The following guest post was written by Shelley Danner, a nonprofit director who develops millennial (emerging) leaders.
Supervising, motivating and developing millennial talent is an essential part of leading a team in almost any workplace or organization today. The challenge is how to keep these next-generation leaders engaged and passionate. Here are some best practices to integrate into your work culture to ensure that millennials thrive and add value to your team.
1) Convey an expectation of results.
Managers expect their teams to work hard and produce results. Likewise, millennials desire to feel a sense of accomplishment. As they launch their careers, it will be both to their benefit and the organization’s to clearly understand the responsibilities of a given role. Providing well-defined, ongoing metrics will let them know what it requires to successfully fulfill each task, and for high-achievers, what it takes to go above and beyond.
2) Share the “why.”
Emerging leaders are purpose-driven, and therefore are more motivated if they understand the context in which they work. When millennials know how they fit both within their specific function and team, as well as in the organization at-large, they have a sense of clarity that fuels their efforts. Understanding the big picture brings commitment to the mission and vision of the organization. It’s helpful to continuously weave in “the why”—whether it’s the thinking behind operations and tasks or goals and strategies. When millennials have meaning, they flourish.
3) Foster a mindset of entrepreneurial thinking and creativity.
Brimming with ideas, millennials have a keen interest in innovation and being agents of change within organizations. Teams need individuals who can not only bring creative ideas to the table, but also can sell their ideas and deliver. Teaching and using tools such as design thinking and lean start-up principles can be powerful ways to catalyze innovation, and are valued by millennials.
4) Listen in order to support career development.
What do early-career hires need to learn, grow, lead and succeed in your organization? Skill building and process training are necessary to fill in knowledge gaps and navigate internal systems. Beyond that, observe what motivates them and support the growth of their individual career interests. Listen to how they want to learn and provide a combination of on-the-job training, coaching/mentoring, group-based classes and online learning to suit their style.
5) Give them a voice.
Opportunities to participate in multidisciplinary teams, focus groups, committees, task forces, and special events will keep millennials active and interested in their professional environment. Allowing millennials to contribute to decision-making allows them to feel clearly valued, and adding the millennial perspective is part of having an inclusive workforce culture. Furthermore, millennials will be more invested if they are supported in strengthening and expanding their networks and connections along with chances to practice effective communication skills both with executives and peers.
6) Offer ways to engage in the community.
Millennials are accustomed to volunteering in numerous ways already, through student organizations and extracurricular involvement with nonprofits. Having a work-related way to give back to the community—whether through service days, tutoring programs, skills-based volunteering or other options—will cultivate a sense of passion and belonging. The key is ensuring that millennials feel supported to engage in these activities and that the opportunities are viable and ongoing and not just company rhetoric.
7) Model how to give and receive feedback.
Millennials like to know where they stand, and providing clear feedback will help them gauge and know how they are performing. Often supervisors don’t find the time to give feedback, and sometimes millennials don’t know how to ask. Teaching millennials how to receive feedback can be overlooked, yet is very important to developing strong leaders.
8) Create opportunities to reflect.
Amid the fast pace and ever-present technology in both our professional and personal lives, effective leaders see the importance of taking time to reflect. Modeling this for millennials (i.e., taking tech-free breaks, pausing before a meeting, journaling about 3/6/12-month career progress, etc.), will help to instill a practice of reflection. Developing this skill early on will positively benefit productivity as workers gain a deeper awareness of how to be fully present and engaged.
Developing millennial leaders requires a multifaceted, holistic and intentional approach. It also entails being open to a dynamic, customized developmental path based on these concepts that suits the needs of each individual to best support their growth. The effort will be a win for managers, millennials and the organizations within which they work. ∞