How Reverse Mentoring Can Benefit Millennials and their Managers

Generation X and Baby Boomers are increasingly serving as mentors to Millennials in the workplace, but the new trend is reverse mentoring, where Millennials provide guidance on new and innovative ways to approach the ever-changing demands of work.

The benefits of traditional mentoring — where an older, more seasoned professional trains, teaches and coaches younger employees — are well documented. Mentoring young employees helps them learn more about their jobs, their role in the company, their potential career trajectory and how to advance professionally; it also gives older employees an increase in job satisfaction and purpose, builds their career legacy and gives them a unique professional outlet.

While the benefits of traditional mentoring relationships are known, the benefits of reverse mentoring are less known. Reverse mentoring is the practice of matching older, seasoned professionals with younger employees with a focus on having the Millennials mentor up.

What Millennials Can Bring

Millennials often have a reputation for being lazyentitledneedy — the list goes on, and the majority of these negative stereotypes about Millennials don’t hold up to the light. Millennials are loyalteam-orientedinnovative and goal-focused.

Millennials often bring a new perspective to the workplace, with a desire to see the “greater good” in their job, their role in the company and the company’s role in the world. Giving Millennials the opportunity to convey that passion to older employees who have been with the company a long time can re-energize and reignite the dedication and enjoyment long-time employees and managers once had for their jobs.

In addition, Millennials’ desire for transparency and honest communication can lead more seasoned managers to question the way they’ve “always done” things. This can lead to positive changes throughout all levels of the company, with an increase in experimentation, newly discovered efficiencies and new business development opportunities.

Reverse mentoring also gives seasoned professionals an opportunity to reflect on their own way of doing things and may widen their understanding of the way their organization and industry are changing. With reverse mentoring, older professionals have a unique opportunity to close their knowledge gap in areas like technology, social media, work-life balance, workplace trends and more.

In addition, a long-term Sun Microsystems study of about 1,000 employees found that employees who participated in a mentoring program were 20 percent more likely to get a raise — and that went for both mentors and mentees. In addition, employees who received mentoring were promoted 5x more often than those who did not have mentors.

How It Works

For companies, setting up reverse mentoring is easy, as it can work within the structure of the company’s ongoing, more traditional mentoring program. Cisco, for example, started their program by finding a champion within the organization to promote the program, set goals and metrics by which to measure success. Then, the company focused on recruiting mentees (i.e. older employees), and then recruiting mentors — the younger employees who indicated interest in participating. The company also provided the mentors with resources, tips, ideas and best practices for mentoring, as many had never been a mentor to someone in the past. Cisco’s former Business Operations Manager Laura Earle declared the reverse mentoring program a success, as it built relationships and helped all participants develop a better understanding of the company.

For a reverse mentoring relationship to work, many of the same rules apply as for a more traditional mentoring relationship. Both younger and older participants must keep an open mind and a positive attitude, trust each other, respect each other’s viewpoints and find ways to seek common ground. Both parties should set goals and commit to scheduling ongoing meetings to keep the relationship strong and growing.

Why Don’t Millennials Follow Directions?

Often when I’m speaking to managers of Millennial employees, I’m asked, “Why don’t my Millennial employees follow directions?” As a manager, it can be frustrating to give an assignment only to find out a week later that the assignment is not completed, or partially-completed. What’s the deal? There are two things to know about Millennials that can help you with this on-going management challenge: speed and specificity.


Since childhood, Millennials have been conditioned to receive guidance and feedback at a high degree of frequency.  Instant feedback on their computer-based quizzes and tests, Google searches, texting and Snapchatting with friends has all had a profound influence on the expectations of speed or response. Particularly in school, Millennials were tested, evaluated, graded and given feedback more often than any other generation to date. Older generations indulged in the virtue of patience simply because things took longer to happen back then. Older generations understand waiting. Millennials were not raised in an environment where waiting is a thing. Instant feedback on almost everything is the norm.

As a manager in the workplace,  consider ‘checking-in’ with your millennial employees a few times a day about the assignment that you’ve provided. You might think it is overkill, but to a Millennial, that’s normal. Frequent ‘check-ins’ allow you to assess their ability to stay on task on that assignment you’ve provided them to make sure they understand how to proceed.


Accelerating your check-ins is key, but another important element to get Millennials to accomplish their assignments is to provide directions to Millennials with a high level of specificity. Different generations have very different viewpoints on this issue. Boomer and GenXers embrace the notion of doing an assignment their way. They revel in the independence they have—they don’t need a roadmap, they just need a goal and they will likely get it done with little or no supervision. The viewpoint of Millennials is almost exactly the opposite. They are fairly dependent on you as a manager. They want very specific directions on how to do an assignment correctly, and also an explanation for why it is important.

Why is this? It’s because Millennials were raised in a highly planned and structured environment. From childhood, their lives have been heavily managed by their parents. Even their schools advocated a highly planned and structured environment. Free time and play was not something Millennials did—everything was planned for them.  Another contributing factor in their need for specificity is that they hate to take risks and hate to fail. An “opened-ended” assignment for them is viewed as a risk. Their viewpoint is “why should I take a chance on doing an assignment the wrong way when there is probably an already proven way to do it without error”.  Be assured that if there is a YouTube video on how to do something, they are on it.

LifeCourse Associates survey revealed: “69 percent of Millennials say they like their supervisor to provide them with ‘hands-on guidance and direction.’ Only about 40 percent of Boomers and older Gen Xers said the same.” In response, many companies are doing away with the annual performance review. It is being replaced with more frequent meetings, updates, goal tracking and evaluations with more specificity. Major companies doing this include GE, Accenture, Deloitte and more.

As a manager, make sure to provide instructions that have clear goals and clear process with a roadmap that assures them they are going in the right direction. Providing them with frequent cycles of open and honest feedback will have positive affects — increased loyalty, professional satisfaction and more employee engagement. Millennials will feel valued, cared for and motivated to meet their goals. Incorporating these two simple elements—speed and specificity means they’ll be more likely to stay with the company for the long run, ultimately reducing recruitment and retention costs.

