Last week we talked about what millennials look for in jobs and what they require for engagement. We looked at some of the ways they are different from Generation X (my generation) and baby boomers, who they will outnumber shortly. Some of you may have read last week’s post and thought, “Oh great. Another blog post about millenials. This topic is soooo tired.”
But, please, allow me to belabor the point a bit longer. This is a topic managers need to pay attention to because they need to be proactive in how they address future changes in their organizations. Boomers and Gen Xers are still trying to acclimate to the influx of millennials in some fields and learning more about how they will handle management roles can help us with succession planning. As boomers retire, millennials will be moving more into supervisory positions but, according to studies, there are some skill gaps that must be addressed before we can expect a successful transition in management.
(You may be asking “But what about Xers? When are THEY going to get those supervisory positions?” We’ll get to the plight of the poor, maligned, and outnumbered Gen Xers another time. For now, let’s consider skill gaps.)
Mind the gaps
According to “Multi-Generational Training in the Public Sector,” a survey by CPS HR Consulting, millennial participants described themselves thusly:
- I value balance and teamwork.
- I am sociable and like collaboration.
- I am resilient to change.
- I value diversity and inclusion.
- I like to be challenged.
- I like flexible working hours.
- I like to learn new things and see a career as a learning environment for self-fulfillment.
- I would rather send an e-mail or text message than pick up the phone.
- I like positive reinforcement and feedback that is direct, respectable, and goal-focused.
The survey revealed that millennials lack skills in the areas of customer service, oral communication, and critical thinking. They also, like their boomer and Xer elders, lack skills in the areas of conflict management, stress management, change management, written communication, and time management. Millennials and Xers both have trouble with supervision and leadership. How do we address these gaps?
Bridging skill gaps
Different generations have different learning styles and process information in different ways. Boomers can help bridge the supervision and leadership skill gaps by conveying their knowledge and offering advice through mentoring and collaboration efforts but other approaches may be needed for the other deficiencies. The CPS survey suggests that in-class and online training may be the key to addressing each generation’s learning needs. :
This can be in-class training or online, or a hybrid of the two. In-class training remains the most effective method across all age groups. Millennials are very comfortable with technology which expands their options when it comes to training delivery: self-paced online training is almost as effective as in-class training for this group, and Millennials also fared better in remote/virtual live training.
The importance of mentoring and coaching between the generations cannot be stressed enough but training should be considered a necessary component of employee development in all organizations. One of the great things about millennials is that they are highly adaptable and, due to their comfort level with technology and openness to coaching and mentoring, there are many options for training them. Gen Xers can also benefit from various forms of training but HR, like marketers and the media, may be less inclined to acknowledge them as a unique subset of the population with their own unique learning needs and skill gaps (we will look into this more in a future post).
When managing multiple generations, understand that you are working with a diverse set of skills and that your employees will be working at different levels of proficiency in certain areas. Also understand that it is possible to improve job skills and facilitate engagement through training, coaching, and mentoring. Most importantly, be aware of the possibilities that collaboration can offer your organization when you have a multi-generational workforce with a diverse set of experiences.
Next week, we will focus our attention on the plight of Generation X, consider issues that can cause communication problems between the generations, and look at ways to deal with these issues.