Here are the questions for the story – “Basic Training” – which will appear in the April issue of CANVAS magazine. The story looks at how companies can incubate new age employees and build the right team for their respective markets (in this case, the printing services industry).
Do generational gaps exist?
Generational gaps are as real as gravity. The boomers inherited their Depression-era parents’ driven work ethic, and they have generally followed the path of both parents working in order to provide their families with more than they had. Gen X, Y, and Millennials got to learn from our mistakes. And they are at the other end of the spectrum of work/life balance.
Define what today’s Millennial workforce looks like today.
Despite the fact that the depressed economy has kept lots of young people from finding their perfect job, they are determined to “work to live” and not repeat the performance of their parents who quite often “lived to work.” If you hire one of these kids, don’t waste your time picking out gold watches for their 25-year service award. They are not going to stick around and slowly pay their dues over time. They’ll have moved through 10 or more new jobs by then.
Why (and how) are they different than baby boomers?
While boomer moms and dads were working from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the office, their kids were being raised on Nintendo. Ever played Nintendo? When you play the game, you get positively reinforced more than 200 times a minute. So, let’s take a generation used to Nintendo levels of feedback and put them to work for a cynical boomer, who does his job without any constant input. “Here’s the book kid. Sink or swim.” That is how boomers were trained. And now it’s the next generation’s turn to learn that way, right? Wrong.
What are their defining characteristics?
Words I would use to describe Millennials are: tech savvy, horrible people skills, texting versus talking. Millennials are frightfully clever with technology. They have energy, youth, creativity, and new ideas. They are always on, connected, and collaborative. That is their strength. We need them.
What is the Millennial workforce looking for (rewards, compensation, etc.)?
Well, for starters, they need a job. They need that first rung of the ladder. And of course, the compensation/benefits package need to be fair or they won’t stick. After that, they need meaningful work, where they can make a difference, and they need a management system that delivers positive reinforcement when they improve, as well as constructive coaching on how to get better. In that, they are no different than any other generation.
How can and should managers (baby boomers) engage them?
Managers need to focus on their strengths and respect their weaknesses. Managers put emphasis on coaching and mentoring Millennials, because that is what they are used to. They are going to want more feedback and input than boomers.
What’s the secret(s) to building the right team when old school so often meets new school ideals?
At the end of the day it’s about treating people with respect and dignity whether they are 21 or 61. And not putting them in boxes.
Likewise, Millennials need to respect the weaknesses of boomers and learn from their years in the trenches. If we can meet in the middle and build strong teams, then we can make a success as boomers hand the torch to Gen X, Y, and M.
It’s also important remind the old dog that he’s about to retire. The clock is ticking. It’s not about you; it’s about the legacy you leave behind for the next generation.
Is it important to have multiple strategies?
Absolutely. What motivates you will not motivate me or the next person. Know what motivates you, your boss, and your team.
Is it important to constantly manage performance?
I always smile when leaders ask me how long you have to do this “performance management” stuff. I ask them, “How long do you have to breathe”? As long as you want to live…It’s a new way of doing business folks.
What are 5 things every manager can do succeed at managing Millennials? (good sidebar)
- Create an atmosphere of collaboration rather than competition
- Understand how comfortable they are communicating via technology
- Give them positive reinforcement to guide their behavior
- Put them to work on challenging projects
- Act as a coach and mentor