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Understanding Millennials’ Psychology Makes Coaching More Effective

Discover what millennials look for in a work environment and how to best motivate and coach the individuals take make up this creative generation.

If you’re bringing fresh talent into your team, you’re likely hiring millennials. These young people are not only going to be the backbone of your operation, but also your company’s future leaders. For the sake of the company’s success, you need to prepare them for the work ahead. However, coaching millennials is different from coaching previous generations.

Millennials generally want far more frequent feedback from their managers, according to a study reported in the Harvard Business Review.1 When an age-diverse group was asked how often they would like to receive feedback, more millennials chose frequent measures (daily, weekly, and monthly sessions), than did non-millennials. Non-millennials were more likely to choose a quarterly or annual frequency for feedback, which is the more traditional model of corporate governance.

Why? Millennials need to know frequently where they stand. If they don't get that, they can lose connection and drift, either becoming less productive or moving on to another company.

Millennials want to hear from their direct managers, according to the study. They crave that personal interaction and instruction and respond to it. They are looking for positive reinforcement and encouragement, and they want to be inspired. It's not enough for them to just be told what the job is. They want to know why they should care.

Psychological studies of generations since 1938 show that millennials come into the workplace with more self-esteem but also with more anxiety and a greater need for praise.2 Confidence is an asset for grooming tomorrow's successful leaders. Recognizing that trait for its strengths, rather than resenting a sometimes unearned confidence, gives managers a strong quality to work with. At the same time, they need to feed millennials’ need for praise so they stay engaged and avoid situations that needlessly ramp up the anxiety. An anxious worker, worrying about standing or ability, is not a productive worker.

The secret to coaching millennials boils down to meeting them where they are. Because of their strong self-esteem, they are far less likely than previous generations to conform to a workplace. They have grown up knowing their ideals and their dreams are important, and unless you are helping them, they don't have room for you. Don’t worry—that idealism is also a wellspring of creativity and drive if you tap into it by creating a workplace that supports their ambition.

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2Source: Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, S. M. (2008). Generational Differences in Psychological Traits and Their Impact on the Workplace. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 23(8)

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,