If you want your team to perform more effectively in 2016 then, the chances are, you're teaching and training methods need to change. If not, you can start to gift wrap your best employees for your competitors. I'm talking Millennials.
What's a Millennial?
The Millennials, also known as Generation Y, were born in the early 1980's. Before them, there's Generation X and before that, Baby Boomers who are currently the majority of the workforce.
Why Are They Different?
They were the first generation born into technology. Put simply, for them, technology has always been there. Google, Skype, YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn were just "always there, weren't they?" This influence, which made communication cheap, fast and global, has altered their thinking, their concentration and how they acquire knowledge. If you are stuck (as many are) using 'Baby Boomer' methodology, then, quite simply, you are wasting your time, ask a Millennial.
The Need for Change - What Do They Want?
Millennials like to work in teams and with technology. They want to achieve and, more importantly, they want to do good socially. They have a conscience unlike some Baby Boomers who were gluttonous in the free over spending days of excess. 'Giving back' really matters to them.
They want and welcome feedback but if you're dispensing that annually through a Baby Boomer authoritative style, you're already losing them. They need frequent contact to help them do better. That feedback needs to be now, unambiguous, apolitical and clear.
Of course there are many more characteristics that define the difference between the Millennials and the rest of the workforce and that's homework you need to do. The question is, 'How does this effect their learning (and your teaching) in the New Year and beyond? The simple answer is - 'hugely'.
I Am Me
Often, managers are managers because they have been in an organisation long enough to have climbed into middle management. This 'safe place' can also be a burning platform. Many middle managers are Baby Boomers who have been taught differently. The approach taken in 'their day' is out of date for the Millennial. Quite simply, one size does not fit all for them, or their ambition. Sometimes, it's easier to repeat rather than re-imagine.
Two things must happen.
The manager must learn about the Millennials and then tailor teaching and learning to the individual - not the group. In other words, the company can manage training, learning and development on a macro level but the individual must be micro managed.
When a Baby Boomer manager begins any instruction with "That's how we have always done things around here" you can be sure that the Millennial is already texting his friends about his imminent departure (the same tablet will produce their CV)
They want and embrace creativity. They question everything, including authority, because of a huge desire to 'understand' as well as learn. Their structures are flat and lateral, not horizontal and spiked. They like challenges and like to be stretched. Unfortunately, many middle managers don't.
They are impatient and hungry for fast information. They can check you and your materials out instantly and they do.
They like to know where they stand and that feedback needs to be clear and completely aligned to the expectations that were agreed at the outset. Human nature and politics often muddy these clear waters.
The Need for Change - What Has to Happen?
Companies need to accept generation gaps exist. Emotive clarion calls of "We are all the same" cut little ice with Millennials. Quite the opposite.
A significant challenge will be to create training that recognises all of these dynamics and influences, for example, using technology versus classroom style teaching. Using classrooms to accelerate a group but combining that with short attention spans and even more technology.
How you manage an individual’s performance really matters. If your appraisal form and format is universal, you're not engaging.
Creating training that's up to date, challenging, engaging and rewarding is hugely significant. Without those ingredients, they are gone. If your presentation is dated, so are you.
Your reputation matters. Before they'll accept an offer of employment from you, they will have already done their homework. Are you socially responsible? What is the career path? What's the proof? How's your reputation as an employer? What's different about how you teach, train, engage and recruit?
How will your training benefit them? How will they enjoy it? What is the reward, is it tangible?
How creative is your training? Does it change frequently? Is it authoritative or collaborative? Is it a lecture or a workshop? Can I speak and question or will you just tell me "It's our way or the highway"?
Will you ask me to respect you because you're the manager or will you earn it? Will you respect me and prove it?
Finally, You'll Really Annoy Them If.....
I started by saying Millennials are different. They are. To finish on a light (but serious lessons beneath) note, think about these simple thoughts.
Teacher/Boss - "The arrogance of that young girl using her iPhone while I was talking"
Student/Colleague - "I was taking notes, lots of them"
Teacher/Boss - "Every brand has a product"
Student/Colleague - "Does that apply to every App I use Sir?"
Teacher/Boss - "Meeting in person is so important for morale"
Student/Colleague - "It's also a waste of time because technology can get us together anyway"
Teacher/Boss - "That's not information I can share with you. That's for shareholders and senior people only"
Student/Employee - "So why are we always being told 'it's our company'?"
If you think 'the old way will do', think again.
If you don't they will.