There is a variety of generations represented in today’s workforce, from the Baby Boomers and Generation Xers to the latest generation, the Millennials or the Next Generation. This generation of our workforce was born between the years of 1982 and 2001(I happen to fall into this generation). They grew up hearing that “they can be anything they want to be, if they just put their minds to it.” They grew up surfing the World Wide Web, and cell phones, iPods and video games have been fixtures in their lives.
This generation is sweeping into the workplace and making its presence known quickly. They are looking to make their mark fast and keep moving—they don’t plan to stay at one company for 30 years like their parents did. They plan to come in, learn something, make some changes and then move on to the next challenge. The trick is figuring out how to cultivate this group’s leadership skills and turn them into the Next Generation of Leaders.
I recently attended the “Next Leaders Summit” put on by Next Generation Consulting and picked up some interesting ideas to help businesses understand and connect with this generation.
Rule #1. You cannot generalize this generation! This group of young professionals is extreme. There is no cookie-cutter mold for managing this group. Each person’s goals, motivators, objectives and work styles are different. Get to know each person individually—what motivates and drives him or her. This group strives to be individuals, with creative ideas and new ways of doing things.
Rule #2. Meaning and significance. Give your employees a sense of meaning and significance. Make them understand how their roles within the company or on a project make a difference. This generation thrives on being able to have an impact on what is going on. They need to understand the significance of what they are doing. They want to be heard and to have a voice. Work with them to be a part of the decision-making process when it has an impact on
Rule #3. Control the destination, not the route. Let employees improvise. Don’t micromanage; let them learn by doing. Adopt a make-it-work attitude. Everyone processes information differently and each person has his or her own efficient ways of managing projects. Be clear about the finished product that you are looking for and the timeline for the project, but let your employees figure out their own routes of accomplishing their tasks. This generation grew up with an understanding of technology that may be better than “the way it has always been done.” Be open to change!
Rule #4. Be flexible! Given all of these technological advances, this generation can be connected anywhere at anytime. Their Blackberries and iPhones allow them to work around the clock. Different people are productive at different times, and it’s not always between 8am and 5pm. As long as you are getting the results you expect, give your employees the flexibility they need to be the most productive that they can be.
Rule #5. Work-life balance. This is a concept that many think is unachievable and relates somewhat to flexibility as well. Allow your employees the opportunity to engage in the things that are important to them by allowing them the flexibility and support to do so. It is important to this generation to have it all. They want careers, family, friends and community. Embrace these needs and help your young employees achieve the balance they are looking for. In the end, you will find the more balanced they are, the more productive they will be for you.
Rule #6. Engage Next Generation leaders in the community. Not only is this generation of employees the future leaders of your companies and organizations, they are the future leaders of the community. Take this opportunity to show them the importance of giving back to the community and instill it from the beginning of their careers. The generosity of the business community here in the Peoria area is a great asset. Peoria was recently named one of the “Top Places for Young Professionals,” and this is largely due to what current leaders are doing to move Peoria forward. Take these young leaders with you to a fundraiser or help them get involved on a local organization’s board. Show them the importance of being involved in the community from an early stage in their careers.
Current community leaders have a great challenge on their hands to shape and mold the future leaders of our community. Every generation is a little different, and changes need to be made to accommodate the needs of each. This ensures that they have the best opportunity to do something great. Generation X created Google…just imagine what the Millennial generation can do. iBi