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Millennials and Teams: The Perfect BFFs?

Next month on June 19th, we’ll be presenting Leading Millennials: How to Motivate, Lead and Retain the Millennial Generation in Your Workplace at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont.  It’s been a while since we’ve done a blog post on this newest workplace generation (born 1980-2001), although our commitment to understanding and interest in the Millennial generation is never too far away.  It’s just that we’ve been doing a lot with teams recently!

And in doing a lot with teams, we’ve been able to see firsthand how Millennials are flourishing in teaming environments.  Let us tell you, from what we’ve seen, they’re knocking it out of the park.  Could high performance teaming (HPT) be a perfect vehicle for Millennials to excel?  Could Millennials and HPTs be BFFs (Best Friends Forever)?

We think this might have great possibilities; here’s why:

Meaningfulness and belonging:  Before all the other possibilities below, meaningfulness and belonging are probably the most important to both a HPT structure, as well as Millennials.  Both need to know why they exist, that they serve a 1+1>2 purpose.  Additionally, Millennials are perpetually in the affection and belonging stage of Maslow’s hierarchy (think of your 20s!).  The HPT environment fosters comradeship, togetherness and identifies what your role is in the overall success of the organization – perfect for Millennials.

Immediate feedback; peer to peer feedback:  A HPT culture requires that feedback is instant, clear and direct.  No longer is there a wait for a yearly performance review, instead teams conduct their own feedback assessments starting at every meeting with a report out from the Process Observer. Their  Lean Team Daily Management dashboards show current results specific to the team and doing team assessment reports help them gauge where they are in the phases of teaming.  Receiving feedback is essential for Millennials because they like to know what is expected and they don’t like making mistakes or looking ignorant; the more the environment can encourage continuous feedback the better.

Gradual autonomy and freedom:  A HPT organization starts by involving all teams in their processes and as that team matures, builds competency and commitment. The team becomes more engaged and begins to take on more roles and responsibilities among themselves.  Empowerment happens only after the team has shown a high level of commitment and competency and is willing to take on greater amounts of responsibility and accountability.  Likewise, Millennials with their entrepreneurial and sometimes rebel spirit, want autonomy and freedom – but not without training wheels!  No Millennial wants the keys to the kingdom before they know what they’re doing (even if they pretend they do).  Millennials do not like looking ignorant or having too much power to be blamed for something.  Teams provide a perfect training course for them to understand the Involve-Engage-Empower Continuum and when the time is right, they will see that they are competent enough to enjoy the freedoms and autonomy that comes with that. That doesn’t mean they won’t test along the way.

Coaching, mentoring and reverse mentoring:  A core competency of any HPT organization is the use of coaches and mentors to move teams and the organization along.  Coaches are trained in the art of squeezing the best out of their members (every last drop!) and doing it with tact and with a nurturing, thinking-the-best-of-the-person approach.  Having coaches and mentors would be a perfect atmosphere for Millennials to grow as they require a little bit more finesse when being given direction.  Additionally, Millennials are great reverse-mentors.  Having computer problems? Projector won’t work?  Needing to figure out how to use the new QuickBooks app?  Millennials are great at solving problems quickly and bringing you along to show you how to do it too (remember it’s all about efficiency and error-proofing…and making friends).

Structured approach to engagement and empowerment: We all keep hearing how this new generation needs to feel engaged and eventually empowered in their work.  But most of the suggestions out there stop at that, never really providing a roadmap or platform to actually deliver the support needed to build an engaged workplace.  Having a HPT structure in your organization provides real, practical ways to get Millennials on the ‘playing field’ and participating.  From taking on a role at their daily huddles and weekly meetings, to becoming a StarPoint, to working on multiple teams (cross functional, multifunctional, Design team, Culture team, etc.), the Millennial will never want to leave your organization because they know that they are valued and are being given the opportunity to bring value to the table.

Skill Scan and capitalization on raw talent: HPT organizations usually conduct a Skill Scan on every one of their teams to make sure they’re getting the most out of each member.  From the Skill Scan we can learn that one team member may also have talents in grit and focus (gained from running marathons on the weekend), another member might have skills in graphic design and video production (a hobby they picked up in college), and another member might be great at putting together events (an interest gained by helping with their friends’ weddings and addiction to Pinterest).  By the very nature of the time period they’ve grown up in, Millennials come with a wealth of untapped talent and skill because college provided opportunities to expand beyond their core degree and technology has made their interests limitless.  Additionally, because this generation is heavily committed to work/life balance, they have developed multiple hobbies in their off time.

Advanced Thinking incubators:  Because HPT organizations encourage multi-functional meetings and collaborations (multi-functional meaning a diagonal slice of the organization in terms of titles/roles and putting that cross section of people on a team to provide a dynamic representation of the organization), Millennials can be with veteran workers in their organization or present to senior management on a project, gaining a wealth of knowledge and wisdom along the way.  This also encourages the Millennials to see both the strategic and operational aspects of the organization, not just their small, tactical job.  These opportunities, over time, will produce a very smart, strategic-thinking worker as they learn to analyze both the tactical implications, as well as the operational and strategic implications of their work and its impact company-wide.

A commitment to continued education:  HPT’s understand the value and correlation between competency and commitment.  If you feel smart at your job, you’re going to be more committed to the team and the goal.  Teaming organizations invest a lot into training and continuous education.  Teams also encourage cross-functional, multi-functional membership which encourages social learning to occur.  Millennials are the most educated generation in the history of the world.  Just hang around a Millennial for a day and see how much knowledge and information they access from their smartphone and Google (or hear them say, “just Google it”).  Millennials are natural sponges and see education as a direct correlation to status and growth in their careers.

HPTs are fast and efficient: HPT organizations are 30% more productive in the first 15 months than a traditional organization and we’ve seen numbers that have exceeded 100% in that time.  Meetings, huddles, communication and the overall ‘cadence’ of a HPT is quick, direct and efficient – the idea that if it’s not a ‘gain’ for an organization then it’s a ‘waste’ (and in our current culture we waste a lot – time, money, scrap, resources, meetings, people).  Likewise, most people think Millennials are tech hogs and just love new, shiny things, but really Millennials are all about being efficient and quick – technology is just the best vehicle to achieve those needs.  Millennials would thrive in a fast-paced, mission-focused, efficiency-monitoring culture and we think teams would readily include their natural tendency to these attributes.

What do you think?  Could it work?  Could a high performance team culture be the answer we keep asking for when talking about Millennials and their need to feel engaged and valued?  We think it is a possible answer and from what we’ve seen from Millennials on the teams that we work with, they’re excited about where teaming is taking them.

Want to know more about how to engage a new and multi-generational workforce? Try out our Team-Building Tool Kit© services.  explaining our experience, services and 30-year, time-tested roadmap to implementing self-directed work teams.

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An innovative training and employee development firm located in southern Vermont since 1984, we specialize in helping organizations get the most out of their people by raising the bar, inspiring potential and partnering with organizations to build a people-centered, high-engagement culture.

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