How to Attract Millennial Employees: No Ping Pong Table Required

It seems like the dream of most Millennials — an open, modern office with windows, lounges, ping-pong tables, a smoothie bar and nap rooms.

Thanks to images of excess from some of Silicon Valley’s tech start-ups, a lot of executives come to me worried about their office environment. Will their lack of budget (or space) for a ping pong table put them at a disadvantage when it comes to hiring the best and brightest Millennials?

I tell hiring managers that while “perks” like those offered by giants like Google and well-funded start-ups like may attract Millennials, those cool office features don’t keep Millennials fulfilled in the long run.

Hiring is a serious expense and commitment, and if you want the best Millennials to stay with your company for more than a year, there are other things you can — and should — do.

1. Trust is one of the keys to helping Millennials feel professionally valued in the workplace. Allowing Millennials to manage their own schedules, and providing work-life balance assistance through telework or flexible hours shows Millennials that they are trusted. Although new Milennial employees may need guidance and limits on telework and flex scheduling to ensure the team is supported, Millennials like working for companies that don’t chain them to desks when they can work just as productively elsewhere.

2. Communication is critical — especially with telework and flexible scheduling. Millennials appreciate feeling like they are part of a team and understanding their role in a project or event. They crave engagement and comraderie, and they want to feel that their work and role is contributing to a greater good. Open, honest and frequent communication are key to making Millennials feel engaged at work.

3. Provide professional challenges. Despite the perpetual myth that “Millennials are lazy,” they actually thrive in workplaces that offer them challenging-but- achievable goals and projects. Setting incremental deadlines and targets, and communicating how their project and role fit into the company’s mission, will help Millennials see their path forward.

4. Offer mentorships. Millennials (and all new employees) benefit from and appreciate the value that mentorships provide. Millennials particularly have long-term thoughts but short-term patience spans when it comes to career goals and growth, and mentorships can help them understand how they can get from point A to point B by staying with your company. Mentorships can also help them see what skills they need to develop to get promoted, and companies that simultaneously offer these opportunities for professional growth and development are rewarded with employee loyalty.

Overall, Millennials aren’t looking for the coolest open-concept office or best smoothies at work. They do want an open communication culture and the best opportunities for professional growth. Flexibility with work-life balance will help, too. The companies that are able to show those perks are the ones that will attract the best Millennial employees, and keep them around for the long haul.

Can Millennials Hit Deadlines?

It happens, and it is annoying— you set deadlines and your employees don’t meet them. But it’s more than annoying—it disrupts workflow, affects productivity, and makes everyone else’s job more difficult. Missing deadlines is a universal problem with all generations, but I more frequently hear from managers that Millennial are not hitting their deadlines.

The most common question I hear is: “How can I get my Millennial employees to actually complete a task on time?!” 

Ditch The Lazy Millennial Myth 

Many managers assume that Millennials don’t hit deadlines because they are lazy. But that’s not why. Contrary to the stereotype, most Millennials are not “lazy,” in fact- they are probably the least lazy generation in the workplace. Millennials crave “busy-ness”. They are always on the move, navigating between different tasks on multiple screens. They are multitasking masters of the universe. And this makes sense if you think about how they were raised in a hyper-stimulated environment where they had back-to-back activities filling up their schedules after school and on the weekends, driven by pushy parents.

In fact, with this high-achieving ethic, sometimes they can bite off more than they can chew and this is what gets them into trouble. This is where good management practices can help, so I have three simple suggestions to get Millennials on track for hitting deadlines.

Do These Three Things

Communicate frequently. Millennials want open, honest and transparent communication. They also crave frequent feedback — the annual review, for them, is archaic and unhelpful. Instead, very frequent ‘check-ins’ that let Millennials answer questions, receive feedback and advice, and tackle the next steps will help significantly. Instead of berating them for blowing a deadline, ask them to take the lead on coming up with the steps they will take to ensure the next deadline is met.

Set incremental goals. Employees of any age may be overwhelmed by one big, long-term project. For Millennials in particular, breaking down a big project into several steps with incremental goals and targets will help move that project along. Some workplaces have even implemented “gamification” into their workflows — using game-like systems to reward employees for meeting incremental goals and promoting teamwork to get larger projects and tasks completed on time.

Promote teamwork. Millennials grew up on organized sports teams, doing group projects at schools, and with an emphasis on the larger community (whether that was their school, church or neighborhood). In the workplace, Millennials often seek a feeling of family, community and teamwork. Ensuring they understand how their work, their piece of that large project and their deadlines will help make everyone more successful can go a long way toward motivating them.

How Can I Get My Millennials to Take Their Work Seriously?

This is a common question that comes up when I’m speaking or training executiveswho work with Millennials — “How can I get my Millennial employees to take their work seriously?!”

The idea that Millennials don’t take their work as seriously as their older professional counterparts is largely a myth. Studies have shown that in many ways, Millennials are workaholics. Almost half (48 percent) of Millennials “think it is a good thing to be seen as a work martyr by the boss,” — a higher percentage than any other generation surveyed, according to a research by Project: Time Off.

In addition, Millennials are more likely to forfeit paid time off than members of older generations, according to a survey.

Work Gets Done, Just Differently

The difference in the way Millennials work is often the cause of the misconception that Millennials aren’t taking work seriously. Technology allows many employees to work anytime, from anywhere. For some employees, that means they need to spend less time at their desk in the office. Social media and online project management systems, email and mobile devices, remote desktops and more let Millennials stay connected to work wherever they are — and many sleep with their mobile devices, checking email before falling asleep and again before their feet hit the floor in the morning. (A Harris Poll survey showed 93 percent of Millennials have admitted to using their phones in bed.)

Getting the Best Work from Milliennials

If Millennials in a workplace don’t seem to be taking their work seriously, managers are often able to correct the situation through effective communication, goal-setting and mentoring.

Millennials are most engaged in their work when a few key factors are in place. They include:

  • Understanding their role in the organization. Millennials grew up with team projects and team sports, where they knew and understood their place and role in the group. They seek that same understanding in the workplace, and managers who communicate effectively about how a Millennial employee’s job is important can help Millennials feel more engaged in their work.

