Coaching Millennials in the workplace

Millennial’s need good coaches to succeed in the workplace.

Endless numbers of articles, reports and surveys swirl around the internet on how to best manage and retain Millennials. With all of the clutter, it can be difficult to know how to best manage the US’s largest generation in the workforce.  If you are to employ any millennials, it’s critical to realize what they need in order to be successful in the workplace.

Many experts will emphasize work-life balance, strong company culture, or that money isn’t everything when talking about the success of Millennials in the workforce. Others promote the need to feel connected to the work or the need for recognition. Although, these may be important to many Millennials, proving to be a coach that can develop them is one of the most vital aspects of managing Millennials in the workplace. According to the author, Tim Gallway, “Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn, rather than teaching them.” Great coaches are able to teach Millennials the skill and knowledge they need rather than having simply instructing them on how to do things.

One of the largest gaps in coaching Millennials is feedback and communication. In a global survey conducted by SuccessFactors in partnership with Oxford Economics, they surveyed 1,400 Millennials. The results show that Millennials, more than any other generation, are looking for feedback from their managers, and a lot more of it. This feedback can be used to build up, train and develop Millennials. “Overall, Millennials want feedback 50% more often than other employees. They also told us that their number one source of development is their manager, but only 46% agreed that their managers delivered on their expectations for feedback,” says Karie Willyerd with the Harvard Business Review.

Great coaches need to be inspiring, authentic, team builders. Like suggested earlier, Millennials want to engage in helping a cause rather than an institution. They want their work to be meaningful and fulfilling. Creating a workplace that provides the team with a vision of the higher purpose can help to inspire employees. Inspiration does not have to be overly complicated, just taking the time to notice and comment on an employee’s effort can inspire them to continue their good work.

Authenticity is critical when working with Millennials. They look for a manager that is approachable and one they can connect with. Millennials want managers that will share all aspects of the job with them. They want to hear about both the successes as well as the failures of their work. An inauthentic manager that is unapproachable will turn Millennials off and leave them feeling disconnected.

Millennials seek opportunities to learn from others that have more experience and knowledge. Duke men’s basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, says players come into his program saying, “Help me up my game by working with people who are talented and better than I am (now).” As a good coach, it’s important to surround all employees, but especially Millennials, with managers and colleagues that can help build them up into a better and more productive employee. Effective managers of Millennials need to develop coaching tools in order to draw, develop and retain Millennial employees.

For information on marketing, managing, or starting a food, agriculture, bio-economy and natural resources business, contact the Michigan State University ProductCenter at or 517-432-8750. Michigan State University Extension Innovation Counselors are available statewide for free business counseling.

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