By John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker, LLC, BV Staffing + Consulting
Managing Millennials is a challenge that every practice leader faces. Bruce Tulgan’s book offers some of the best perspectives and advice we have seen anywhere. We were able to button-hole the author for this short interview.
Let’s start with this. Where does Millennials’ bad rap come from?
First, let me be clear: The oldest Millennials now are 42 years old. The second wave Millennials are 23 to 30. Those born after 1996 are post-Millennials. Some are calling them Generation Z. And nowadays, the forces shaping second wave Millennials and post-Millennials are shaping everybody— younger people are not growing up and settling down and getting more like older, more experienced people. Instead, we are all getting more and more like them: We are all Millennials now, in some ways. All of us are thinking short-term and transactional about our careers and our relationships with employers. Not because we are disloyal and have short attention spans, but rather because we are tuning in to the uncertainty and constant change in today’s world.
It’s always been the case that older, more experienced people are more or less annoyed by the attitudes and behavior of each successive new young generation. New young employees are, by definition, always younger and less experienced and, therefore, lacking in the corresponding maturity and patience. As they step into the adult world with youthful energy and enthusiasm, young workers often clash with older colleagues. That’s always part of the story. They are shaped by globalization and technology, institutions that are in a state of flux, the fact that individuals feel like they have to be free agents, the information tidal wave, and the immediacy of today’s environment. Also, of course, they have been raised by helicopter parents on steroids.
The title of your book will tickle a lot of funny bones. But, are there times when trophies are useful or appropriate? How do you hand them out and be smart about it?
Absolutely! When people win—actually win—then they should get trophies. Our research shows that you DO NOT necessarily want to set up Millennials to compete with each other, but rather to compete with themselves, against clear goals. When people exceed expectations, when they go the extra mile, when they have extraordinary results, then they should get recognition and rewards.
The point is: Don’t give people the trophy just for showing up. If they are late, you don’t give them the trophy for being “just twenty minutes late”!
Set goals. Keep score every step of the way. When people are winning, when they are losing, when they are doing average. Keep score. When people have great outcomes, celebrate!
We often hear that we should “eat the elephant one bite at a time.” I get the impression from your book that this also applies to managing Millennials. True?
Yes. That’s a great metaphor. More frequent communication, in smaller increments, is what works best. Structure is critical. But more direction and feedback, in greater frequency, but smaller timeframes.
You describe Millennials as both high-maintenance and high-performing. Isn’t that contradictory?
Well, maybe it sounds that way. But high performers need strong leaders, not weak ones. High performers want guidance, direction, and coaching. High-performers want rewards for their high performance. They don’t want to be left alone and treated the same as everyone else. They want someone who sets them up for success, someone who helps them do more while doing it better and faster, who helps them troubleshoot. And helps them earn more along with more of the flexibility and rewards they want.
How do you respond to the small business owner who says, “I like what you’re suggesting about managing Millennials. But I don’t have enough hours in the day to execute on those suggestions. What do I do?”
Every hour you spend guiding, directing, supporting and coaching your employees—of any age—will save you time on the other end: How much time does it cost you when you have unnecessary problems; when problems get out of control, resources are squandered, low performers hide, and high performers get frustrated and leave?
It’s a whole lot easier to prevent a fire than it is to put one out. Think of managing young people—and people of any age—as fire prevention!
Not Everyone Gets a Trophy, and all of Bruce’s great books, are available at most online booksellers.