New research published by The Ken Blanchard Companies cites a survey of 600 Millennial-aged workers asking them to list the leadership behaviors they believe most inspire better performance. An analysis of the responses identified five behaviors managers need to put into practice not to simply manage and deal with the next generation workforce, but to inspire them. The five leader behaviors are:
Trust and empower employees. Respondents identified they look for leaders who believe in them enough to trust them with significant responsibilities and to empower them to use their experience and knowledge. As one respondent put it, “When my manager trusts me, it makes me want to do an extremely good job so I don’t let her down and so that trust increases.”
Provide regular feedback to everyone. Respondents indicated a strong desire for positive feedback when it is deserved—for example, when they show advances in learning a new task or when they offer ideas that benefit their company. They also want to know when they make mistakes or do things wrong. The important caveat? They want the person giving the feedback to respect them as someone who wants to grow and improve.
Make sure goals and expectations are clearly stated—and hold people accountable for achieving outcomes. Survey participants identified that they want leaders to hold them accountable but they don’t want surprises. As one respondent put it, “People don’t like surprises, so managers should make expectations clear up front.” Another survey respondent said, “When the manager explains goals, the employee can take ownership.”
Be open to hearing new ideas and input from everyone. As one respondent stated, “When managers listen to people’s ideas, energy levels can soar. It makes employees feel important and valued.” Respondents also indicated that Millennials want active, involved leadership, a feeling of collaborative teamwork, and unstructured access to information. Implicit in this finding is that information and ideas flow in both directions—from manager to employee and from employee to manager.
Do not micromanage. One respondent noted, “Leaders need to trust their people to do their jobs, but they also need to be available for help when needed—such as when an employee is new in a task.” One key point that came out of the research: the majority of those surveyed expressed a desire to be allowed space for trial and error. This allows the employee freedom to learn from mistakes while having their manager nearby to ward off larger problems.
The report highlights that the growing Millennial generation of workers is looking for clear definitions of expectations, regular feedback, and a receptive ear by managers about their ideas. They do not want to feel micromanaged, but trusted and empowered. They embrace transparency from their managers and want the opportunity to contribute.
You can access the complete report, Millennials in the Workplace: How Do Managers Inspire Them? at the Blanchard website. It contains additional analysis as well as advice for Gen Xers and Boomers, and is available free of charge courtesy of The Ken Blanchard Companies.