  • Understanding the organization’s role in the larger community, economy and world. Further, Millennials were raised with a sense of community and want to make a difference in helping make the world a better place. Millennials who know how the mission of their company aligns with their personal values, helps people and contributes to a “greater good” in society are more engaged at work. (Many companies have started encouraging volunteerism as both a team-building activity and to show corporate responsibility.)

  • Being provided with long-term and short-term goals and support to succeed. Millennials perform best when they have both short-term, achievable goals with the support to succeed, and long-term plans that include professional development and growth. Millennials like to achieve, and they look for a supportive network of colleagues to help them do so. (This train comes from their parents, teachers and coaches, who raised them in a supportive, encouraging setting and taught them they could do anything they put their minds to.) Cross-generational mentoring programs can provide Millennials with an understanding of how to grow and develop professionally over time, putting their short-term achievements at work into a longer-term context.

  • Enabling open, honest and transparent communications. Millennials are more loyal and engaged with employers who have open-door policies in the way they communicate. Millennials watched their parents fear the surprise layoff, and fostering a culture of openness, honestly and genuineness can help prevent employees from looking for new jobs based on false or incomplete information. Good communication and honest feedback can also help Millennials in their quest to achieve their goals and feel professionally fulfilled.

If All Else Fails…

If you are convinced that your Millennial employee is not taking their job seriously, start a dialogue where he or she does most of the talking and you do most of the listening. Make your case—put all the cards on the table, and do your best to listen. Sometimes it is hard to get to the root cause of the issue, especially if your relationship is strained or frustrating. If that still doesn’t work… well, not all hires are a guarantee fit to the role. But if this is happening with more than one employee, you might need some coaching of your own.

How to Maximize Millennials in Insurance

The insurance industry is boring. At least, that’s the way Millennials see it.

Research by the Insurance Institute last year revealed that “boring” was the #1 word Millennials associated with insurance. Those with experience in the industry know that is just not true, but how does the insurance industry break this misperception?  And how can agents and brokers change it?

In many ways, Millennials want from their jobs the same things as previous generations — competitive salary, good benefits and meaningful work. However, Millennials have different priorities and expectations of their workplace and require different best practices to be happy and fulfilled in their career.

Insurance agents and brokers should consider re-thinking their activities to meet these priorities and expectations. These three areas are the building blocks, will be able to attract and retain the best and brightest Millennials.

First Impressions: Digital and High Touch

The first area is getting Millennials’ attention. Doing so will take a coordinated combination of a strong digital presence and a personalized approach to recruiting. This includes a website that is clean, uncluttered, shows the insurance company’s connection to the demands of digital media and showcases the company’s mission and value proposition. As digital natives, Millennials’ first impression of a company often comes digitally. This may mean going beyond a company’s website and focusing on career-focused online presences such as Glassdoor, certain social media platforms and more, in addition to being responsive and approachable both online and off.

Workplace Environment: Teamwork and Positivity

According to the Deloitte Insurance Outlook 2017, technological innovation will be key to meeting challenges in the coming years. Fortunately, digital tools can help with the second area ­of focus — creating and promoting a company climate that is positive and team-oriented. Millennials prefer teamwork over competition and gravitate toward conscientious employers who try to make a positive difference. In addition to showcasing this company culture online as a recruitment tool, Millennials will be more loyal to companies that foster their career development, help them achieve their professional goals and publically value their contributions.

Managing Millennials: Mentoring and Coaching

Once your insurance organization has recruited and hired these top-tier Millennials, managing them on a day-to-day basis with close but nurturing supervision, mentoring and coaching. Millennials desire more hands-on interaction with and more frequent feedback from their supervisors than older generations. Good relationships are key to keeping Millennials engaged, and they are attracted to open and honest leadership that encourages input and collaboration.

To learn more about attracting, recruiting and retaining the best Millennials to your insurance company, get on the list (by providing your email address in our Newsletter sign-up box) to receive a notification when the report, Maximizing Millennials for Insurance Agents and Brokers, is released later this year from the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers (CIAB). The report will include examples from insurance companies large and small that have found success in this area and specific action items your agency or brokerage can take to engage Millennial employees.

Millennial Engagement, Innovation and Creativity at Work

Almost a year ago, I started CoachingMillennials with two Millennials — my son, Nick, and Giorgia Howe, whose father Neil Howe I had the privilege to work with and has done significant research and writing on generations. We continue to research, write and speak about Millennials in the workplace, Millennial issues and more.

This year, we want to tell stories of Millennials who are creative, driven and innovative. To do that, we’re asking to be connected to the hardest working, most inspiring (and inspirational) Millennials you know.

Let me know where you see inspired, motivated Millennials in your workplace, company or organization. Please email me at with your suggestions and connections.

While Millennials aren’t necessarily digital addicts, they are digital natives and are used to both taking in and presenting information in multimedia. We plan to use video, social media platforms and more to let Millennials tell their own stories about engagement, innovation, and creativity at work.

Narrative is an ancient and powerful medium. It inspires and transforms. It plants seeds of innovation and change. A vast majority of workplaces fail to reach their potential. But some do — and we want to go in-depth on how Millennials are helping. What are their stories? How did they do it?

We look forward to finding out from Millennials themselves and sharing with you this year.


Busting Myths: Millennials have No Loyalty in the Workplace

If you hire a Millennial, you can’t expect them to stay around long. At least, that’s what most employers think when they hire people who are in the early years of their career.

But it turns out that Millennials do not “job hop” any more than young people of previous generations. To the extent that they do “hop”, it is more about the younger employees’ search for their professional strengths, interests, and career paths, according to a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If you want your best Millennial employees to stick around, you need to understand that for Millennials, loyalty is a two-way street. If an employer is not investing in Millennials’ professional development and satisfaction, there’s a good chance they’ll say, “Adios, amigos.”

According to a survey done by Deloitte earlier this year, 44 percent of Millennials say, if given the choice, they would like to leave their current employers in the next two years — particularly if “there is a perceived lack of leadership-skill development.” More than six in 10 Millennials (63 percent) say their “leadership skills are not being fully developed” at work.

Other reasons for lack of loyalty in the workplace for Millennials are “feelings of being overlooked, compounded by larger issues around work/life balance, the desire for flexibility, and a conflict of values.”

