How Millennials Have Improved Workplace Communication

We obsess over young success stories: Russell Wilson, Malala Yousafzai, and Emma Watson. All successful, all famous, all millennials.

Millennials. Some descriptions that come to mind from their portrayal in media are “lazy,” “disengaged,” and “self-interested.” There’s a lot of negativity and accusations that get thrown around with millennials, but data shows that there are many positive ways in which they’ve impacted the workplace.

Millennials place a higher value on collaboration, feedback, flexibility, and explanations for their utility than any generation before them. According to Gallup’s “How Millennials Want to Live and Work,” 44% of millennials claim to be more engaged when they have frequent check-ins. All of these desires have heavily affected the operation of businesses that successfully retain and attract employees. One change has been an increase in mentorship programs because of the perception that millennials need more leadership training as they are given more responsibility.

Experienced managers are able to balance the needs and expectations of millennials with those of the baby boomers by integrating more check-ins into the workplace setting. They might feel scripted at first, but after some practice, these meetings will feel flow naturally. In either case, a good check-in has these key elements at its core:


Invest personally.

Unfortunately, it’s rare for a manager to ask how their employee is doing on a personal level or how their family is doing. Even rarer is having a manager who actually listens to the response. Sometimes this is because managers are too busy for a full conversation and other times it’s because they don’t feel like putting in the effort.

Whether you’re a manager who always greets their employees or one who simply waits for check-ins to give feedback, this portion of the meeting is the most important part. You need to show your employee that their personal wellbeing comes first. Asking how an employee is doing on a personal level, listening attentively, and attempting to gain insight from what’s being shared will allow you to understand your employee better. Those are the things that truly matter. Sharing personal stories is what builds and maintains trust between a manager and an employee. When you demonstrate that you care about and are invested in the person you are meeting with, then they are far more likely to stick around. People want to feel like they’re cared about.

 Ask them about work.

Once you’ve checked in about your employee’s personal wellbeing, you tie the conversation into their progress at work. You ask about their progress towards achieving their next goal. Take note of whether anything is holding them back from achieving their full potential:is it personal or professional? Is there anything you can do as a manager to help them? As Ed Catmull notes in Creativity,Inc., a manager needs to be creative in their problem solving, and sometimes that means finding solutions that no one else would think of. Maybe you can help by looking to change the company policy if it’s standing in the way. Maybe you can go up the chain of command to talk to someone who can make things easier for your employee. Whatever it is, remember that it’s your job to remove any and all obstacles that you can.

Discuss your observations, good and bad. 

Finally it’s your turn to talk. You’ve had half-formed notes about feedback for them piling up under their name on your computer and now you can work your way through each one. You tell the employee what stood out as important in the first part of the meeting to ensure you understand their perspective and then describe the good and bad parts of their work which have been brought to your attention – either by coworkers or through personal observation.

The two keys to success in this portion of check-ins are firstly having a foundation of trust and respect and secondly forming your feedback around radical candor. Kim Scott discusses in her book, Radical Candor, the many benefits of creating a culture of candor in the workplace and notes that candid feedback is at the core of successful employee-manager interactions. Cultivating a community of honesty and transparency facilitates everything from growth to productivity to retention.

 Talk about expectations on both sides.

Now that both you and the employee have had time to reflect on the employee’s current progress, it’s time to discuss what each of your expectations will be moving forward. During this section of the meeting, you agree upon long-term goals and short-term progress markers. Managers also acknowledge what they will do to help the employee achieve their goals. For some employees, the involvement you provide will be very minimal (like securing a second coffee machine for the office) while others will need you to be substantially involved by doing things like looking over their work and highlighting specific mistakes. Either way, be prepared to help them however you can and to always have their success in mind because your success hinges on theirs.

Wrap it up.

The goodbye should be more than just a “Good to talk to you again; see you next month!” Well-wishing should be personal. It can be tied back to the personal problems they are currently facing, the accomplishments they have recently achieved, the current goal they are moving towards, or all three. What you say should directly tie back to the content of the meeting. For example, a manager could say, “I’m really glad you’re going to be able to spend time with your brother this weekend; maybe he can help you practice speaking in front of groups like you were talking about by taking you out to a bar with stand-up!” This comment ties together something exciting personally, the current work goal, and a sense of humor. As small as this may seem in the grand scheme of workplace interactions, it’s really important to remember. Being a good manager is as much in the details as the larger practices. 

Millennials have it right – treating employees as humans is no longer a radical idea. While you can implement this philosophy throughout your company culture, the most impactful place to start is during one-on-one check-ins. Connecting with and understanding your employee on a personal level will help you both grow and develop in your respective roles.For all the negative attitudes attributed to millennials, the younger generation has the right idea in terms of workplace evolution.

ManageLabs bridges the gap between generations and improves workplace communication by supporting the use of check-ins and daily praise. We help managers keep track of how and with whom they’ve been developing relationships so that they can be more efficient and have meaningful conversations with their whole team.

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