Listening To Millennials: 56 Priceless Tips For Managers is a practical guidebook for managers, filled with immediately useful advice about collaborating with millennials - and sprinkled with insightful quotes from millennials themselves.
Each chapter describes common challenges, case studies and, most importantly, tips that will gain you lasting results successfully managing your millennial employees.
A quick and fruitful read for managers in any sector who want to shift the balance from stress to success -so they can enjoy managing their youngest employees.
-Malati Marlene Shinazy, MEd
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Listening to Millennials: 56 Priceless Tips for Managers
By Malati Shinazy, Amanda Diefenderfer
Balboa PressCopyright © 2016 Malati Shinazy; Amanda Diefenderfer
All rights reserved.
CONFESSIONS OF A BABY BOOMER MANAGER: A BOOK IS BORN
"This woman is driving me crazy. If she hates her job so much, why doesn't she just quit?" Did that thought come from me? Well, yes, actually it did. I am a goal-driven, get-it-done manager. And, I wanted to scream almost daily each time I heard from my twenty-four-year-old administrative assistant:
"I just got my bachelor's degree. I should be running a department, not just being an administrative assistant!"
Eventually, I would cool off and no longer consider the silly idea of jumping out of our office windows. Yes, that is how desperate I felt. We were on the first floor and the windows did not open! Still, for a nanosecond, I would imagine myself diving right through them, screaming, just to get away from her incessant complaining.
When she stopped and I calmed down, I would sit down and chat with her and acknowledge her perception and needs, putting to use all the active listening skills I had been practicing for decades. I tried to assuage her restlessness by telling her that we all started somewhere, we all "paid our dues" and moved into jobs requiring increasing responsibility. I encouraged her to shadow other staff in our department and elsewhere in the company. I suggested she take free online classes in the field of her choice in order to boost her qualifications for higher-level jobs. I told her everything I heard when I was a young employee and promised to do anything she needed to help her progress. But still she groused and grumbled. Meanwhile, I inwardly cycled through the four versions of expressionist painter Edvard Munch's painting, The Scream.
In due course, she quit and I hired an assistant ten years her senior. Whew, I realized after a few weeks – everything was getting done and the entire team was now a group of relatively happy campers. There are always going to be process and deadline stressors at work, and our department was no different than any other in this regard. However, these stressors now existed without the daily verbal laments and contagious unhappiness of one young employee.
A few years later in the learning and talent development department at another company I had the opportunity to do the millennial employee and baby boomer manager dance again. This time, however, my millennial staff member, Nikie, wanted more. She was indeed the sponge my executive vice president of human resources told me she was. I was in awe of her, and yet again I was inwardly screaming. My sense of self as the perfect manager was shattered. I knew something was going on that I had better figure out before this hyper-productive and sensitive wizard brought my entire department down. Or worse, she would quit, taking her brilliant talent with her.
On the way to work one day, dreading whatever fussing I was going to have to face from anyone at the office that day, I had a moment of clarity. The voice of my mentor, Dr. George F. Simons, whispered to my manager brain:
"This is a cultural diversity clash! You are a diversity and inclusion expert. Treat the situation the way you would any other diversity challenge."
I remembered his definition of culture:
"Culture is a set of rules, developed by a group of people for survival and success."
My epiphany? My young employee and I were in the same work group, with the same business goals, and spoke the same American English. However, we were operating from different cultures!
As the manager, I needed figure out the rules for survival and success for this bright go-getter or she would be off to another job at a competing company. The truism, "employees quit managers, not companies," replaced my inner scream. With determination, I decided not to let that happen. As in the classic cultural iceberg, a person's behavior represents only 10 percent of who they are. The other 90 percent is under the water line, invisible. I needed to understand what was below the actions and behavior I was witnessing from Nikie. From understanding her multi-dimensional cultural beliefs, values, biases, attitudes, and perceptions – as well as developing a better understanding of my own – I could start building a cultural bridge on which we could both work well together.
* * *
Priceless Tip #1
Use the cultural iceberg framework to understand your millennial employee on a deeper level. It is more effective than inwardly screaming.
* * *
I read all the academic, big consulting company, and government studies on employees alternately known as the "millennial generation," "generation y," or the "echo generation."
I chatted with other managers about what they were doing to work effectively with the members of this group of young employees. More often than not, I heard frustrated variations of what the academic data was telling us, that these employees are a challenge to manage. Here is one such comment:
"I don't call them the 'millennial generation.' I call them the 'entitlement generation.' They want everything! And they want it now!"
* * *
Priceless Tip #2
Do not hesitate to ask peers for their ideas. Just don't be surprised if they know less than you do.
* * *
With a lot of effort and sincere dialogue, my young employee and I developed a highly productive working relationship. She told me that she did not want to be just a sponge. She wanted to be squeezed, challenged, and given more responsibility with mission-critical assignments.