How to Ensure Millennial Employee Loyalty

Fortunately as an employer, you can do things to ensure Millennial loyalty.

Companies should capitalize on aligning company values to the personal values of their top Millennial employees. More than 80 percent of Millennials who plan to stay with their company for at least another 5 years believe their personal values are shared by the organizations they work for, according to Deloitte. This is a strong indication that Millennials choose to work for and stay with employers whose values reflect their own.

Millennials would prioritize the sense of purpose around people rather than growth or profit maximization. This is one of the reasons that the three top fields for Millennials are education, environment and healthcare, research shows.

In broad terms, Millennials’ personal goals are more traditional. They seek a good work/life balance, they want to own their own homes, and they strive for financial security that allows them to save enough money for a comfortable retirement. The ambition to make positive contributions to their organizations’ success and/or to the world in general also rate highly. As an employer, assisting Millennial employees in reaching some of these goals can help engender loyalty.

The companies that are successfully keeping turnover down and instilling a long-lasting sense of loyalty in their Millennial employees seem to have common themes:

  • Identifying, understanding, and aligning with Millennials’ values

  • Supporting Millennials’ ambitions and professional development

  • Having a mentor

The Deloitte survey shows that loyalty to an employer is driven by understanding and support of Millennials’ career and life ambitions, as well as providing opportunities to progress and become leaders. Having a mentor is incredibly powerful in this regard. Those intending to stay with their organization for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68 percent) than not (32 percent).

Like all generations, pay and financial benefits drive Millennials’ choice of organization more than anything else.

“But when salary or other financial benefits are removed from the equation, work/life balance and opportunities to progress or take on leadership roles stand out. Those factors are followed by flexible working arrangements, deriving a sense of meaning, and training programs that support professional development. An employer that can offer these is likely to be more successful than its rivals in securing the talents of the Millennial generation.”

Every incoming generation changes the shape of a workplace. Boomers brought long-hours and an almost devotional approach to work. GenXers brought work-life balance. Now Millennials are making their own footprint — a flexible, purpose-driven workplace that has lots of professional development opportunities.

How to Coach Goal-Oriented Millennial Employees

It’s counterintuitive, but Millennials in the workplace are far more goal-oriented than their Boomer and GenX counterparts.

You may be thinking that Millennials are starry-eyed dreamers, but that was the Boomer generation when they were young. Or maybe you are thinking that Millennials are slackers, just drifting to and fro, but that was GenXers when they were young. Of the three generations currently in the workforce, Millennials are decidedly the most focused “on the prize.”

Like all generational traits, their heavily goal-oriented ways started with how they were raised. Millennials were measured and monitored relentlessly growing up by their parents and teachers with a focus on opportunities for growth and meeting their goals. From grades to test scores, credentials and certifications, trophies and rewards, Millennials are familiar with measurements of success against objective benchmarks. Goal attainment is their sweet spot.

In the workplace, it’s no different. Millennial employees crave frequent feedback and progress assessments. An MTV Millennials in the Workplace survey revealed 80 percent of respondents said they preferred “real-time feedback” over more traditional (often annual or semi-annual) performance reviews. Executives at many companies are adjusting to this Millennials mindset by offering more frequent reviews, more forward-looking feedback, and guidance and support to help ensure Millennials meet their professional goals.

There are discussions in some of the most respected companies to banish performance feedback reviews entirely, and replace that onerous process with live, real time feedback. In addition to offering faster feedback and review cycles, managers should establish clear benchmarks, objectively-based performance measurement, incremental goals and rewards for achievement. Providing Millennial employees with short-term goals that can be measured will improve their performance and help them remain professionally satisfied at work.

As digital natives, Millennials also respond well to using technology as a measurement device. Think about the fit-bit device for the workplace. Project management software and systems that introducing a ‘gaming’ element to the workplace (such as those that offer badges or points for achievement) can move Millennials forward at work.

A just-released white paper from Coaching Millennials provides six effective strategies every manager can use to attract, coach, and keep top Millennial talent. Along with helping Millennials focus on and achieve their professional and workplace goals, the white paper discusses the work environment, communication and much more. Taken together, these strategies can get any employer on the path to better performance from their young professionals.

Download the white paper (free) here.

5 Ways to Get Millennials to Want to Work for You

Ping pong tables, latte machines, free kale smoothies, a nap room — sounds like a paradise workplace for Millennials, right? Maybe — but maybe not.

It turns out that “perks” like this do not make young professionals feel fulfilled at work for the long term.

The first Millennials were graduating college and entering the workforce just a few years after the dot-com bubble burst. Even after that economic collapse, however, many companies were trying to attract young, tech-savvy employees with Silicon Valley-style perks from free food to activities designed to make work “fun”. But these things aren’t what Millennial employees really want at work.

1. Millennials want to work for organizations that offer ways for them to feel engaged and emotionally connected to their jobs, according to research from Gallup. They want to feel good about the impact their role has on their workplace and on the community.

Managers can do this by talking more about why the company’s mission is meaningful to the community and the world at large, and by communicating how the employee fits into that mission. Volunteer opportunities can also make employees feel more connected and engaged at work. (See “3 Ways Millennials are Changing the Workplace” for more on this.)

2. Millennials want to work for companies that have an open and honest communication culture, including frequent check-ins, constructive feedback, defined responsibilities and goals that are achievable with proper support.

Managers can do this by focusing on being authentic, approachable coaches, being a role model and setting up Millennials with a structured and productive mentoring program.

3. Millennials want to work for companies that offer them professional challenges, opportunities for growth and show an interest in their short- and long-term success.

Managers can do this by talking about long-term goals, career path and development and future opportunities. “They want to get on the perfect career track right away, despite their job-hopping reputation, data show that most would prefer to stay with one company that will help them achieve their professional goals,” according to Neil Howe.

4. Millennials will be attracted to companies that integrate their work and their life. This does not mean they want to work 80 hours per week. They don’t want work to become their life, but they do like working hard and taking on professional challenges.

