If your experience managing Millennials has been far from satisfying or even a challenge to your sanity and values, you have choices: Hire only Boomers or find out what your younger workers could contribute if creatively managed. My experience has been that Boomer managers have a fatal flaw which they have had since their twenties: They believe they have the One True Work Ethic.
Even if that were true — and it’s not — wouldn’t establishing rapport with younger workers make more sense than constantly bemoaning what you believe they don’t have? Millennials can contribute more if asked the right questions. Here are questions that pay big dividends.
1. How could we do this job quicker and/or better? This isn’t a question asked of a group in a meeting. It’s a one-on-one when someone is doing a job. If your Millennial has mastered the basics it’s time to ask how the task can be streamlined.
2. What are you doing that doesn’t need to be done? Even if you’re a techie, people steeped in technology from childhood can make useful suggestions. The only way to find out what they think is to ask specific questions, not open-ended ones. Say, “Would this be quicker if we did X or would Y work better — or something else?” Always offer choices which help someone understand the kind of answer you’re looking for.
Never punish someone for expressing an idea. Who’s going to say anything if every suggestion is met with, “We tried that last year?” Boomers get sulky when given that explanation. Millennials shut down.
Ask what a Millennial’s experience has been with a product or service. These people aren’t just your employees they are also customers. Organizations pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for consumer research but don’t ask employees what they think. Millennials will tell you honestly if they like or use a product. Boomers may not.
A bored Millenial is a time bomb. Ask often if your younger employees are challenged, engaged, and learning. Are they bored? Boomers talk about how much they hate office politics. Millennials talk about boredom and repetition. What leader lets people waste time?
Unless you’re accessing all that Millennials bring to the workplace you aren’t getting your money’s worth. A manager told me that she thought her young workers didn’t have opinions because they didn’t offer them. “Then I asked some questions — and I was blown away.”