The Case for Coaching Millennial Employees

Old habits die hard.

If you’ve been a manager for more than 10 years, you may think, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But some things don’t have to broken to be changed or improved, and Millennials are the change that is happening in the workplace.

Today’s younger Millennials aren’t looking for a manager — they’re looking for a coach, especially younger, Second-Wave Millennials.  A manager manages performance, and a coach manages development. While a manager sets your goals, tracks your performance, gives you raises, promotes you, fires you (very functional things), what a coach does is motivate you. Coaches provide feedback. They fit you into a team. They improve your skills. They give you advice. It’s a one-on-one experience.

Even while coaching, the principles of good management still need to apply: clear expectations, a means of tracking progress, and rewards for achieving goals. But how a manager manages, especially for Millennials, should be more like a coach—developing his or her employee with close supervision and a watchful, caring eye.

Coaching is the new managing for Millennials.

Here’s why: Millennials grew up to believe they were special. I know… you are already rolling your eyes, but after 20-years of conditioning, they expect more individualized attention, and you can’t change that overnight. A distant authority figure doling out unexplained assignments and goals without explaining how to get to those goals is not the way to develop good employees today. On the other hand, someone who will work closely with them, mentoring and partnering, coaching them to better performance, will experience far greater levels of productivity.

One of the best ways to be a good coach is by providing them with goals that are clear, achievable and incremental. Millennials in the workplace are surprisingly goal-oriented—as much or more than their Boomer and Gen X counterparts. Of the three generations currently in the workforce, Millennials are decidedly the most focused “on the prize.”

In fact, a survey from LifeCourse Associates revealed 69 percent of Millennials say they like it when their supervisor provides them with hands-on guidance and direction to reach their goals. Just 40 percent of Boomers and Gen Xers said that.

In addition, be sure to provide frequent feedback on their progress. Since they were children, Millennials have been conditioned to get guidance and feedback constantly at school and in their extra-curriculars. As a coach, consider more frequent (daily, even) check-ins with your Millennial employees.

Coaching, not managing, may be what gets your organization to higher levels of productivity — led by some of your youngest team members. Managing may not be broken, but it’s time for an upgrade.

Warren Wright is author of Second-Wave Millennials: Tapping the Potential of America’s Youth. It is due for release in November. This blog is taken from an excerpt of the book.

Warren Wright