About the Author As Director of Sales Operations at SmartDraw, Steve Peterson helps our customers use SmartDraw to communicate more effectively with visuals. At home, he spends most of his free time entertaining his 4 year old daughter. A Minnesota native, he is an avid sports fan, rooting for his Alma mater, the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.
As Director of Sales, I manage a very diverse workforce that includes several that are classified as millennials. It’s not hard to find articles and opinions about how this generation impacts the workforce. Most of what I have read labels this group as being somewhat difficult to manage, also noted here by the Harvard Business Review’s article “Mentoring Millennials.” My experience couldn’t be further from the truth. The millennials on my team are positive, capable, and eager for responsibility. For me, I follow a simple three step process to develop them into awesome employees and co-workers.
Step #1. INTRODUCE
The first step in the process is to break down the barriers and get to know them. If they are new to the company, take the time to introduce them to everyone on the team. Take an interest in what they do outside of work, where they grew up, went to school, and so forth. I found I have a lot in common with my millennial workers that I wouldn’t have discovered if I didn’t ask. I have also developed new interests because of the experiences they have shared with me.
Ask them how they like to be managed. I think you will find most like constructive feedback, but do not like to be micromanaged. Set up ground rules to provide coaching and feedback. At this point you have a personal connection and also an understanding on how you can work together in a positive way to help both of you accomplish your goals.
Step #2. UNDERSTAND
The second step is to understand what they are looking for in a job and also what’s important to them with regard to a work environment. This will differ slightly for everyone, but I think you will find several commonalities like a career path, ability to contribute ideas and think creatively, work life balance, and reasonable compensation. There might be times when the job you have doesn’t meet all of their needs. Think outside the box to see if you can assign them to a project or give them other responsibilities to help fulfill their needs. I can tell you firsthand, the group that works for me is incredibly ambitious, always asking for different ways to contribute to the success of the team. Another area of importance is a desire for social interaction with other co-workers. Encourage everyone to interact, even if it’s outside of work for a night of bowling or volunteering somewhere together as a team.
Step #3. DEVELOP
The last step is to create a development road map and get them on their way to a productive career. Find out where they see themselves in five to ten years. Figure out how you can help them get there and map it out. Identify what they need to work on, then help them work on it. Provide coaching and feedback, but in a positive, supportive way. Congratulate and praise them publicly for a job well done. My objective for them is to be happy and successful at work, even if that means leaving my team and finding something else that better suits them. For most, this will be their first job or one of the earliest in their careers. It might not be the right fit several years down the road. If you put their needs and desires first, you will end up with a happy, engaged individual that positively impacts your organization.
To learn more about the impact of millennials, read How Visualization and Millennials Impact Software Development.