The way they do this is different than previous generations. For Millennials, being chained to a desk can be frustrating, and many Millennials want the flexibility to work outside the standard 9-to-5 schedule. “When Millennials say they want ‘balance,’ they don’t mean work less. They mean work differently and more flexibly. There’s a big difference,” mentioned Cali Williams Yost in a piece for Fast Company.

Managers can do this by allowing some telecommuting and alternative work schedules, while keeping expectations high and communication frequent.

5. Millennials will want to work for companies that offer stability and job security. The oldest members of the Millennial generation were just starting to look for their first full-time jobs when the Great Recession happened and they witnessed (and experienced) high unemployment rates.

Managers should emphasize the long-term prospects of the company’s success and the sustainability of their business model. Millennials have long-term horizons when thinking about their career goals. They would rather have a meaningful career with a sold, stable company, rather than hop from job to job. In fact, the idea that Millennial employees “job hop” more than previous generations is a myth. To the extent that they do job hop, it’s because they are working to gain skills to advance themselves in their career. You don’t want to be that company where they are gaining skills so they can move on to the next company. Managers should be clear that their company provides opportunities for professional growth and development.

Overall, Millennials are looking for good coaches in the workplace who are honest, say one thing and do that thing (not do another); they want CEOs who admit mistakes and are open about the company’s health; they want to understand their role with a company that is making a positive difference in the community and in the world.

The way to attract and keep the best Millennial employees is not with free food.

Millennials in the Workplace: Meeting Them Where They Are

Understanding any generation — and working with them effectively and productively — means knowing how they were raised. It is important to “put yourself in someone else’s shoes,” and consider Millennials’ upbringing, how they have been raised and what they value.

In leadership, you cannot fully utilize an individual team member’s strengths unless you really know them and know where they’re coming from. To develop Millennials professionally, it helps as a manager to communicate the way that they understand, taking into account their perspective.

There are certain hot buttons that can spur a Millennial to higher levels of engagement and activity.

  • Members of the Millennial generation were raised to feel special by parents who engaged with them, made them feel wanted and important, and were actively involved in their lives. For employers, that means a more hands-on, self-affirming approach to management that visibly and positively rewards them for accomplishing their goals. Here is where a coaching model to managing really works. (And no, you don’t need to buy a box of trophies. A simple gift card to Starbucks for a job well done works just as well.)

  • Millennials were raised with teamwork, collaboration and community-mindedness. They played team sports, worked on group projects in school and volunteer work was a routine part of their education.

  • They grew up with rapidly developing technology and are comfortable communicating in new ways, across management levels and in an open and honest manner.

Employers should meet Millennials where they are. Here are three ways employers can to do that to encourage professional growth and commitment:

  1. First impressions are everything. For example, you’ll never get their attention if your website is cluttered, difficult to navigate and uses outdated technology. The message that sends to Millennials is that your company isn’t forward-thinking and technologically savvy. Ensure your website is mobile-friendly, clean and has up-to-date content, in addition to addressing why the company’s mission matters and what the company does for its community and to better the world.By doing that, you’ll actually attract other generations, too! A great example is, the website of Woodruff Sawyer & Company, an independent insurance company whose website is both well-designed and speaks to the company’s role in the community and world.

  2. Personalize outreach with high-tech and high-touch elements. Give Millennial candidates the chance to speak to both top executives and newly-hired employees.Millennials are keen on transparency and on open and honest communication across professional levels. Millennials are used to being able to reach colleagues and higher-ups through multiple, convenient channels and want to work for CEOs who follow through on promises.

  3. During the recruitment process, give Millennials a chance to speak with not just with human resources staff and their direct potential manager, but with recently hired employees and top executives, too. Recruiters should maintain frequent communication with Millennial applicants, too, without sacrificing formal niceties.

In the onboarding process, schedule immersive orientations in order to build a network of trust among their new peers and foster a sense of community. Welcome Millennials like it’s a privilege to work with them.

A just-released white paper from Coaching Millennials goes over six simple strategies every employer can use to attract, manage, and retain the best Millennial talent. Along with meeting them where they are, the white paper discusses coaching millennials with feedback, creating a positive environment and more. Download the white paper (free) here.

3 Ways Millennials are Changing Your Workplace

Every generation that comes into the workplace brings cultural, environmental and other changes. But Millennials are changing modern workplaces in new and different ways that can be challenging to the people trying to manage members of this generation.

From teamwork to goals and feedback, here are the three C’s of how Millennials are changing your workplace.

Community. Millennials want this sense of community in their workplace. For managers, making Millennials feel like part of a larger team, developing a collaborative environment and culture, and emphasizing the “greater good” of a company’s mission the employees’ place in it, and providing volunteer opportunities related to their skills are all key to ensuring Millennials’ professional success and happiness.

Millennials have been raised with this sense of community. Members of the Millennial generation grew up completing group projects in school, playing organized team sports and participating in (often required) volunteer activities in school.

“From early childhood, Millennials have been encouraged by parents to work together and build important peer connections. As young adults, they are constantly connected to their friends and expect their leaders to take a stake in the well-being of the communities they hold dear,” according to a 2015 report from the Congressional Institute and LifeCourse Associates.

Seventy-one percent of respondents to an LBG Associates survey about corporate volunteerism “indicated that they felt more positive about their company as a result of these programs.”

A number of companies are taking big steps to incorporate volunteerism into their culture, including Deloitte, which offers unlimited paid time for volunteer projects. Novo Nordisk also provides significant paid time off to employees who volunteer, but also includes a community service component in most off-site meetings. The company also has an internal website to help employees find volunteer opportunities.

Many Millennials crave an upbeat work environment that includes positive reinforcement.jpg

Confidence. Many Millennials crave an upbeat work environment that includes positive reinforcement from their peers and managers. This is because they were raised with a sense of optimism by parents who taught them to believe they can do anything if they put their mind to it.

Managers of Millennials can help them go far, do great work and achieve professional fulfillment by tapping into Millennials’ sense of optimism and confidence. Providing them with a organized support system is important as these Millennials look to take on new and interesting challenges in the workplace.

They crave frequent achievement that is measurable and attainable. In fact, one of the leading causes of low motivation among Millennials in the workforce is a lack of praise, according to Leadership IQ.

