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Posted: April 06, 2011

Top 10 tips for the bosses of a new generation

No 1: Put aside your prejudices

John Heckers

In a previous article, I wrote about the entitlement that many younger generation workers feel in today's workforce. This is the other side of the coin. This article lays out what we, as employers and bosses, need to do so that we can obtain the very best from the younger generation entering the workforce and climbing the ladder today.

1). Put aside your prejudices. As I've written previously, those of my generation often have a perception that younger people will discriminate against us or don't like us. While there are certainly some younger people who see us as "dinosaurs" or "old folks," there is a much greater group who desperately wants our mentoring and respect. Give it to them.

2). Respect younger workers. Someone who is 25 is not a "kid." They are adults. Treat them like adults and they'll usually behave like adults. Ask their opinion. Solicit their ideas. Give them as much responsibility as they can handle...and then a bit more. Let them get in over their heads, but don't let them drown.

3). Be ready to bail them out...but not too soon. Most successful leaders will give their employees tasks that stretch them. This is great for Millennials! They desperately want a challenge. So give it to them. But then stay close by to bail them out if they're really in trouble. However, the "bailing out" should be done by helping them come up with their own solutions, not just taking over the task. Help them learn from each business experience.

4). Spend time talking to them...and listening to them. Hear what these younger generation workers have to say. Get to know them. They're going to welcome you and want to be around you, so long as you don't hang out too much. Spend lots of time listening. Don't lecture.

5). Respect their attention span. The attention span of many Millennial generation workers is very, very short. Don't go into long stories without a reason. Don't give them long lectures. Make things short and to the point. Remember that most of these younger workers find email to be hopelessly antiquated.

6). If you can, learn to text. Millennials communicate by texting, not by talking on the phone or emailing. In fact, some Millennials only use the phone for conversation with their parents. The rest is text. If you want to communicate well, you'll need to learn to text, as frustrating as that can be.

7). Be humble. Ask your younger workers to teach you about technology, even if they work for you. They may know of technologies you didn't even dream existed. Solicit their opinion on these things. Implement their suggestions if they're good ones. Don't be afraid to give something a "try." Even if you're not paying them a fortune, Millennials will love a job where their very real knowledge and skills are solicited and utilized.

8). Reward them their way. Money is always a motivator, but for Millennials, it is not the prime motivator. Team trips, technological toys, and even little reward tokens tend to motivate Millennials more than just a bonus. Most crave and welcome public appreciation. Give it to them.

9). Explain the relevance of job duties. Millennials have less than the usual tolerance for "Mickey Mouse." Explain that everyone has to do grunt work, but try to make a majority of their tasks actually relevant to the goals of the company. Explain how Task X will contribute to the bottom line, to efficiency, or other company goals.

10). Evaluate the rules at your company and change those you can. If the employee is not seeing customers, why is it necessary that he or she dress in a business/professional manner? Is there any reason that everyone has to be at the office at 8 AM? Almost all offices have rules that made sense when they were instituted...20 years ago. But rules that are senseless turn off Millennials. To obtain and retain Millennials, make the rules minimal and make them make sense.

The Millennial generation is the most technologically proficient and educated generation yet. While they can sometimes be frustrating for older generations to work with, they can also be lots of fun and very productive. Follow the above tips to make your experience with this generation a success.

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John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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Readers Respond

Fair enough, Christopher. Now the question is how I get my 25 year old daughter to actually answer an email and not just text me! By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 04 27
By and large, the points in this article are spot on. I'm a young professional (25 year old MBA), and I wish more managers understood what you're saying, especially points 9 and 10. One point I have a different perspective on is email. Phone calling is antiquated, but email is still very relevant. I do agree that texting can be a powerful communication device if used well, but it cannot replace email for most communication. By Christopher Sayler on 2011 04 13
well this "millennial" heard it and disagrees with your analysis of the younger generation. You've got it about 1/2 right with a Big 1/2 WRONG. As I posted before, you're not just guessing about an entire generation, but assuming that they are all the same in different areas. OUT of the cities, it's STILL much like it's always been. By John Wray on 2011 04 07
Hi Claire. What you say might be accurate for you, but I've worked with lots of Millennials and have found that making my message shorter and to the point than I would do with another old guy like me tends to work better. I agree that mutual respect is vital. Also understand that this article is written to my peers, not to Millennials themselves. My messaging to Millennials would be a different one. I still think my peers need to hear what I've said above. Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 04 07
I agree. I don't notice that "young" people has some sort of attention disorder or short attention span. I think that it's simply cultural and the fact that there's lots more to distract but MOSTLY because many young people have not been raised properly. I think that shows up in the school test results and lack of parental involvement. I see wonderful young people everywhere, but, I must admit, more in rural areas. By John Wray on 2011 04 06
Speaking as someone under 25 I have to say that although I agree we are a fast paced, multitasking generation, I think some of us deserve more credit than needing short & to the point messages or shiny new toys. The biggest thing is mutual respect (and that's something that has to be earned) and getting the credit we deserve for the work we do. By Claire Bouchal on 2011 04 06
about 1/2 right. I'm lucky that I don't have the "young people" much out here in rural Colorado. The young people don't fit your categories, esp in the "attention span" area. I'm not sure how you seem to sound SO much like an older out of touch writer, but I see the young people that I see everyday and first class. I'll bet it's different in the Front Range. I guess you have to work with what you're given. The easiest way to evaluate how you're doing in the long run, as a boss, is to note the longevity of your work force. I DO allow them to laugh at me though and I think that's important. Otherwise, I haven't changed my basics for decades. I HAVE always given ALL of my employees hc and 401k's By John Wray on 2011 04 06

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