Volumes of research has been conducted on how to manage Generation Y. I find most of the information way too general and not specific enough – after all, Generation Y, like Gen X and boomers, are still individuals and cannot all be gathered into one generic group.
A couple of people stand out in understanding Gen Y: Jessica Lee and Jennifer Kushell.
Recently, while conducting management training for a bunch of Gen Y’ers, I asked them to think of the best boss they ever worked for. Then I asked them what that person was their best boss. Here are their responses:
- Gave me frequent and good feedback
- Explanations before delegating to me
- Pushed me to better myself
- Helped in my career development/was a mentor
- Provided clear direction and purpose
- Showed concern for a work/life balance
- Treated me as a partner and collaborator, not just an employee
- Trusted me/empowered me
- Focused on my strengths
- Was a good teacher
If you manage Generation Y employees – is this the type of boss you are?
I’m in the middle of conducting a Leadership Development Program for a company that is young. And their managers – 11 of them – are really young: the oldest is 29 and the youngest is 23. What’s more – none of them have had management training before, so it’s been an interesting experience for all of us.
Prior to conducting the program, I asked them what they most wanted from their training. Here are their answers:
- How to give both positive and negative feedback.
- How to utilize people’s strengths and optimize their weaknesses.
- How to get subordinates to Manage Up.
- How to keep my team motivated
- How to make the most efficient use of my time.
- How to delegate (this is related to #5).
- How to manage expectations.
A pretty good list – and, I think, not just limited to Gen Y Managers.
Patricia Sellers, the editor-at-large of Fortune magazine, has three excellent tips for staying focused as a leader (my comments are italicized):
- Know what you’re not good at. I find that most people know what their strengths are, but most people – especially Gen Yers – don’t know what their weaknesses are. Honestly determine what you’re not good at, and hire or delegate to those weaknesses. This will help you focus on your strength areas.
- Know what not to do. Just as important as what you decide to do is what you decide not to do.
- Find a focus and stick with it. A major failure of leaders and managers is that they are trying to focus on too much. Successful people are focused like lasers on one thing.
In previous posts, we’ve discussed leading during difficult times. It’s about making hard decisions and communicating them effectively.
Some new studies are now showing issues that leaders and HR departments should immediately address.
Employees across the country reportedly spend an average of nearly three hours a day worrying about their job security, according to a telephone survey of approximately 1,000 U.S. workers commissioned by the firm Lynn Taylor Consulting.
Bosses might be exacerbating employees’ fear by one simple action—staying behind closed doors; 76 percent of employees responding to this survey said that when faced with this scenario unexpectedly, it triggers thoughts of being laid off.
Now, it’s about effectively managing those who stay after reductions in force. The concept that ‘we must do more with less’ needs to have a process in place to make sure it happens.
A terrific list of workforce training myths from Vince Grassi, the director of global learning and knowledge management at Air Products, as quoted by John Teresko in Industry Week:
Myths of workforce training:
- If you build it, they will come.
- When times are tough, training is the first thing you should cut.
- Just build Web-based (e-learning) courses. It’s cheaper.
- All training must be done in an instructor-based classroom setting in order to be valuable and important knowledge.
- Once learners go through training, the manager never needs to find out how they are applying what they learned.
- It is always better to look for your own local vendor. National, regional or global contractors involve too much internal bureaucracy, and they don’t understand your special problems.
- Sending people on a training course will solve all performance problems and development needs.
- It will be obvious to a skilled trainer what each class participant needs so there is no need to discuss it in advance.
- I’ve done presentations. Professional trainers make out that it is far more difficult than it really is.
- We don’t need a university — we have a learning management system.
The most important part of workforce training – whether you conduct it in-house or use a consultant – is to understand that training is not an event, it’s a process. A training course by itself cannot provide the sustainability needed to allow the trained concepts to fully integrate throughout your organization. Follow up is always needed.
When laying off, or even terminating employees, the inevitable thought and process of offering a severance package comes up. Most businesses – especially small businesses, don’t have an existing written policy on severance packages. Therefore, a severance offer is not completely thought through.
I’ve had two clients in the last few weeks who needed to layoff employees and they had no existing policy. Suddenly, an issue which requires a great deal of thought had to be made immediately. There was even an article in the Wall Street Journal which addressed this.
Some thoughts on offering severance:
- Get a policy in writing now. This helps greatly with consistency and avoids any claim of favoritism or discrimination. Even if you don’t contemplate layoffs, it’s still an important item to have in place.
- When you offer a severance package for laid off employees, be consistent. An example would be two weeks of pay for each completed year of service. You can’t show better programs for more favorite employees.
- Every employment attorney I’ve worked with says the same thing – never offer money without getting a ‘hold harmless’ agreement signed by that employee. Consult your labor attorney – it’s worth the cost.
- Consider paying medical insurance for several months. COBRA now requires employers to pay 65% of existing benefits; but offering to pay all of the premiums for longer is a small cost but shows you – the employer – are trying to do the right thing.
- If you’re terminating an ‘older worker’ (someone over the age of 40), make sure the agreement contains provision required by the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act.
Of course he/she can. And just like raising a child, a parent or manager needs to set clear parameters and goals.
So what happens when a manager is too nice? Alison Green writes in U.S. News that there are four immediate issues from an employee perspective (the italicized comments are mine):
- The boss won’t make hard decisions or have hard conversations. That’s true. But managers are there to make the hard decisions. That’s why their paid more.
- You’ll have a slacker working at the next desk over. There are always employees who attempt to do as little as possible. A nice manager avoids confrontation with that employee – which often results in everyone lowering their performance standards.
- You’ll receive fuzzy, unclear messages. Managers need to be directive and establish expectations early in the employment cycle. Most importantly, managers must follow up to ensure their expectations are met.
- You won’t get useful feedback. Good bosses tell employees how they can grow and develop, which necessarily entails pointing out things they could be doing differently, something too-nice managers often find awkward. Another trait all good managers must have is the ability to help their employees develop. Candid feedback is the only way to accomplish this.
Alison Green also writes a wonderful, succinct advice column for managers. I love her thoughts. You can see them here: http://askamanager.blogspot.com/