Kirk Hudson has done pretty well for himself professionally. He’s a senior consultant at IBM, No. 10 on The 2009 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list, a position he’s held for the past year and a half. Besides the extensive corporate travel that comes with Hudson’s job, what else motivates this 24-year-old at work? Respect and encouragement, he says, especially from older workers. How can you communicate this?
Here are several things to say to young coworkers:
“You’ve got a strong work ethic” or “Those were great ideas.”
There’s a workplace myth that young employees are used to being spoon-fed and, therefore, have a poor work ethic. In reality, most are energetic, enthusiastic and eager to learn new skills. Properly managed, 20-somethings can be a tremendous asset to your team. But they need recognition, respect and to feel valued, so be sure to regularly (yet genuinely) compliment young coworkers when they’ve done something above average.
“I really appreciate your feedback (or contributions) to our team.”
Multigenerational workplace expert Cam Marsten, author of Motivating the ‘What’s in It for Me?’ Workforce, says that millennials can have a me-first approach to their work. That’s why it’s up to older workers to show them the importance of teamwork.
“Millennials are a generation steeped in individuality, and the boomer definition of team and the millennial definition of team are often at odds with one another,” Marsten explains. So reminding them of the team on a personal level “pulls them into the boomer-team mentality yet recognizes the individuality of the participant–it covers all the bases,” he says.
“You’re showing great leadership skills.”
Since young employees are often just starting out at a company–and may not be in a position to manage projects–speaking up, standing out and demonstrating their leadership abilities can be difficult. But that doesn’t mean millennial coworkers don’t possess the skills necessary to lead.
How can you allow them to demonstrate their abilities? Give them small projects, some direction, and then step back to see how they do. Also, offer recognition when they do take control and respectfully encourage them to keep it up.
In the long run, effective communication with young employees will only benefit your company.