You don't need flashy perks or an Instagram-worthy aesthetic in order to attract young talent. Cultivating a friendly, encouraging culture will do just fine.
Younger employees are still learning the professional norms that older employees take for granted. These five strategies will help you strike a mutually beneficial balance with the next generation of employees: One where they get the mentorship they need to succeed in their careers, and you get to make the most of their talents.
Goal-Setting and Skill-Building
Modeling good goal-setting is helpful for everyone. It teaches younger employees important professional skills and ensures that they’re working efficiently and effectively.
Good goals are tangible and easy to evaluate. “Reduce response times to 5 minutes or less” is a better goal than simply “reduce response times.” When managers and employees take the time to set clear expectations up front, it prevents confusion and anxiety down the road.
Additionally, younger employees may not yet realize that workplace goals should be about providing value to the business, not about self-improvement. “Learn to code” is a good personal goal, but it’s probably not an appropriate workplace goal in a job that’s unrelated to coding.
Mentoring and Training
Good mentorship programs strengthen your entire workplace. They encourage connections between junior and senior employees and help facilitate knowledge transfer and creative problem-solving.
Workplace mentorship can be a formal arrangement, where mentors and mentees are officially designated, or it can be informally encouraged. Mentorship can also occur through professional organizations outside your workplace, which has the added benefit of bringing in outside perspectives.
Investing in employee training has similar benefits. In addition to bringing new skills to your workplace, it also makes employees feel valued and important. Even access to passive online resources can significantly increase job satisfaction.
Accommodating Different Work Styles
Employees of all ages have differing work styles, but these differences can feel more tense when they happen across generational lines. Before you bristle at a request, first ask yourself whether accommodating it is truly a hardship.
You might prefer to handle important conversations via phone, while your employee prefers email. Each approach has its benefits. The phone allows for instant feedback, but email leaves a paper trail. Be open-minded about others' preferences and you just might discover new habits of your own.
Understanding Job Roles
The office hierarchy might be obvious to seasoned employees, but it can be a source of enormous anxiety for inexperienced ones. This is especially true in small offices or startups, where roles are often fluid and hard to parse.
Younger employees need to understand:
- Where they stand in the pecking order: Who is senior to them? Who is a peer?
- How rigid is the hierarchy? Is it okay to joke around with a C-suite executive, or are they expected to act formally?
- The scope of their job duties, including which tasks you specifically do not want them to take on.
Taking the time to educate employees on the boundaries of their roles helps them avoid gaffes and channel their energy effectively, saving you both major headaches.
Professionalism and Style
Standards of professionalism are rapidly shifting, especially with the rise of remote work. This makes it harder than ever for younger employees to understand how they should dress and act at work. It's important to give them clear guidance, even when it feels awkward or stilted to do so:
- Set a specific dress code. Instead of just specifying business casual, you might spell out what acceptable attire looks like: “slacks and button down shirts,” “closed-toe shoes” or “skirts that extend beyond the knee.”
- Create guidelines for chat and email, especially around the use of memes, emojis, slang and profanity.
- Let employees know when, if ever, it's acceptable to text their boss or coworker
- Let someone know right away when they’ve made an error. No one likes to feel like everyone was laughing at them behind their back, so giving feedback ASAP minimizes embarrassment for all involved.
These steps don't just help younger employees. They increase the standard of professionalism in your office overall and reduce opportunities for embarrassment and miscommunication.
Not So Different After All
Remember that younger employees' mistakes are more likely a result of inexperience rather than the year they were born. In the end, the next generation isn't all that different from previous ones. Stay kind and keep an open mind and you'll already be ahead of the curve.