I started to look for such opportunities for her. I set clear outcome expectations, coached her a little, provided her with resources, and then let her run – yet was always available to answer her questions in a text message or within our weekly one-on-one meetings. Sometimes, I just needed to provide her with reassurance that she was on the right track.
* * *
Priceless Tip #3
Sincere dialogue means we listen deeply more than we speak.
* * *
Within months Nikie was ready to lead a cross-functional project team with employees who outranked me in the company organization chart. I attended the first meeting and informed the project team that Nikie was taking the lead and I would be supporting the project in the background but not attending future meetings. The look on the faces of the vice president and senior vice president is embedded in my mind's eye. I can only imagine they were thinking, "You are the manager. She is just a specialist. And we are suppose to follow her?" I am sure those thoughts were followed by a bit of inner huffing and puffing.
Of course, I kept my finger on the pulse of the project, continually checking in and occasionally attending a meeting to be sure we were meeting our milestones. The result? The project was handed off to the next team in the project process on time and with superior quality. Nikie and I were both proud of her achievements.
We did more than successfully bridge the culture gap as manager and millennial employee. Over time, we became mentor and protégée, and eventually, friends. She is a wise young woman, and I learned as much from Nikie as she did from me. Additionally, our team culture took on a whole new feel as we succeeded in strengthening our relationships. There was a sense of healthy curiosity about the values and cultural needs of each colleague.
Our success as a collaborative team culture became increasingly more evident in our daily performance and in the agility of our informal interactions. As the work of any learning and talent development department requires a fair share of online research for instructional content, someone on the team would inevitably stumble upon one of the thousands of personality surveys on the web such as, "What Kind Of Insect Are You?" Sharing these with each other became a light-hearted way to break up the day. And, when one of us learned an important skill or concept, it too became known to us all.
* * *
Priceless Tip #4
Remember this useful definition of culture: "A set of rules developed by a group of people for survival and success." From this definition you will not only gain greater understanding of yourself and your millennial employees, you can also lead the development of your team's optimal working culture.
* * *
I come from a multiethnic, multiracial, multicultural family. I was curious about other cultures before I even knew what the word meant. Cultural anthropology was one of my minors as an undergraduate student. I have always been curious about people's stories and have a thirst to know the "why" behind big data. As a young woman I wanted to investigate people in the field, like cultural anthropologist Margaret Meade (1901-1978) who studied the people of the South Pacific and Southeast Asia.
Without needing to travel quite so far, I found opportunities for cultural exploration within my own community. In an earlier stage of my career, I worked with high school students to develop the learning game TeenDIVERSOPHY, which focuses on teaching thirteen- to nineteen-year-olds the skills they need to thrive in their diverse communities. Without realizing it, this work provided my first "Margaret Meade" moments. The content for TeenDIVERSOPHY was written for teens by teens, and gave me the opportunity to learn what was important to them, in the field of their own high school environments.
Over the course of several academic years, different groups of high school students wrote, field tested, and edited the content of the game. One group struggled over how to word the content of the game's cards so their peers across the nation could learn the skills of living in our increasingly diverse world. They were disappointed when they discovered that at ages fourteen and fifteen, most high school freshmen were too young to understand some of the critical thinking questions in the game. And, they were thrilled to learn that a local university planned to use the game as part of college freshman orientation week. They were excited and a bit scared, as was I, because the game had not yet been field tested with college-aged teens. As they watched the seventeen- to nineteen-year-old college students play the game, they took notes for improving it.
Together, we learned how to make the content clearer and simpler so it would be useful for a more diverse audience, for teens that came from many different demographic groups and regions of the US. TeenDIVERSOPHY will always be a work in progress, as each generation of teens is unlike the previous one. Their concerns about topics of diversity and inclusion will naturally evolve as their world does.
Another "aha!" moment for me was when I realized that the TeenDIVERSOPHY developers are the millennials we are writing about now! The teenagers that wrote the original content for TeenDIVERSOPHY have been in the workplace for just over a decade. So emerged another opportunity to learn about this same age cohort – in a new stage of their lives.
Overcoming my own struggle to become a great manager for millennials was just one step towards sharing my knowledge and insights with other managers. The original idea for this book was inspired by my relationship with my former employee Nikie, who became my coauthor of choice. As a businesswoman, I knew that partnering with this smart, insightful, and results-oriented young woman as a coauthor would simply make for a better book.
I then met Amanda, who helped me with projects for my consulting business. I was stunned and shocked. Here is another one! She is from the millennial generation, she is brilliant, her command of written language is amazing, and she is ambitious. Coauthor Number Two? You bet.
