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7 Helpful Tips for Managing Younger Employees

It is often the most seasoned and accomplished business leaders who must be educated in the skill of adapting to changing times and circumstances.  For, as business customs and technologies continue to evolve at a rapid pace, so too, are the very individuals they are leading.

Leading Younger Employees - Older Professional Standing with Younger Employees

Therefore, what better way to understand the most effectual ways of leading a young staff than through a young leader who has spent his recent years performing on both sides of the leadership fence?

For instance, take Mike Clum, who at only age 24 is CEO of Clum Creative, an innovative new video-production company. Within six years, Clum has gained some early, yet notable experience involving hiring and working alongside predominantly “gen z” and “millennial” employees.  In fact, he and his present team – ranging between the ages of 19 and 27 – now work collaboratively to creative complex videos for mid-sized as well as Fortune 500 companies.

Fellow youth marketer, entrepreneur, and best-selling author, Deep Patel, shares his take on Clum’s advice for leading a largely youthful staff.

1.  Help your staff remain energized for the future.

We all know how new graduates are full of inspiration and the desire to achieve great things. Without mortgages to pay and families to support, money is often not the top priority for young people who are looking to do something meaningful with their lives, including joining an organization. Patel reports, “According to Clum, in order to sell them on your organization, you have to paint a clear picture of an exciting future”. The best way to achieve this is through clarity and proper communication.

2.  Generate a structured platform.

Nowadays, it takes more than a daring vision and a conspicuous mission statement to attract and keep employees; and this certainly includes the younger set.  Patel reiterates Clum’s support of “a clear and distinct structure that can be followed day after day [which] will lead to long-term success”.  Patel continues with Clum’s suggestion that “[five]-year targets should stem from annual targets, which should stem from quarterly targets, and so on, all the way down to monthly, weekly and daily targets. Every single person in the organization should clearly see what the next steps are and how they play a part in building that long-term success”. This model can help greatly in problem-solving and the reduction of guesswork. Furthermore, the visual aid of these numbers helps teach and instruct young people, while providing a strong context on the most important focus. Watching these objectives be achieved in real time helps with the tangible realization that goals can and will be met.

3.  Give reasons for your answers.

Those who are leading members of younger generations must remember that there is, in fact, a learning curve. However, this does not mean that your staff cannot achieve great success with your help. Clum advises leaders to educate while they manage. For example, “When people bring you ideas or ask you for approvals for purchases, don’t hit them with a rash ‘no’ or dismiss them”, says Clum. Rather, he suggests “…take the extra [time] to ask them questions and try to get their rationale and thoughts out on the table”.  Patel reminds readers of Clum’s advice to “empathize with your employees before giving your thoughts. If the idea is great, let them run with it. If it’s not, continue to ask questions and get to the root of what they are committed to, and coach and probe other ideas that they come up with”. The ability to “facilitate critical thinking” while also educating and encouraging younger staff members to discover their best ideas is preferable over a basic ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

4.  Set a positive example.

Young people can be quite quick to notice, and immediately dislike, a lack of authenticity in leadership. Younger staff members want to know that you are actually as invested in the projects you delegate as they are. Clum states, “Whenever someone on my team isn’t performing, typically it’s not laziness; it’s usually when I’m in boss-mode and not leader-mode”. Patel reinforces Clum’s notion, “The key is to instill respect in your requests by being willing to go all in, and do whatever you would ask someone else to do. Lead by example and practice what you preach”.

5.  Allow your staff to exercise their own leadership skills.

The ability to perform at a higher level and be challenged is very important to ambitious young people. Therefore, when you notice obvious talent, allow them to spread their wings and take on some more significant tasks and projects. Clum offers his own experience as a powerful anecdote. “Early on, I hired people out of college and I never let them take on important projects because I assumed they were too young and inexperienced to do this.” He continues, “[of] course they all either ended up not growing or leaving the company”. However, Clum states that as he matured as a leader, he was able to recognize the incredible potential of many of his staff members. He attests, “Once I sold myself on my team and actually opened up, people started to take responsibility and create work that was better than mine. The company actually started to grow, customers were happier and things got more fun”.

6.  Maintain regular one-to-one communication.

It is a fact that until the age of 25, the human brain continues to mature. Young people will always be trying to figure out their best path in life. Business leaders should remember that simply because a young employee is working for you, doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have that nagging idea in the back of their minds that they may be better suited for something entirely different. Patel recaps, “As a manager, you need to make sure you dialogue with employees on a consistent basis. So while most performance reviews happen annually or quarterly, as an employer of younger people, you should hold monthly one-on-one performance-review meetings with all your employees”. Creating a relaxed atmosphere with an open and casual dialogue regarding how they are doing both personally and professionally, as well as asking for their ideas regarding improvements and changes shows young staff members that you value, not only their work performance, but also their input and feedback.  According to Clum, by doing this monthly, “…you’ll find these meetings [create] a much more inviting and open culture”, keeping young wandering minds at bay.

Leading Younger Employees - Group of professionals varying in age

7.  Don’t get caught up in generational labels.

Patel reminds readers not to become overly fixated on generational constructs, such as “gen z” and “millennial”. In fact, the overuse of these terms in relation to your younger staff members can often be “limiting and condescending”. Patel states, “While there are some general traits and personas that evolve as humans age, overall we’re very much the same”. All individuals, regardless of age, want to be “challenged, appreciated and a part of something meaningful”. In fact, you may find that much of the advice directed toward the leadership of your younger staff members may actually enrich and engage employees of all ages.

Further ReadingImportant Leadership Lessons You May Not Learn In Business School


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