The oldest millennials are turning 37 this year. Many have been in the full-time workforce for the better part of two decades. They are often characterized as a highly distractible generation needing constant hand-holding. Just like every generation before, millennials have strong stereotypes to overcome as they seize leadership roles and advance in their careers. As organizations help to cultivate this new generation of leaders, what are the implications for management development? And how can companies shape millennial managers effectively?
Late in 2017, a study called Building a Coaching Culture with Millennial Leaders found that first-time people managers and millennial leaders agreed that using coaching skills makes them effective in their roles. When asked to describe the most effective management style, the two words that were most frequently repeated were “collaborative” and “coaching.”
Do millennials want regular feedback or constant praise?
It is no surprise that a coaching style would appeal to many millennial managers for whom feedback is a motivating force, and not just positive feedback. Just like a coach on the playing field cheering on his players and calling audibles, millennials are used to responding to feedback that is instant. The CEO of Zuora, Tien Tzuo, says millennials are often pegged as the “everybody gets a trophy” generation, but their desire for instant feedback and recognition can benefit companies. According to him, “It ensures that complacency doesn’t set in and has forced some companies to become more merit-based than their hierarchical corporate predecessors.”
This kind of intelligence about what millennials embrace as employees can shape management development programs that will help them thrive as new managers. A generation of employees who embrace the kind of instant feedback that coaches on the playing field provide are well-positioned for becoming strong front-line managers. But they have to be given the opportunity to do so. Some reports indicate that the most successful managers spend more than half of their work week engaging and supporting their team. When in fact, according to a study by the BearingPoint Institute, most front-line managers spend only about 10% of their time engaging people (with the rest spent putting out fires and ensuring compliance, among other administrative duties). Thus, a management development program will only be meaningful if front-line managers are given the opportunity to exercise and refine these skills on the job — by encouraging them to engage with the people whom they manage every day.
A whole new wave of leaders who favor feedback and recognition can infect companies in a positive way. To learn more about ways to make your millennial management development more meaningful, download our guide Four Ways To Close The Learning-Doing Gap For Front-Line Managers.