Because of this preference, many companies are moving away from the annual review in favor of project-based, monthly or even weekly review periods, frequent one-on-one meetings with managers and more collaboration on critical tasks. Cargill Inc. replaced its annual reviews with an “Everyday Performance Management” system that gives employees routine feedback. “Cargill says it’s seen measurable improvements after managers began giving constructive feedback that was forward-looking, instead of reviewing what had happened in the past,” FastCompany reported. Other companies building systems for routine and frequent feedback include Adobe, Accenture and Google.

In fact, 80 percent of Millennial employees who responded to an MTV Millennials in the workplace survey said they “would prefer real-time feedback over traditional performance reviews.”

Communication. While each generation has its own language, Millennials are communicating through different platforms than employees in prior decades.

In addition to the ways they communicate, managers should acknowledge that their language and tone are paramount to connecting with members of the Millennial generation. Millennials appreciate honesty and transparency from their managers and they crave feedback, but they also want to be heard. This will require a communication style that is conversational; managers of Millennials should keep their doors open and be approachable.

Millennials may tend to text and chat more and email less, but the real difference is in the now asynchronous nature of the way they communicate, which has changed the way they interact and work, according to Gallup. “With technology dominating every aspect of millennials lives, it’s perhaps not surprising that 41 percent say they prefer to communicate electronically at work than face to face or even over the telephone,” a PwC report revealed.

These three C’s — community, confidence and communication — will continue to mold the workplace of the future as Millennials gain footholds in senior management in the coming years.

3 Ways to Effectively Onboard Millennials

On my website, CoachingMillennnials, you can find an overview video Neil Howe and I produced called Recruiting and On-boarding Millennials. This video will get you oriented about best practices for recruiting and on-boarding Millennials, but I also wanted to point out a really comprehensive article on the same topic published just recently by Saeculum Research.  Its called “Welcoming Millennials Onboard“. It is a great article because it provides actual, actionable ideas you can use to attract Millennials. Here’s a summary:

  1. Invest in Swag. Show Millennials you care about them. This is easy, and it doesn’t cost a lot. LinkedIn welcomes employees with a swag bag of goodies that are customized to the person being hired. It’s simple swag– like include a personalized greeting card, copy of LinkedIn founder’s book, “The Start Up of You“, and a water bottle. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but ideally, should be personalized. Online care medical scheduling service provider ZocDoc invites new employees to dine out with the executive team for lunch.

  2. Offer Professional DevelopmentGeneral Electric and Caterpillar have pro­fes­sional development programs that emphasize mentorship by top executives and senior management. NYU assigns each new hire a mentor-buddy for the first two months on the job. Millennials like to gain new skills, and are much more likely to stick around if you invest in their professional development.

  3. Build Relationships Quickly. The faster a new hire bonds with his or her immediate co-workers, the more likely me or she is to stay and be a productive member of the team. As the article states, “Deloitte divides new hires into groups to play a board game that not only teaches newbies corporate policy, but also allows them to bond with their co-workers. Internet marketing company Bazaarvoice even sends new employees on a weeklong scavenger hunt to learn the ins and outs of the company. Although these practices are rather unconventional, they take advantage of Millennials’ team-oriented nature and facilitate stronger ties to the organization.”

One other key point the article makes to keep in mind when you are recruiting millennials… keep the parents involved! Boomer and Xer parents are with their Millennial kids at all the big milestone events, and their first job is no exception. And don’t think less of your Millennials because they want to involve their parents. Chances are, you have a very different relationship with your Millennial child than you did with your parents. The Army slogan is highly instructional as you think about including parents as part of your recruiting strategy: “You make them strong, we make them Army strong.”

New Year's Resolution for Coaching Millennials

Coaching to Millennials’ Strengths, Not Weaknesses

I’ve always believed that you can get more out of an employee by focusing on their strengths, not harping on their weaknesses. This is particularly true for Millennials. Born between 1982 – 2004, Millennials have been treated ‘special’ by their parents, teachers and coaches for most of their lives. Their development has been oriented around positive self-esteem—they are the “we can accomplish anything and overcome any obstacle generation.” Their cultural icons are Harry Potter, the do-gooder wizard who defeats the fantastical evil forces of doom, and more recently, Hunger Game’s Katniss Everdeen, who perseveres through daunting environs overlorded by feckless Baby Boomers. Millennials are ready for big challenges and will rise to the occasion when you focus on their strengths.

But before you focus on their strengths, you have to know what their strengths are! One of the quickest and most accurate ways to do this is introducing them to the StrengthsFinder assessment. This online assessment tool costs less than $10 and your employees can complete the entire assessment in less than 30-minutes. The results are instantaneous and you can start coaching around strengths immediately.

Full disclosure: StrengthsFinder was developed by Gallup and while I was a manager there, I used it successfully for almost 10 years, as did hundreds of Gallup clients.

Once you’ve established your Millennial’s “top five” strengths, spend a half-hour reviewing with them to make sure you are both on the same page. From here, you can build a development strategy for their success around their strengths. This is the kind of mentoring that your Millennials want and need.

-Warren Wright

Top four reasons that Millennials are leaving their "dream jobs"

Warren Wright is Executive Vice President of LifeCourse Associates, a publishing, speaking, and consulting company built on the generational discoveries of Neil Howe and William Strauss. Warren has spent over twenty-five years in leadership roles at companies that use behavioral sciences, statistics, organizational development, change management, and media to help their clients.

Last week I came across a study that said 60% of Millennials leave their jobs within a 3-year period. This was part of the much publicized Millennial Branding Report that was released in August. Among the findings, 51% of companies report that the cost of training and development is highest when hiring Millennials. This is obvious, as on-boarding costs for new talent requires far more resources and development. 56% of employers revealed that it takes 3 to 7 weeks to hire a fully productive Millennial into a new role. This statistic is a little concerning, as it seems the expectations of companies is too high in terms of getting new employees up to speed on a role. Well managed companies with typically invest several months, not weeks in on-boarding and development.

