A lot of employers, unfortunately, fail to inspire their young workers. Gallup’s report How Millennials Want to Work and Live found that only about one in three millennials surveyed strongly agreed that the mission or purpose of their organization made them feel their job was important.
Not surprisingly, this problem can lead to high turnover -- only 50 percent of the millennials in the study planned to be with their company a year into the future.
Who better to help connect young employees with organizational values, then, than their managers? These are people, after all, who are typically in contact with those millennials on a regular basis and have a direct influence on their performance.
Here’s how to train managers to improve employee engagement with the younger staff.
Offer leadership development.
Don’t leave managers in the dark. It’s difficult for them to tailor their leadership style to young employees without the proper coaching. After all, the young professionals taking over the workforce are very different from previous generations.
Start at the beginning because most managers don’t feel equipped to properly manage. Grovo’s Good Manager, Bad Manager white paper found that 87 percent of managers surveyed said they wished they had received more training when they first took on the role.
When employers invest in solid training management, they are establishing a trusting relationship between and among all levels of the organization. And that's a good goal to strive for, because the current disconnection is quite prevalent.
Achievers’ The Greatness Gap: The State of Employee Disengagement report found that only 45 percent of the 397 employees surveyed trusted their company’s leadership.
So, the message is to incorporate authenticity in leadership. Teach managers how to be emotionally affective with their staff. Make sure they are sparking curiosity and inspiring passion in young employees and leading by example. When managers are actively engaged, employees are too.
Focus on coaching.
Training managers is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Employers need to focus on continually educating and developing management. Grovo’s white paper found that one in three managers say they hardly ever receive follow-up sessions to reinforce their management training.
Importantly, one-off training sessions and events aren’t as effective as ongoing coaching. People can take on only so much information at one time. Things can get overwhelming and inefficient.
Instead, offer distributed learning, where managers can learn smaller bits of advice over longer periods of time. This should involve real-world practice, where upper level managers can help reinforce leadership abilities when it comes to leading young professionals and improving engagement with them.
Try to support your young people when they are forming positive habits. For example, millennials like to be empowered, not micromanaged. Observe your management and see how they assign tasks and oversee performance.
If managers are dictating how something should be done, young employees will disengage. This is where coaching comes in. Explain to your managers how they should instead encourage employees to be accountable for their own work and allow them the space they need to find their own way of doing things.
Know how to challenge.
To put it simply, young professionals want to be challenged. When they feel stagnant and marginalized, they start to look for greener pastures.
Teach managers how to challenge their younger employees. In the Strengths Orientation Index from Gallup in February 2014, 37 percent of the 1,003 employees surveyed felt their employer focused on their strengths, which was the apparent reason that 61 percent of that group said they felt engaged in their work.
It’s important for managers to continually assess and identify each employee’s strengths and weaknesses. So, for those young professionals who have strong people skills, match them with a role they can succeed in and push them to grow their strengths with deliberate practice.
Above all, recognize that millennials want to be in a learning environment, so build that for them -- with ongoing feedback and mentors. And ask these younger employees for feedback, so the company understands their goals and aspirations. Once that happens, managers can work with young employees on finding a clear vision, then help them face exciting challenges.