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Strategies for Managing Millennials

By: Don Tyler

We have a local county Ag Club that meets monthly to discuss ag issues, markets, research, industry trends and a host of other topics of concern to the producers and ag professionals in the region. It’s a great forum that provides a platform for education and discussion from some of the smartest people in their field of expertise in the Midwest. After one of the recent luncheons the director of the Club pulled me aside and said, “Don…What’s up with these Millennials? I used to think that it was just typical generational issues, but now that I’ve been managing Millennials, I’m getting more and more frustrated with them—and I’m one of them!”

His complaints were fairly common. “They complain that I micro-manage them, and then the next day they complain that I don’t tell them exactly what I want them to do, or that I don’t give them enough direction!” “One day I make some concessions to help them meet a deadline, and a few days later they say I’m not flexible enough!” “I’m doing more for them than for any group of employees I’ve ever had, and they want me to do a lot more without even acknowledging what I did for them just a week ago!” “They don’t want to put in any extra effort or take any initiative, and then they complain that they aren’t ‘moving up in the company’ fast enough!”

He went on and on with similar challenges and I let him vent so that we could eventually talk about some strategies. Before sharing what has worked well with my clients, I explained my own transition from being someone who let their frustration get the best of them, to taking a more pragmatic approach and trying to solve this issue just like any other management dilemma.

We need to remember that each generation is a product of the society, culture, upbringing and experiences they were exposed to during their developmental years. The most impactful of those years being between the ages of 12 and 18. They didn’t choose to live that life, it’s the one they experienced, and we can’t go back and change it. Keep in mind, we had the same unique experiences growing up and some of those may not have made us as perfect as we think we are.

All that considered, when we tackle the challenges that this generation, which now makes up the younger 50% of the entire workforce, we must avoid our tendency to look at them as a homogeneous generation with similar values. Keep in mind that the issues my friend is dealing with are common among young employees of any generation. They don’t have enough work experience to understand what is expected of any job at any company. Previous generations had jobs when they were in their early teens. This generation is later to join the full-time workforce and doesn’t have the raw work experience that you might have had at the same age. They need to be taught more of the basics at an age where you already had several years of experience.

Practical Steps
My clients have had great results by implementing these strategies:

Provide very clear expectations for work performance using job descriptions, standard operating procedures and policies.
If they aren’t meeting those expectations, act quickly and help them make the necessary changes.
Coach more than discipline.
Provide clear definitions for your core values and work culture so that they know the specifics of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors, and coach to these values.
Whenever you need to make adjustments to your processes, be sure to keep your standards the same. This may take some creativity and a greater understanding of human behavior, motivation and accountability.
If you want them to be more engaged in their work, engage with them more on a regular, personal and encouraging manner. You may find that you have more in common than you thought possible.

Don Tyler is founder of Tyler & Associates Management Coaching. For additional assistance in your employee management and family business challenges, Don can be reached at don@dontyler.com, www.dontyler.com or by calling 765-490-0353.

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