August 31, 2017
As I began my first residencies for my PhD program, I learned that many of my cohorts are teachers of either college or in K-12 and have an artistic background. Yet as I sat next to a cohort at our final farewell dinner in Venice – closing out our residency in Italy – I had a conversation that made me go - Hmmm.
You see I learned that the cohort sitting next to me teaches Photography classes - as I do - but in high school. When I heard my phone chirp a new text message, I looked down at a text from a former student asking when I would be back in town so she could meet with me about her business idea. I commented about it out loud.
My cohort’s response was, “you give out your personal phone number to students? I would never do that,” and I have to admit this caught me off guard.
Yes, I give my phone number to students. They communicate with me at all hours especially given most are night owls. As a Marketer – of which critical attention is paid to understanding communication methods – I know that everyone has a preferred communication method: calls, email or texts.
As an educator, I have found that most millennials most often prefer texts and that they often work at night on school projects. Typically, they start their homework after a work shift at a restaurant/bar or they are just good at procrastinating. So yes, I regularly return text messages at even 2am. If I’m up, I text back. And I hosted an event with high school students who regularly sent me texts after 11pm so they are not so different than college students.
In fact, it even makes me laugh when a student in class exclaims that I responded to their text - very quickly – very early in the morning.
And yet other teachers, let alone many business managers or executive leadership, would never consider replying or communicating after work hours. Their private time is their private time. While I agree, there should be boundaries - because people should and must have private time away from the job – but there are two factors to consider:
Building a relationship with an employee (most especially millennials) sometimes goes outside the hours of 9 to 5. If they are working hard for you - in their off hours which you typically expect - how can a 50 second text response hurt when it provides them with clarity and assures that you will get what you need done properly and on time?
Setting boundaries with employees can be very simple. Telling them that they can communicate with you on off hours if it is related to a project with tight deadlines or an emergency.
You have the power to control the interaction with your employees. But I have found that by giving back to people working hard for me – I get loyalty and they work harder for me in return.
Millennials especially crave meaningful relationship in the work place that are more than just business. They want to care about the people and companies where they work – and if they do not - then they will leave.
So, showing that you care, means working with them when they struggle and celebrating their achievements. And why is this critical to the success of an organization? I don't know about you, but I’ve seen K-12 teachers who act more like cheerleaders when a student hits a goal. So, what millennials expect from their employers, managers and co-workers is actually not very much different from what they've learned to expect from their K-12 teachers. I like to call it CHEERLEADING SUPPORT & EMPLOYEE MANAGEMENT.
And a strong comprehensive training program is the key to limiting questions. Because if you are training workers correctly, then you will limit questions to only special occasions. Most training programs only cover policies and procedures. They do not train on systems, processes, or provide skill-based training where workers can find most answers to their questions. And when they cannot easily find answers, they contact managers or fail at their projects.
Celebrating accomplishments, being there for support during tight deadlines or for new employees and – most importantly – providing comprehensive training programs that teach workers (specifically millennials) skills and processes…is the key to Employee Support and Management.
This is what is critical to the health and prosperity of an organization – little teaching moments. Caring about people who happen to be your employees. Treating others as you’d want to be treated. Remind yourself that you once asked a lot of questions when you started your career. And most importantly, that the foundation of your education is much different than how millennials have been educated today.
So, try to stop fighting the urge to let them sink or swim as well as rolling eyes when millennials don’t understand something. Show compassion, understanding and offer help. I’ve seen great success with my students – so TRUST ME – taking a little time to text an answer, yields much greater benefits in the end!
Contributed by Amy J. Keeley.
Join us for the “Managing Millennials: Mentoring Methods” webinar on September 14, 2017 with Amy.