Do Millennials Really Want Anything More than Good Leadership?

Guest Contributorby Shawna McKnight | Posted | Leadership

Do Millennials Really Want Anything More than Good Leadership?

There’s been a lot of talk of how Millennials are changing the face of the workforce, with different demands, attitudes, and ways of wanting to do their work than the generations before them.

My colleague, Chris Edwards, is a Millennial. He regularly expresses frustration with what he sees as the alienation of the younger generation. On the day Josh Bersin from Bersin by Deloitte published a global report on this generation, Chris turned to me and said, “Do Millennials really want anything more than good leadership?”

“Well, what does good leadership mean to you?” I asked him.

A Millennial's definition of good leadership

He was quick to answer: “Someone who recognizes and respects my desire to do something where I’m making a difference; gives me opportunity to prove myself and develop in my career. I want someone who will treat me fairly, give me feedback when I want it, and recognize me when I deserve it. It’s not that I’m asking for much!”

At first I thought, that’s so typically Millennial (yes, I stereotyped). But then I thought he might have a good point.

I reflected on the best practices we cover in our recently launched Performance Management Essentials for Managers workshop and what Chris was asking for:  

  • Effectively set, align and manage goals (desire to do something where I’m making a difference; opportunity to prove myself)
  • Provide meaningful and regular feedback and recognition (give me regular feedback and recognize me when I deserve it)
  • Align development with performance and coaching to maximize performance (develop in my career)
  • Evaluate performance more consistently, objectively and accurately (treat me fairly)
  • Prepare and deliver performance reviews (all of the above)
  • Make use of all the performance management features available to them in the Halogen TalentSpace™ suite in their day-to-day performance management activities

Then I started to worry…

Managers' core performance management skills need improvement

If this is what Millennials want, then we could be in trouble. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Millennials will make up nearly 50% of the workforce by 2020, which means managers need to understand how best to support this employee group.

And yet, the reality is managers' skills at core performance management practices have plenty of room for improvement.

In fact, Bersin by Deloitte has identified this area as one of the top three challenges with performance management.

But all is not lost! Any manager can learn the basics of best-practice performance management. And managers who improve these skills will better engage Millennials, Xers and Boomers alike, as well as benefit from improved team performance and goal achievement.

Here are some basic concepts that can help managers be great at performance management — they're snippets from two of the segments in our Performance Management Essentials for Managers workshop.

Making a difference – goal alignment

Modern motivational theory (thanks to the likes of Dan Pink) has taught us that the trick to maximizing performance is to make it clear to individuals how their efforts contribute to a grander purpose.

In our half-day workshop we take this a step further. All employees, not just Millennials, want to know that they're making a difference in what they do day in and day out (a paycheck is often not enough). But their work must also be aligned to their own personal goals and aspirations. For example, where do they want to go in their careers? Is the work that they're doing helping them get there?

The best-practice we promote encourages managers to use a simple model leading them to consider:

a) the relevance of the goal to the organization, and

b) the relevance to the individual.

When both are highly relevant that’s when you see the best results, because the individuals are highly motivated to succeed.

But setting those goals is not enough — we must regularly review and revise goals to ensure they continue to be relevant. The Halogen 1:1 Exchange™ module is an excellent tool to help managers stay on top of this; it creates a meeting agenda for managers and employees, reminding them to discuss progress on goals and ensure they continue to be aligned.

In this screenshot, you can see a series of discussion topics created for the one-on-one meeting between Aileen and her manager, Bob Keith. The goal “Achieve $50,000 in revenue” is available for Bob and Aileen to discuss:

1on1 meetings always have a great agenda

Because Aileen’s goals are automatically incorporated into the one-one-one meeting agenda, along with other performance and career development information, helps ensure that she and her manager use that meeting time to focus on what's most important.

Give me feedback when I want it and recognize me when deserve it

Millennials give and get feedback all the time and they’re used to sharing “likes” or shout outs online.

Now translate that activity into the work environment. Some managers may find this level of connectivity exhausting. But what better way to impact performance, whether it be correcting or reinforcing behaviors than in the moment.

Fortunately, giving employees immediate feedback is easier with the Microsoft Office® Outlook® Plug-in for Halogen Feedback Central and this simple feedback process:

  1. Observation: Explain what behavior or action was observed and when it happened (was driving too fast in the snowstorm this morning; employee was late in providing a project team with a key deliverable today.)
  2. Impact: Communicate the impact or the behavior or action (the car skidded and could have gone in the ditch; the project wasn’t delivered on-time and customer satisfaction suffered.)
  3. Action: Reinforce or remedy the situation by providing clear direction on what they should continue to do or do differently (drive more slowly in snowy conditions; communicate risks of meeting due dates to the project lead or manager to better manage customer expectations or draw on other resources to help.)

In this screenshot you can see the Microsoft Office Outlook Plug-in for Halogen Feedback Central in action. Bob can take an email with feedback for Aileen and automatically upload it into Dunrite’s performance management system.

employee feedback halogen feedback central outlook plugin

This feedback can then be pulled directly into Aileen’s next performance appraisal to provide direct support for ratings and comments. It will also appear in the Halogen 1:1 Exchange module for Bob and Aileen to discuss during their next one-one-one meeting.

Effective performance management is a requirement

Regardless of the generational makeup of your workforce, good leadership and effective performance management aren’t optional, they're required. Our Millennial employees are holding today's managers more accountable, and that's a good thing.

Your turn: How are you ensuring you have the skills needed to effectively manage employee performance?

This post was writing in collaboration with my colleague, Chris Edwards. A Senior Consultant (and Millennial!) with Halogen’s Business Consulting Services, Chris lead the development of Halogen’s Performance Management Essentials Workshop referenced above. When he’s not “ranting” about the misrepresentation of Millennials, Chris spends time renovating his house or enjoying a good glass of wine.

How to Excel at Goal Management

A must-read guide to best-practices


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How to Excel at Goal Management

A must-read guide to best-practices


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