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How to lead Millennial employees successfully

What do millennial employees really want? What are the best ways to reduce turnover? These have been some of the main pain points of HR professionals for quite some time. There’s the constant goal to build an organizational culture that is both nurturing and effective. We want employees who genuinely like their work and would recommend their employer.

The answers to the question “but how?” may be a lot simpler than you would initially think. This idea comes from Clint Pulver, the author of I Love It Here: How Great Leaders Create Organizations Their People Never Want to Leave.

In researching this book, he collected employee engagement and retention data by interviewing over 10,000 employees from nearly 200 companies.

The involved manager

One of the most important takeaways from Pulver’s research is that a manager who can maintain standards and a strong connection with their teams is a significant advantage for employees. He found that companies with managers who are also mentors and focus not only on driving results but also on employee development have much lower turnover rates.

People who feel valued can learn and grow in their organization and are less likely to leave. A mentor-manager should live by the 5 Cs:

  1. Confidence. Mentors believe in themselves and in what they are teaching.
  2. Credibility. They have the proper expertise as mentors in their field.
  3. Competence. They practice what they are teaching.
  4. Candor. They are authentic and communicate assertively.
  5. Caring. They have a genuine interest in the mentees and are invested in their success.

Read more: Be the mentor you wished you had with these 3 strategies

The missing Cs

Most often, employees are promoted to managers due to their expertise and good results. And once they are in those roles, they feel the pressure to deliver. This is not wrong, but it leaves a few gaps if we look at the 5 Cs.

Competence and credibility are usually checked right off the bat. At the same time, the other three remain somewhere in the background, generally deemed as less important and possibly detrimental to reaching the desired objectives within an established timeline.

However, one of the main goals of any manager is to have high employee engagement and this is not reached by being the right person for the job according to HR and higher management. Having engaged employees who like their work environment and feel that they can thrive is very much about credibility, candor, and caring.

A closer look at people skills

If team members don’t trust their manager, they won't be convinced to follow their guidance. Of course, being overconfident (bordering on arrogance) isn't the manager’s favor either. It’s therefore essential to establish a good level of trust when taking over a new team.

Read more: The role of leaders in building trust within the organization

Candor is related to trust because employees want their managers to be authentic, believable, and trustworthy. This is sometimes difficult, especially when corporate decisions are not always straightforward and communicated in due time. Yet, team members need to know that the feedback they get is genuine and that their leader is as transparent as possible.

Read more: 4 Tips for leaders to successfully manage change

Caring is a tough one because it’s a relatively new concept in the corporate workplace. If this component is not present, people will feel that they are not valued enough. On the other hand, too much caring can get in the way of making a good business decision. It’s a difficult balance to strike, and there is a strong need for boundaries. It’s worth it because good employees tend to stay where they feel seen and valued.

Read more: How to go about skill development for remote leaders

Leadership development should focus on mentoring skills

While managers themselves should be aware of these new trends and strive to better themselves, it’s the role of corporate L&D to offer the information, the tools, and space for managers to master the 5 Cs.

The first step is to help them identify strengths and weaknesses. Then, a structured learning path with SMART objectives is the best to ensure success. Sharing their experiences with other managers and talking about their challenges can also encourage learning.

And since no program is truly complete without evaluating its results, some relevant items should be measured before and after managers go through the development journey. Employee engagement is the most obvious one, but you can also look at workplace satisfaction and turnover rates.

Read more: Why leadership development matters

Closing thoughts

Trends happen in leadership styles just as in anything else. While self-direction is still a strong goal of the millennial employee, they also put a high value on the mentoring style when it comes to their leaders. It’s up to L&D specialists to establish the right framework and programs for the leaders in their organizations.