When Samantha Klein talks about millennials at work, she likes to talk in terms of sports analogies.
“When your coach talks to you on the Little League team, they’re like, ‘Here’s how you’re hitting right now. If we want to make the playoffs, here’s where you need to be; this is where you need to focus your practicing,” she told Business Insider.
The same principle should apply at the office – bosses should reinforce the team mentality and help young workers develop their professional skills.
It’s “less so managing as much as it is coaching,” Klein said.
Klein is a founding member of IBM’s Millennial Corps, a task force made up of more than 4,000 IBM employees of all ages who are trying to create a better experience for young workers at the company.
In April, three representatives from the Millennial Corps visited the Business Insider offices: Klein, along with Sara Sindelar and Masharn Austin. We talked specifically about best practices for managing millennials in any work environment.
There are two key components of coaching millennials, as opposed to managing them in the traditional sense of presenting the rules and then telling them what they did right and wrong.
First, bosses need to foster a culture of collaboration. This culture of teamwork both appeals to and motivates millennials, even more so than other generations, the Millennial Corps said.
While it might seem trivial, Klein said bosses should encourage their millennial employees to regularly grab coffee with members of their own and other departments. They should tell millennials: “Make sure you’re not eating lunch alone every day. Make sure that you’re talking to other people, that you really feel like you’re becoming part of the team.”
The second part of coaching millennials is that bosses need to set expectations about stepping up to the plate.
“Set that expectation upfront,” Klein said.
When millennial workers have an idea, or an opinion, or a question, they should bring it forward instead of keeping it to themselves.
Sindelar added that, when bosses are working with millennial employees on a project, they should make a point of asking for the employees’ opinion, even before giving their own.
It’s all about “giving millennials a place at the table,” Austin said.
So once bosses solicit those ideas, they should pull out the best ones and put them into action.
The bottom line is that an environment in which only the boss is allowed to have a good idea, or one in which no one sees the impact their work is having on the organization as a whole, just won’t work for millennials. Bosses need to remain open to innovation and creativity from their young reports if they want to get the best work out of them.
Even if a millennial’s idea seems slightly out there, Austin said, the boss should still respond like, “We haven’t done it this way, but let’s try it.”