60% of Millennials leave their jobs within a 3-year period51% of companies report that the cost of training and development is highest when hiring Millennials56% of employers revealed that it takes 3 to 7 weeks to hire a fully productive Millennial into a new role

The top four reasons that Millennials are leaving their “dream jobs” might be less about Millennials and more about their managers. When I worked at Gallup, our consulting mantra revolved around the notion that your manager is responsible for 85% of your experience with the company you work for– they can make you or break you. It turns out that the reason for high Millennial turnover is bad management. Listed below are four reasons Millennials say they are leaving their dream job, and each one of thee reasons has to do the difference between good management practices and bad management practices:

#1: “No one is asking for my feedback”

Clue: If your Millennial isn’t happy, find out why. This is management 101. Frequent check-ins are critical especially early on ones career, and especially for Millennials, who are known as the “Feedback generation”.

#2. “I wasn’t clear about opportunities for advancement”

Clue: Provide clear opportunities for advancement (in excruciating detail). Millennials like to see a clear path for advancement, and it does not have to be straight up the ladder… it can be different responsibilities at the same level. The important thing is that the path is clear and someone is guiding them along the way.

#3. “The job was advertised as one thing, but it turned out to be something else”

Clue: Never inflate or misrepresent a role. Be completely honest about job expectations. Recruiters in HR try to put their best foot forward, but sometimes, if the job seems to be too good to be true, it probably is. Always temper job expectations with reality about the job.

#4. “It seemed like no one cared about me”

Clue: Show that you care. This is a big one. Remember, Millennials grew up with an entire team that was looking out for their well-being: parents, teachers, coaches, doctors, etc. Transitioning into the workplace  can be an entirely different environment than their life experience up until their first job. Frequent check-ins, feedback sessions, praise for good work, and constructive criticism for missing the mark– these are all important elements to successfully managing Millennials.

In summary, many of the reasons Millennials are leaving their jobs is directly related to the quality of the manager to foster high levels of productivity of the employees he or she manages. Millennials seem to be forcing the bigger issue of demanding better management overall. As they say, a rising tide raises all ships– better management not only helps Millennial employees, but all employees.

-Warren Wright

5 Terrible Ways to Manage Millennials

With all the attention on the right way to manage Millennials, I thought I would share some ‘worst practices’ that I have seen in recent months as a way to help managers avoid irreversible errors in managing and coaching Millennials.

Turnover remains high with Millennials, but research still suggests that Millennials would rather work for “one perfect employer” than hop from job to job. So, here it goes… 5 terrible ways to manage Millennials:

1. Practice Tough Love

Most middle managers and even senior managers fall into the Generation X (ages 32 – 51) category. Xers came of age at a time of economic malaise and cultural tension. For them growing up, the world was a dangerous place. Generation X was the latch-key generation. Unwanted pregnancies reached a peak in the US in the 80’s and early 90’s, risk behavior such as drinking and driving and drug use increased. While Boomers practiced ‘free love’, Xers worried about AIDS.

Because of their tough gritty experiences, Xers entered the workforce, fairly successfully on their own with no help from anyone. They were the survivalists and entrepreneurs that embraced risk with a fiercely independent spirit. I see many Xer managers treat Millennials with the kind of ‘tough love’ mentality that they experienced when they entered the workforce.

News flash: Millennials don’t ‘get’ tough love. Their experience was entirely different growing up. They were raised ‘carefully’ by their helicopter parents who surrounded them with teams of teachers, counselors, physicians, and tutors that worked on every aspect of their development. Their expectation for the workplace is the same.You can’t give a Millennial too much attention.

2. Give them the Big Picture on an Assignment

For as empowered and confident as Millennials are, they need descriptions of assignments in detailed clarity. It is not enough to say, “read through this 1,000-page document and create a 3-page summary”. You would need to identify for them exactly how the summary should be developed, what font and format you want, when you want it by, and what resources are available to help them complete the assignment. Millennials prefer step-by-step explanations in as much detail as possible.

3. Take Their Toys Away

A few years ago, I was doing a research project for a U.S. government agency. We were trying to identify the drivers of satisfaction among Millennials. While the top results all had to do with feedback, two elements emerged that were unexpected: they wanted larger monitors or even two monitors on their desks, and they wanted to be plugged into to their social network throughout the workday. Now, I realize there are some jobs where this would not be possible, but consider the two things that have always been a priority for Millennials– cutting edge technology, and ability to connect to their social network. One hotel manager told me, “I tried to stop them from getting on Facebook, but it was impossible.  Instead, I have designated times for Facebook breaks throughout the day, and this really has helped, not hurt productivity and moral.”

4. Don’t Offer/Explain Benefits

One of the most remarkable and unexpected characteristics of Millennials is their interest in benefits like 401k, retirement, health benefits, wellness and flex programs, etc. It was always assumed that young people don’t care about these things– after all, retirement is a long way off, and young people are generally healthy, but according to a study by MetLife, this does not appear to be the case. In fact, Millennials actually value benefits more than older generations! This is a reversal in thinking, as it was always assumed that phase of life would influence attitudes toward benefits. There is also emerging evidence that Millennials are investing a higher percentage of their income into 401k’s compared to older generations. So, don’t assume that Millennials don’t care about these issues, and make sure you provide plenty of opportunities to explain these benefits in great detail.

5. Try to be ‘Cool’, like Them

This is an awful strategy. Millennials expect older generations to act their age. Millennials already have a very positive and informal relationship with authority figures. Studies have shown that Millennials have a far better relationship with their parents compared to Boomers and Xers when they were young. And Millennials also share many of the same cultural interests as their parents– they watch movies together, listen to the same music, and communicate far more frequently than previous generations. But Millennials value interactions with their own generation. Don’t insert yourself into their friend network and start posting stuff on Facebook and Twitter. If you do, you will not be cool, you will be weird.

What are some of the ‘worst practices’ you’ve heard about in Managing Millennials? Better yet, what works best for you in managing Millennials?

