Coaching Millennials: Different or Back to the Basics?

Posted by Rodney Kuhn

10/28/16 11:30 AM

Millennials.jpgAsk any business owner and they’ll agree that the millennial generation (born between 1980 and 2000) is challenging organizations to redefine their values, internal processes, retention strategies and more. Unlike former generations (Gen X, Baby Boomers), this group tends to care less about income and more about organizational transparency; less about benefits and more about buy-in; less about PTO and more about work-life balance.

Comprised of over 53 million workers nationwide, this generation’s impact will only grow as younger individuals in this group join the workforce (those born towards the end of this period are now of legal working age) and older generations retire. In fact, Census Bureau data shows that millennials have recently become the biggest generation in the U.S. workforce.

There’s no two ways about it: the rise of the millennial workforce (and its effect on current business models) is undeniable. But does this generation impact current coaching methods used by contact center managers?

In many ways, millennials make for excellent agents. Largely born into the Internet era, this generation effortlessly boasts a number of coveted skills that drive today’s next-generation contact center. For example, they are able to more intuitively serve and anticipate the needs of today’s customers; to seamlessly use advanced technologies that nurture omni-channel customer relationships; and understand more avant garde strategies for improvement.

But does this mean that managers need a better way of effectively coaching these employees? When it comes to coaching millennials, do tried and true methods suffice? Or should managers build new strategies that better reflect millennial needs?

While a few out-of-the-box coaching methods do exist (like gamification, for example), there don’t seem to be any “new” trends for specifically coaching millennials. Millennials’ priorities may differ from those of past generations, but that doesn’t mean they should singlehandedly drive coaching best practices. Rather, the best performance improvements happen when managers train at the individual level.

Here are two classic principles that should guide every coaching strategy—a strategy that is not necessarily customized for the millennial, but instead buildable to meet the needs of every individual employee:

Make an impact on business: When asked what matters most to millennial employees, 28 percent of executives said the “ability to make an impact on the business.” When asked what will make a millennial choose one job over another, nearly 40 percent said “visibility and buy-in to the mission and vision of the organization.” Every working group (particularly millennials) want to know what their organization stands for and that their contributions are driving long-term positive effects. For managers, this may mean:

  • Training at the individual level based on behaviors, preferences and learning processes to ensure each person achieves his or her personal best.
  • Increasing transparency with agents in order to improve engagement, retention, morale and trust; be sure to communicate ongoing goals and initiatives.
  • Clearly defining your corporate objectives and company mission, and integrating those values into training and coaching practices.
  • Allowing employees to openly collaborate and contribute (take a look here to see how other companies are successfully nurturing this type of work environment).

Offer consistent feedback and mentorship: Consistent feedback is a necessity for each and every employee’s personal growth and development; however, the abovementioned survey found that 75 percent of executives believe millennials need more feedback than any other generation. Despite this, only 13 percent said they offer more feedback to this group, and less than half offer mentorship opportunities.

For some managers, millennials’ desired level of closeness may translate into more strategic one-on-one sessions. On the other hand, it may indicate the need to build a mentorship program that works based on their company’s top needs. Consider Intel, for example. The company developed a successful mentor program almost 15 years ago that matches mentors and mentees not by job title or seniority, but by specific skills that are in demand. This means entry-level workers (like millennials) may mentor members of senior management. Or, one employee could mentor a colleague who has consistently outperformed them in several areas.

In the end, it doesn’t seem as though millennials want too much more compared to their predecessors. Rather, it seems performance improvements still rely on the basics of coaching and training. What do you think? Has the rise of the millennial workforce shaken up coaching methods? If so, what trends to you see?

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