The other day I was talking with a VP whose department, as he put it, is “bi-modal”: fifty-somethings and twenty-somethings. My client work supports this VP’s experience, which is that different generations think and act differently.
But so much of what I’ve read about Millennials, Gen X, and Gen Y focuses on telling us how young people are different and, therefore, how to manage them as special groups. See, for instance, http:// humanresources.about.com/ od/ managementtips/ a/ millenials.htm.
But really, focusing on how younger employees are different misses the point. We should be asking: what will improve the organization and benefit everybody in it?
After all, everybody in your organization suffers if the company
declines and falls. So make sure your organization stays alive by
• Actively growing young leaders and
• Inviting young leaders to the the tables where strategic decisions and policies are made.
I’ve been hearing from young stars who see glaring gaps in their companies support for them, and so do I. They worry about how slowly new leadership is rising, and so should you.
For example, performance management systems are deficient. Supervisors are asked to help employees set goals, but many supervisors do not know how to do a strengths-based appraisal, how to work collaboratively with their supervises to create goals, or how to support supervisees in goal achievement.
Supervisors need training in strengths-based appraisals, collaborative goal setting and quarterly “check in” conversations. These are components of programs I developed and regularly teach.
HR personnel and managers also need to learn to coach. They need to know how to both give effective feedback and work collaboratively with direct reports. I'd like to see all organizations offer coach training. Once trained, your cadre of internal coaches deserves ongoing skill development led by a trained coach. This is one of the services that I provide.
In addition, I think all organizations should work with external
coaches. I am often called into organizations to serve four needs:
• Provide leadership and executive coaching for senior managers
• Supplement the capacity of the several internal coaches
• Ensure that there are enough coaches for employees to choose from
• Work with employees who have particular skill deficiencies in areas such as conflict management and diversity and inclusion.
Because young people learn to lead by doing it, senior leaders need to expand opportunities to share power. Most of the senior management teams I work with are folks in their forties to sixties. Create a place at the table for rising stars, for example, by having a multi-generational leadership council that convenes quarterly as a strategic think tank. In addition to your traditional mentoring programs, where senior managers guide junior employees, create opportunities for young people to serve as mentors to newer peers. Encourage “mutual mentoring,” where young people guide more senior employees, for example, in living their career dreams or using new technologies.
Millennials are a beacon of bigger strategic needs. In order for any business to stay vibrant, it has to have structures, practices and external supports that serve all generations.