choose 1 thing you can start right away with your current employees or the next one you hire. Comment and share what you decide to do. I’d love to hear but more importantly you’re more likely to do it if you put it out there for others to know.