DOs and DON’Ts for managing younger workers


Do recruit beyond the graduate talent pool

Employers have a critical role to play in tackling social inequality. Those leading the way recruit beyond the traditional graduate intake, whether that’s via providing work experience with the possibility of later employment, internships, mentoring schemes in the community or apprenticeships. Research from the Chartered Management Institute and the EY Foundation goes further: employers need to build stronger relationships with schools to develop school-to-work programmes; click here for more.  

Don’t assume they want to work in London

London’s high cost of accommodation and long, costly commutes are giving many younger workers second thoughts about working in the UK’s capital. Many are graduates, shouldering a heavy debt burden from tuition fees and living costs, and the lure of London soon fades when there simply isn’t enough money to enjoy it. (By the way, if you’re paying down a student loan, check you’ve set an end date for the repayments with your bank. Many assume the payments will automatically stop when the loan’s repaid – they often don’t.) Some of Zoomly’s clients are finding their Manchester and Birmingham offices are getting requests to transfer from the London HQ – and making the most of the chance to retain good people. Occupational Psychologists OPP conducted research earlier this year on the cities with the happiest workers, as reported in the Daily Telegraph.  

Do give them a broad range of opportunities

With money being tight for both employees and employers, and job security unlikely, smart employers ensure their younger employees work in a range of job roles, the better to retain the best. Many younger workers want to build a wider understanding of how things work than their predecessors expected, so that they’ll have more options when change happens. ‘Tours of duty’ in different functions provide a broader horizon and build a more robust understanding of the world of work and a more resilient workforce. 

Don’t assume they’re highly IT literate

Younger workers may well demonstrate impressive knowledge of social media compared to their older colleagues – though don’t assume they all will.  Nor will they all automatically be highly proficient at the software and systems used in the workplace – unless these were essential for their studies. Many of Zoomly’s clients subscribe to online IT learning portals to enable workers of all ages to boost their skills when and where it suits them. They may also have ‘gurus’ for particular applications – colleagues who offer tech support via live chat or in person. Some younger workers may actually prefer old tech for consuming information, such as professional journals. The Guardian recently reported on Voxburner’s research, which found younger readers prefer printed books to digital versions. 

Do coach them and give feedback

After an education that constantly monitored progress, attendance, helpfulness to fellow pupils and countless other metrics, it can be pretty discomfiting to enter the world of work and not get any indication of how you’re doing. Some managers of Millennial workers bemoan their apparent need for ‘constant feedback and support’. I respectfully suggest finding ways and means of meeting this need rather than letting good prospects find the exit. This isn’t pandering, it’s simply good management. Have regular, brief 1:1 conversations where the focus is on the individual’s performance, as opposed to the job in hand. Adapt your style in these conversations to suit the situation. For example you may need to:

  • Be directive and demonstrate a simple ‘how to’
  • Provide guidance, examples and advice
  • Foster responsibility and autonomy by using a coaching approach – asking more and telling less
  • Give feedback on what you have observed about the individual’s performance – be it positive or negative
  • Elicit ‘lessons learned’ from completing a task
  • Seek input and suggestions for how things can be improved

It would be remiss of me not to point out a new book that can help – The Feedback Book

‘What about older workers?’ you may well ask. Watch this space…

You may also find this post useful: ‘How managers rate themselves vs how their employees rate them’



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