Creating – and maintaining – an atmosphere where people are inspired is a real challenge for most work places. Yet, all professionals, and certainly younger professionals in particular, crave learning, achievement and recognition even when workflow demand remains high. The ability to inspire a workforce of employees is a key differentiator for great leaders.
Inspiring others means understanding the lens they use to see their world – whether it’s direct and factual, enthusiastic and creative, social and people-focused or precise and task focused lens. Usually workforce teams have a mix of all those types of individuals, which means leaders have to use a multi-channel approach to create macro organizational messages to reach most audiences, while still individualizing their personal interactions with team members to reach their individual needs.
When working with young professionals, leaders realize that the motivators necessary may be different – even when the challenges they face seem to be the same as those faced by all employees.
Leaders must identify the challenges that create barriers for young professionals and address those. Sometimes in a different manner. Below is a list of common challenges that create those barriers – or conversely create great paths for success when addressed positively and proactively.
Ambition – See it, call it out, cultivate it, feed it and reward it. Ambitious people are willing to work hard to reach the goal. Young professionals have ambitions that need to be identified and strengthened. Harness that energy to reach company goals, as well as their personal goals. Spend time communicating to young professionals about the pathways to succeed in your company and the recognition and rewards available when they focus their ambitions to the company’s benefits.
Plan – Savvy employers assist younger employees in creating their three to five career plans to help them understand the possibilities of staying, learning and growing with their organizations. Employers can increase retention of top performers by acknowledging a plan for their growth and advancement. Some are motivated by the work challenges, as well as titles, salary, perks and benefits, so be open to a more flexible and individualized approach.
Prepare – Create an environment where young professionals understand how much preparation is expected for tasks and give them the tools and support to adequately prepare. This creates an environment where leaders inspire excellence in the results. Many times, young professionals see the outcome of a long process without knowing the steps they took to get there and the preparation necessary. Sharing the steps involved in processes and teaching them how to best prepare is valuable knowledge for building stronger skills in young professionals.
Persistence – This trait can be cultivated in any employee and reaching younger professionals to inspire, support and reward this trait goes a long way to creating a culture where people understand you cannot achieve dreams and goals if you give up too soon. It’s a world where many people now want instant gratification, building persistence is like building resiliency and both of those are critical traits for long-term success. Young professionals need interaction with senior leaders who are working on difficult challenges and need the open communication those leaders can model to share their ups and downs as they persist to reaching the goals.
Courage – Courage is being scared to death but taking the giant leap anyway. Creating an environment where young professionals can talk about their fears of failure, fears of new projects, etcetera and then receive training and coaching creates trust. It helps when leaders are fearless in sharing their own vulnerabilities, which shows employees that we all have fears. Vulnerability based trust diminishes fear. Open communication allows for fears to be aired. When a leader models that open communication it sets the stage for young professionals to trust that they can do the same.
Communication – In all my years as a leader and as a consultant, I’ve never conducted an employee opinion study where the results came back and said, “This company communicates with me TOO MUCH.” There is just no such thing when it comes to employee communication. Remember to use a multi-channel approach, which includes videos, live team discussions, emails, newsletters, flash cards/posters, contests and more. If you have a large workforce, recognize that you need scripted bullet points so that each layer of management is using the same language for the message you hope to disseminate.
Values – The best way to alienate young professionals is to have stated values that don’t match how leaders actually operate within the organization. Give yourself periodic check ups to make sure your words and actions are in alignment with your organization’s stated values.
Young professionals are a great addition to every workforce team and bring so many strengths to organizations. Remember to ask for their input and encourage their development in a personal way to harness the many wonderful elements they offer.
DEBBIE MASON, is a business strategist and organizational consultant who works with The Work of Leaders®, DiSC®, Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™, and other assessments used in coaching leaders and organizations to greater performance.