Tips for Generation Y/Millennials' managers and mentors

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By Phyllis Weiss Haserot
This is the third of a new series of regular columns by generational expert and internationally known consultant, coach, writer, and speaker Phyllis Weiss Haserot on intergenerational relations and navigating the challenges of the multi-generational workplace for better productivity, retention, succession planning, and business development results.

Like it or not, new Generation Y employees (those who have entered the workplace since about 2001) require more management time than their older counterparts did. This is frustrating to Baby Boomer partners and managers and the Gen Xers who crave autonomy and like to do things their way. Having very structured lives since childhood, the Millennials (Generation Y) need structure and guidance at work to channel their dedication to producing excellent results.

Here's a checklist of steps and considerations to achieve both a satisfying working relationship and desired results.

Generational DefinitionsHere are some quick definitions. Generations are defined by the similar formative influences – social, cultural, political, economic – that existed as the individuals of particular birth cohorts were growing up. Given that premise, the age breakdowns for each of the four generations currently in the workplace are approximately:

Traditionalists born 1925-1942
Baby Boomers born 1943-1962
Generation X born 1963-1978
Generation Y/Millennials born 1979-1998 (under age 30 today)

  • Clearly communicate exactly what needs to be done.
  • Explain how the individual's role fits within the larger framework of the project.
  • Be clear about timing and expectations. If the matter is urgent, say so. If the matter is not urgent, convey the anticipated time frame and when the assignment is ultimately due.
  • Provide samples of the type of product you expect.
  • Communicate the process and when to check in along the progressions of an assignment.
  • Avoid asking your junior or mentee to reinvent the wheel. While they like to research on the internet, point out helpful sources or even other people at the firm who may be helpful.
  • Before concluding the discussion and delegation of the assignment, ask the juniors to describe their understanding of the assignment to assure you are on the same page.
  • Create a team atmosphere and include juniors and mentees as often as practicable given the economics in meetings and on calls and client visits.
  • Encourage juniors to bring ideas to the table. Then show that they are heard and appreciated.
  • Keep them in the loop so they are well informed and feel that they are an integral part of the team, ready to contribute whenever asked.
  • Provide prompt and thorough feedback. Do this in person whenever possible – the personal touch is much more effective than e-mail or a memo for both educating and motivating.
  • When a project is complete, take time to review the work together. It is important to highlight what was done well and give praise as well as constructive criticism for going forward. Discuss "lessons learned."
  • Respect people's personal lives and their overall workload. Don't impose false deadlines or unnecessary weekend or holiday work. Plan and communicate in advance.
  • Encourage compromise to manage both work and personal schedules. They must learn to sort out competing priorities. Ask the juniors to suggest solutions. Check in periodically with them and inquire as to the status of other matters and projects on which they are staffed.
  • Act as a bridge between partners and the juniors. Create opportunities for exposure and interaction with partners.
  • Give credit and recognition for good work and effort. Be generous with thank you's. They will pick up the habit in turn. Convey praise from the client.

Following these steps up front, you'll eliminate most erroneous expectations on both sides, develop less stressful working and mentoring relationships with young employees, and save time and energy in the end.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

© Phyllis Weiss Haserot, 2008. All rights reserved.
Phyllis Weiss Haserot is the president of Practice Development Counsel, a business development and organizational effectiveness consulting and coaching firm she founded over 20 years ago. A special focus is on the profitability of improving inter-generational relations and transitioning planning for baby boomer senior partners. Haserot is the author of "The Rainmaking Machine" and "The Marketer's Handbook of Tips & Checklists" (both Thomson/West 2008).

See all of the articles in this series.

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