Motivating Your Millennials

March 4, 2010

Dr. Jay Conner, Director of Enterprise Services here at Strategic Advantages, wrote a very insightful column recently on Baby Boomers managing the Millennial generation.  We are regularly seeing a huge disconnect between the Boomers and Millennials in our consulting work.  Here’s some good advice from Jay on how to bridge this gap and the importance of doing so:

An exasperated executive called us the other day to get our advice.  This Baby Boomer had asked one of his Millennial employees to do some work over the weekend.  The employee declined because it would cut into her “me time” during the weekend.

Baby Boomers, America’s largest generation ever at 80 million strong (born from 1946-64), are in control now.  But there is a tsunami hitting the workforce, the 75-million strong Millennials.  Boomers are desperately trying to figure out what makes the Millennials tick because they realize that their ultimate success depends on it.

We would like to share a few insights in this month’s e-newsletter, but first let’s state the obvious:  Communicating with someone from another generation is often different from communicating within your own generation.  You must recognize, however, that “different” is neither right nor wrong, just different.

It is important to understand the context that shaped the Millennials (born between 1981 and 2000). They grew up in a child-focused society, the products of parents who think they can do no wrong. This generation tends to be “street smart,” adaptive to change, comfortable with new technology, confident, achievement oriented, globally connected, and communal.  At work, they desire independence and autonomy, challenge and variety, continual development of skills, and a fun and collective workplace.

Become a more active listener and teach active listening skills

So you’re leading the weekly staff meeting outlining the week’s priorities and your Millennials are busy with their BlackBerry’s and laptops.  Frustrating?  Yes, but don’t take it personally. These are the kids who grew up texting while playing a computer game while doing homework! Teach them active listening skills and why those skills matter to the other generations.  But also be sure to listen; these young adults have ideas and opinions and don’t take kindly to having their thoughts ignored. After all, they had the best listening, most child-centric audience in history – their Boomer parents.

Explain Your Conversational Intent

Begin your interactions with a concise statement of your intent.  Our words can often get misconstrued, especially when there are generational differences.  Stating your intentions up front (i.e., I am mentioning this to you because . . .) allows the person to mentally prepare for what is to come and minimizes putting the other person on the defensive.

Provide feedback . . . often

The Millennials live in a world of social networking with constant feedback.  They crave positive reinforcement and seek to validate their value to an organization more than any other generation. Integrate recognition and ongoing team improvement opportunities into weekly team meetings to meet some of their needs.

Millennials are up for a challenge and change.

Boring is bad. They seek ever-changing tasks within their work. What’s happening next is their mantra. Don’t bore them, ignore them, or trivialize their contribution.

Demonstrate appreciation & learning opportunities
Millennials will not embrace the traditional training methods. Instead it must be fast-paced, using real life application.  Make their orientation, assimilation and training fun and challenging or you will lose their interest quickly.

Take advantage of your Millennial employees’ electronic literacy

The electronic capabilities of these employees are amazing.  Take advantage of it, but don’t confuse technology know-how with experience.  They may be extremely adept at keeping up with their friends on Facebook, but do they know how to use social media to drive business?  Give them proper training and mentoring.

Sound like a lot of work?  It does take some extra effort and an open mind, but if you properly harness the power of the Millennials you will reap multiple rewards for many years.



“IQ” only accounts for 20 percent of success

January 4, 2010

Yes, everyone wants to shine at work.  Be noticed for doing something well, producing the best product or outcomes, or having the best ideas and plans.  This is natural and desirable. Most of us may think it is best done by being the smartest or brightest one in the mix.  But that’s not the case.  IQ, or Intelligence Quotient, has been found to account for only 20 percent or less of the contribution to success in the work place.  Just pure “smarts” and technical ability won’t get you where you want to go.  So, what will?

Daniel Goleman and others have well researched, documented, and written about Emotional Intelligence and its impact on successful work interactions and careers.  We all are familiar with the work colleagues who slow down, interrupt, or stop effectiveness through a host of childlike or inappropriate emotionally based behaviors.  The list is long, including anger, triangulating relationships, jealousy, hoarding or withholding, passive aggressiveness, and generally flat lining (no emotional response at all).  People behaving with these emotions are not only difficult to be around as they play poorly in the sandbox, they also make the work world far less productive.

What does a high Emotional Quotient look like or contain.  Goleman lists the following emotional competencies.

  • Self Awareness – Knowing oneself, having a realistic view of one’s abilities, and having a well-grounded sense of self-confidence
  • Self-Regulation – Managing one’s internal states, impulses and resources.  Handling emotions in a way that facilitates rather than interfers and recovering well from distress
  • Motivation – using one’s deepest preferences to move and guide toward our goals; having the energy to improve, bounce back, and persevere
  • Empathy – Sensing what others are feeling, being able to take their perspectives, and cultivating rapport with a wide diversity of people
  • Social Skills – Handling emotions in relationships well, accurately reading social situations and networks….interacting smoothly to lead, negotiate, and settle disputes for cooperation and teamwork

People who possess the above five tend to be those with obvious honesty and integrity, show resilience, have unique potential and commitment, have influence without positional authority, possess a large trust radius, and display positive emotional energy.

What if your organization has “hired wrong”, put up with emotional basket cases for too long, or just has a poor emotional climate from one or more emotional polluters?  What do you do?

  • First, training and development must go past its focus on technical and compliance issues to include areas such as self-awareness, personal decision making, handling stress, developing and using empathy, effective communication, personal responsibility, and conflict resolution.  These are harder to absorb.  They are not data driven but must be experienced and ingested!
  • Second, new hires need to be evaluated and ranked/rated on emotional criteria as well as technical skills and pure output.  A close look at job history with the right behavioral interviewing can help.
  • Third, catch problems early before they grow and explode.  Doing nothing allows issues to grow, and grow they will!
  • Fourth, partnering with and mentoring from your highly effective leaders will help.
  • Fifth, one-on-one or small group coaching can be effective.

Whether personally or organizationally, we tend to let emotional quotient issues remain static, assuming there is nothing to do other than ignore, put up with, or just fire people.  Far from the case; as seen above, there is a lot that can be done.  It’s not easy; but, have you tried?