-Warren Wright

Millennial Job Interview Tips: Use The 3 “C” ‘s

I typically work with businesses that need assistance in understanding and coaching their Millennial employees. But last week, I had the chance to coach my own Millennial, my son…

Last week he called me on the phone to ask me for advice on a job interview. “Dad”, he said, “I have a job interview on the phone in 90-minutes. They want me to do  a 5-minute sales pitch. Can you help?” Thinking out loud I said “Um, well, probably not– 90-minutes might not be enough time.” There was a pause, and then, thinking of all the cramming session in school over the years that we’d done together that worked out, I said in a measured, Dad-like manner, “Yea, sure, I can help. Let’s do this.”

This was a logistics company that had grown from $1M in 1997 to over $1.3B in 2012. One look at the website and it’s clear that the company has a sale driven culture that takes great pride in the quality of their salespeople and ability to deliver quality to their customers. I never had heard of them before, but this looked like an impressive company!

Nick, had already done much of the preliminary work, scouring their website and Google for relevant information on the company. He had all the raw features and benefits nailed down. He has always been naturally persuasive, charming and sociable. I was not worried about his ability to “connect”, but wanted to make sure there was a framework, or structure to his sales pitch.

Here is what I told him, and perhaps it can be helpful when your Millennial is interviewing for a sales job, or any job, for that matter. Follow these basic principles to coach your Millennial job seeker. They are the three “C”‘s of a job interview:

Be Clear

In a job interview, you must be clear about three things: 1) Who you are (your qualifications and interests), 2) How you fit the role (a list of your skills and knowledge matched to the position’s requirements), and 3) What you know (a solid understanding of the company’s mission, strategy,operations, culture, etc.). Have a plan. Practice what you are going to say. Make it clear and logical. Weave a narrative that makes sense. Tell them why you are in front of them, what lead you to be here, and exactly how you can make a difference in their company based on your unique contributions. Practice you pitch.

Be Competent

These days, there is no excuse for not doing your homework on the company you are interviewing with. Aside from studying their website, make sure to spend some extra time spend doing an article search, search for public filings,review financial statements, and check out the company on sites like Set up Google Alerts with the company’s name and key words revolving around their business. And study. Then, study some more, and write down notes. Millennials are the most educated generation in US history, graduating from high school and college at record rates. This is another homework assignment. Prepare for a job interview like you prepare for a term paper. Have a main argument or thesis, make an outline, and fill in supporting evidence.

Be Confident

It’s hard to prepare for this one. Some applicants are more naturally confident than others, and it is not something you can turn on or off at a moment’s notice. That said, when an applicant is not confident in his or her abilities, the interviewer will pick this up immediately, and prospects for getting the job are hugely diminished. Millennials are well-known for their confidence– it is typically not in short supply. But be genuine and authentic and demonstrate how your confidence can help their company grow. Of course, if this is a sales pitch… make sure you ask for the order! Ask, “what are the next steps?”, and “I’d like to know, how did I do, and would you consider hiring me for the job?” When you ask these questions, it shows that you have initiative and you can ask for the sale, but without being too pushy.

I talked to Nick about an hour after the interview and he told me it went great. They would like him to take the next step for another interview. I was thrilled to hear that.

You’ve been coaching your Millennial throughout their entire life. Don’t stop now.  Just a few simple tips can help him on his way to a better job and the start of a better career.

Quantified Self: A Movement Built by GenXers, Adored by Millennials

Quantified What?

FitBitDaytumMood Panda—you’ll be hearing a lot more about these self-monitoring devices that track your daily experiences in life, measuring everything from heart rate to number of steps taken to sleep patterns. This new biofeedback technology is part of the quantified selfmovement (also called self-tracking or body hacking) which uses technology to gather data on all aspects of a person’s daily life.

How Big Will It Be?

Apple is so convinced of the demand for these devices, they’ve developed  and entire suite of Apps. Their new App, Digifit,  is strapped onto your body to record your heart rate, pace, speed and cadence of your running, cycling and other athletic activity. PricewaterhouseCoopers has predictedthat the worldwide market for mobile health care devices and communications will jump from $4.5 billion in 2013 to $23 billion in 2017.

How Generations Play a Role

What is the generational angle on this? Typical of emerging consumer movements , there are often two generations at play: one that sets the conditions, and one that adopts and consumes. Both Generation X and Millennials play a role here.

Generation X (born between 1961-1981) was the first generation to embrace measurement as it relates to performance. Choice, behavior incentive, and market incentives defines this generation contribution to the business world. While the Boomers were off accomplishing their ‘mission’ (perhaps some ill-defined utopian state) GenXers were quietly measuring impact of activity on performance. GenX Google founders Sergy Brin and Larry Page turned the advertising world upside down by introducing a pay-for-performance model of advertising. Now GenX has found a way to bring measurement and performance to personal human behavior. Most leaders in the Quantified Self movement, first defined by Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly in a 2007 Wired Magazine article, are born in the 1970’s, while the consumers and enthusiasts are born in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Millennials say… Monitor Me, Please

While early wave GenXers and Boomers may be wary of this self-monitoring due to privacy concerns and technology adoption reluctance, Millennials can’t wait to get their hands on this stuff.

Clearly technology adoption plays a role in Millennials’ acceptance of this movement, but it is the culture of Millennials that assure body-hacking is here to stay. As I pointed out in previous blogs, Millennials are much more comfortable sharing their personal information over web, so sharing even intimate details on sleep patterns is not a concern. Furthermore, as Neil Howe points out, Millennials are an achieving generation. They’ve grown up in an environment where test scores matter and there are measured goals (achieving GPA and SAT scores to get into college, etc. ). At the heart of self-monitoring devices is the ability to measure so you can improve. Millennials will accept this challenge with gusto.

Finally, Millennials have grown up in a heavily monitored environment, so there is something comforting about the idea of monitoring their well being. This was the first generation whose parents had the monitor listening devices in their room, so they could hear every peep from the crib. Remember—Millennials trust technology. Technology is their friend.  I can easily see a 24-year old posting her heart rate results on Facebook to the adoring comments from friends and parents “Way to go!” and “Good job!” This positive feedback– the essential motivator for Millennials– encourages better results, of course. And with their close relationship with parents, it is easy to see how texting their results to their parents will be the norm.

So, how can companies take advantage of this new self-monitoring movement, and what implications can this have to your healthcare? Stay tuned for my next blog post for some ideas…

-Warren Wright