Successful Millennials Need Coaching

I recently read the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, ‘Winning over the Next Generation of Leaders’  and it was worrying to discover that millennials, in general, express little loyalty to their current employers and many are planning near-term exits. This “loyalty challenge” is driven by a variety of factors. Millennials feel underutilized and believe they’re not being developed as leaders.  Over half of businesses report having “weak” leadership programmes for their millennial workforce. That is particularly disturbing as millennials make up more than half of the workforce and, in less than 10 years, will make up three quarters!

Given this, I think it’s vital that companies understand that Millennials really do want to accomplish great things and add value to the companies for whom they work. This being the case, it’s in the best interest of their managers to support their goals and leverage the strengths offered by their skill sets, and for me that means by coaching them.

In a global survey conducted by SAP SuccessFactors and Oxford Economics, 1,400 said they wanted more feedback from their managers. Most of those people surveyed said they wanted feedback at least monthly, whereas non-Millennials were comfortable with feedback less often. Overall, Millennials want feedback 50% more often than other employees.

Millennials are digital: they want one-to-one, sociable training

I know from my own personal experience that millennials respond better to the idea of being coached than being told to just “do it”. They really like to collaborate and appreciate being given a degree of autonomy on projects. Remember this: millennials are the digitised generation. They have grown up with blogs and social media and the ease of communicating freely and easily with people, irrespective of hierarchy. Given this, instead of telling your employees to “go figure it out” and come back with a final product, consider instead building in additional sessions for brainstorming and feedback with them. They respond far better to this more personal, informal approach; offering 10 minutes coaching each week is sometimes better than 30 minutes once a month for millennials!

Now I’m not saying saying that formal professional training won’t work for this group - traditional training and coaching have their place in every organisation – but understanding the main differences between training and coaching can help managers make sure they know how best to use each method with their different type of staff. Once they know that, everyone benefits, including millennials. 

For me, the key characteristics of coaching compared to training, and why it works especially well for millennials, are: -

  • Usually takes place on one-to-one basis
  • Focuses on an individual’s development
  • Helps develop critical thinking and decision-making
  • Informal/ unstructured in style
  • Used to improve performance and behaviour

Coaching is ultimately all about unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance.  Coaching is not about telling people what to do, but rather helping them to achieve all they are capable of doing and being by themselves. The best managers, and indeed the teams that go on to great things, are the ones who understand this important distinction. 


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