Your workforce is increasingly made up of millennials; this is unsurprising – they’re the ones with the most contemporary skills, and with each passing year they become a larger percentage of the working world. With close to 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, millennials now represent the largest subset of America's workforce. Approaching these younger workers with the attitude and expectations of a coach, rather than the antiquated characteristics of a traditional “boss,” is key to maintaining their engagement. Here's how a coaching style differs from the approach of a traditional manager, along with a few insights about why this shift in managerial style is so important.
Coaching responds to failure with empowerment
A manager who behaves in the classic “boss” tradition is likely to take a disciplinary tone after an employee fails or does a poor job on a project. Getting "chewed out" by the boss is a familiar trope in the stereotypical work environment. Coaching, on the other hand, takes an entirely different approach. If a player on a sports team does badly, the coach may feel frustrated, but he or she is well aware that scolding and criticizing the player is not likely to yield better results in the future. Instead, a coach views failure as a sign that the player needs more training, support, and encouragement.
Harvard Business Review (HBR) describes the behavior of award-winning college coach Mike Krzyzewski after a player's carelessness caused his team to lose. He took the whole team out for an ice cream sundae party, emphasizing encouragement and team-building, and then he held an extra practice to help everyone come together again.
Millennials want more frequent feedback
When you picture a coach guiding a team to victory, you probably imagine lots of feedback was involved. The coach is on the sidelines, shaping the choices that the players make and shouting encouragement or suggestions. After the event, the coach probably holds a video session and works together with players to identify areas that need improvement. It's all very hands-on.
Now, contrast that leadership style with the annual employment evaluation that typifies an old-school manager's pattern. An employee is called in to the boss's office and given an evaluation containing praise and criticism that might be outdated, perhaps even a year old. A coach wouldn't have a successful team if he or she only gave feedback once a year.
Furthermore, millennials want the high-touch guidance of a coaching culture. A global survey finds that overall, millennials want feedback 50 percent more often than older employees, with most of them preferring feedback on a weekly or monthly basis.
Employee success depends on rewards and recognition
While frequent feedback is a proven method for increasing employee engagement, the quality of that feedback is equally important. An effective coaching approach is based on recognizing each person's individual strengths. Best practices include creating a company culture that emphasizes positive feedback and employee appreciation. Positivity is necessary in every workplace, but it's especially crucial when you're leading a team of millennials.
A recent Gallup report noted, "Only 19 percent of millennials say they receive routine feedback. An even smaller percentage of millennials (17 percent) say the feedback they do receive is meaningful." This same report states that fewer than 15 percent of millennials ask for the feedback they really want; so it's up to leadership to establish these employee recognition best practices.
Managers are an important source of professional learning and development
Forbes states that most millennials identify their manager as their main source for learning and developing skills, but only 46 percent of those surveyed believe their deliver on this hope. These numbers are helpful because they indicate a direction you can take with your management style. One millennial worker quoted in the HBR article states, "It's very important to be in touch with my manager, constantly getting coaching and feedback from him so that I can be more efficient and proficient." And to further illustrate how much millennials crave learning and development, it's been reported that 62 percent of executives say millennials will consider leaving their jobs because of a lack of learning and development opportunities.
Coaching takes the whole person into account
Though today's cutting-edge companies invest serious effort into making sure their employees have a good work-life balance, they also realize that this new approach looks at employees as whole people, not just a drone carrying out a task with little to no thought. A great deal of research has gone into the psychology of coaching and the need to consider the "inner game," but this mindset is still very new to the corporate world.
As more managers realize that helping their employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance will result in more highly engaged employee, they will likely change their style of supervision to emphasize encouragement. It's all part of a more holistic approach to talent management; a recognition of workers' inherent humanity and a step away from viewing them only as cogs in the wheel of a production assembly line.
It's all about performance
Of course you want to treat your employees well for their own sake, but you also want to be an effective business person. You want to manage your team in such a way that productivity increases, both now and in the future. This often means understanding the unique needs of your millennial workers.
A coaching approach, versus a top-down “I’m-the-boss” approach gives you an incredibly powerful tool for increasing employee engagement among your younger team members. These workers will respond with higher performance and greater loyalty, bringing sustainable growth to your bottom line.
To learn more about how you can effectively introduce employee recognition to your millennial team, download our white paper, "Sink or Swim: How to Engage Millennials to Ensure the Future of your Business."