Managing Employees

How to Manage Employees Smarter Than You Without Looking Like an Idiot

How to Manage Employees Smarter Than You Without Looking Like an Idiot
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"Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people ... or find a different room," Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computer Corp. once said.

It's a manager's job to hire the best people. If they do their job well, they will choose the right people to grow the organization, even if they appear more knowledgeable in some ways.  

Managers shouldn’t be afraid to challenge the whole team by hiring new employees with different skills or greater expertise. It’s the same reason why hiring diverse personalities is often encouraged. People who think differently bring dynamic ideas to the table that can create positive change.

A 2012 study by Millennial Branding predicted that by 2025, 75 percent of the workforce will be comprised of millennials. And today’s millennials are considered "the best-educated cohort of young adults in American history," since one-third of those ages 26 to 33 possess a four-year degree or more education, according to a Pew Research Study study this year.

Fresh out of school, millennials are often well versed in new subjects that baby boomer employers aren’t as familiar with. Millennials are more connected to technology than previous generations and a quarter of millennials believe that their relationship to technology is what makes their generation unique, Pew’s study shows.

The past decade has resulted in the adoption of scores of new job processes, driven by advancements in technology. According to Pew’s study, growing up alongside innovation has shaped the ways that millennials interact with technology and has affected their expectations for creativity and innovation in their own work lives.

Younger workers are being trained to carry out more innovative processes in the workplace, with their tech-savvy expertise foreign to seasoned executives without the same specific knowledge. As a result, managing younger, forward-thinking employees can be challenging at times.

Here are a few ways to manage forward-thinking employees without looking like an idiot:

Related: Mentors Can Fill in Any Yawning Gaps as Your Startup Integrates New Grads

1. Mentor with wisdom gained through experience.

A 2013 Millennial Branding survey found 59 percent of 1,000 Gen Y employees said they believe managers can offer experience. Just 41 percent of the respondents said managers had wisdom and only 33 percent said managers have a willingness to mentor.

On-the-job knowledge comes from hands-on experience and no matter how much education an employee has, he or she will need an experienced mentor.

Demonstrate understanding in what people want both inside and outside the organization. No matter the type of background that new employees have, some company specifics are only learned from a seasoned veteran.

Seek to manage expectations and negotiations above all else. The Millennial Branding survey also found 51 percent of the 1,000 managers surveyed said Gen Y employees have unrealistic salary expectations and 47 percent cited "a poor work ethic."

If an employee makes a request, clearly communicate why or why not the organization can fulfill it. Show competence and knowledge from prior experiences when making difficult decisions.

2. Show respect and interest.

Showing sincere interest in an employee’s well-being is one of the top drivers of engagement, according to a 2012 Towers Watson Global Workforce study of more than 32,000 employees in 29 markets across the world. But only 45 percent of the respondents reported that leaders are sincerely interested in how their employees are doing.

Managers need to demonstrate care for the welfare of employees and their work.

Demonstrate genuine interest in employees’ work, even if their methods are difficult to understand. Be curious about how or why they do things a certain way. Ask them to retrace their steps in order to learn more about their process.

Don’t micromanage employees, though. Give them space to do their work how and when they want as long as the work is completed with quality on time. And don’t be too shy to recognize employees for their work either. Give credit when it’s due: Praise employees in one-on-one conversations and publicly.

Related: Multiply the Trust Factor Inside Your Organization

3. Build relationships on trust and confidence.

A Towers Watson "2014 Global Talent Management and Rewards" study of more than 1,600 organizations in 31 markets showed trust and confidence in senior leadership is one of the top three reasons that workers decide to remain at an company.

Trust can have a make-or-break effect on manager-employee relationships. Employees need to know that their managers will balance their best interests with the that of the company. The more employees feel that they can trust management, the less they’ll hold back in suggesting ideas that could help the company grow.

Be honest and up front with employees. Stop glossing over or avoiding difficult topics. If something’s not working, address it head-on. Be open to employee input and flexible.

4. Support employees in taking risks.

Freshly educated, ambitious millennial employees might be inspired to take on some tough projects from the start. If they fail, help pick them up and encourage them to try again.

The Millennial Branding study found 58 percent of the managers surveyed said they are very or extremely willing to support Gen Y-ers as they chase business opportunities.

Empower employees to take risks within reason. There’s always a risk with innovation. Accept it. Realize that risk could be the very thing the organization has needed all along. Maybe it’s what the company needs to get off the plateau it has been stuck on to grow. 

5. Keep an eye out for promotion opportunities.

Career opportunities have been ranked the #1 driver of employee engagement since 2012, according to Aon’s "2014 Trends in Global Employee Engagement" study over five years of more than 7 million employees in more than 6,000 companies in 155 countries.

And research by Tiny HR this year involving more than 500 companies and 200,000 anonymous responses revealed that 66 percent of the employees surveyed indicated they couldn't discern strong opportunities for professional growth in their current role. 

Keep an eye out for positions that would help employees  advance their careers. Fight on behalf of deserving employees to help them secure promotions.

A smart employee knows when a good manager is on his or her side and will be endlessly appreciative of anyone who aids with career growth. 

Related: 10 Practical Ways to Promote a High-Performance Culture