Our ultimate goal with this book is to help managers become the best managers they can with their millennial employees. We want to help managers create workplace environments in which millennial employees can thrive, be happy, and do their best work. Their work satisfaction and high engagement is bound to be contagious to other employees. The return on investment (ROI) will include reduced turnover, greater productivity, and higher engagement and innovation. The term "engagement" has become almost a cliché in business; so we have given it an operational definition:
"An employee is engaged when s/he demonstrates consistent enthusiasm and commitment to meet individual, group, and organizational goals, embraces learning and personal/professional growth, and co-creates a pleasant work environment for the work group."
* * *
Chapter One Bonus Exercise
Frame the frustrations you may be feeling managing your millennial employees as growing pains. Often, if we do not recognize that something is not working, we will not search for solutions to improve it. That you are reading this book indicates you are on the continuous process-improvement journey – the process of becoming a more effective manager. Congratulate yourself!CHAPTER 2
WE CAN'T WRITE THE BOOK YET: THE RESEARCH PHASE
As the largest employee group in the US workforce, it is not surprising that big data has extensively researched millennials. Organizations such as the US Census Bureau, US Chamber of Commerce, Pew Research Center, the Society for Human Resources Management, and the Council of Economic Advisors for the President of the United States have published studies on millennial numbers, opinion, and impact on economics.
Academic research is hefty too. Anick Tolbize's work for the Research and Training Center on Community Living at the University of Minnesota provided a comprehensive review of the literature in Generational Differences In The Workplace.
Below is a quick summary of her work and the research of her peers on the early influencers of this group of nearly eighty million US millennial employees.
* * *
The Common Growing-Up Experience
Over one-third had divorced parents or parents who never married
Over two-thirds had both parents in the workplace
They were the first full generation of latchkey children
* They learned at a young age how to be self-sufficient
* Non-school time was highly scheduled
Many had parents who exercised the parenting style of "quality over quantity"
* Some parents were highly indulgent
Collaborative learning was the rule at school
* Students worked together rather than independently
Boosting self-esteem took the form of:
* Everyone is a winner
* Everyone gets an award
Television and DVDs were babysitters
* They watched between 2-4 hours of programming each day
* 30 minute TV programs were interrupted by up to 15 advertising commercials
They were babies or young children when home computers and video games became mainstream
* * *
Big Data Is Not Enough
Big data can give us demographic numbers to crunch and analyze (e.g., knowing that 2015 is the year that millennials outnumbered baby boomers in the workplace, which is indeed a critical data point). But we managers know that numbers do not provide the complete picture of useful knowledge for working in a mutually satisfying way with members of any demographic group. And, each of us is more complex than a singular factor such as generation can depict.
As with any diversity and inclusion challenge, we need to dig deeper. We authors decided to listen to millennials themselves. We wanted to learn from what they had to say in the here and now, specifically:
What was on their minds?
What was important to them?
* * *
Priceless Tip #5
Knowledge is not as important as understanding.
* * *
There is some disagreement in big data circles about the years between which millennials were born. Some say they were born between 1979-1995. Others say the range is 1982-1994. And some claim the range is 1984-1996.
For our purposes, questioning those who have been on the job for at least a few years made the most sense, so we chose a sample group born 1980-1992. This age span allowed us to compare the older millennials (born 1980-1985) with their younger peers (born 1986-1992).
Our research project was not designed to be academically rigorous, as we were searching for anecdotal themes that could assist managers. However, it was crucial to us to have ample representation across age, sex, region, race, and ethnic lines. Toward this end we worked carefully to ensure our sample group was as inclusive as possible. We realized that folks who choose to take surveys were self-selecting and wondered if our research would produce different information to that of big data research. Together with my brilliant coauthors, we set off on a journey of discovery.
We developed a series of open-ended survey questions and posted them in an online portal. Our original thought was that responses from a small but stratified sample of fifty millennial employees would provide us sufficient real-life insight from which to assist managers.
Excerpted from Listening to Millennials: 56 Priceless Tips for Managers by Malati Shinazy, Amanda Diefenderfer. Copyright © 2016 Malati Shinazy; Amanda Diefenderfer. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. Confessions Of A Baby Boomer Manager: A Book Is Born, 1,
2. We Can't Write The Book Yet: The Research Phase, 11,
3. The Kindergarten Syndrome, 19,
4. What Do We Want To Be When We Grow Up? Career Development, 31,
5. Yeah Team! The Work Environment, 45,
6. Growing Up In A Digital World: Communication and Flexibility, 57,
7. Treat Us Like Grown-Ups!, 71,
8. More Money Please, 83,
9. My Lemonade Stand? The Entrepreneurial Spirit, 97,
10. Cultural Competence: Managing Millennial Employees, 103,
11. Recap: 56 Priceless Tips For Managers And Ten Bonus Exercises, 107,
12. Resources, 125,
13. About The Authors, 127,