Management & Leadership

Are we ready to coach the Millennials?

Dec 20, 2017
Millennial Traits

By 2020, the global workforce will be significantly dominated by Millennials. They bring to the workplace a fresh set of values, perspectives and outlooks.

In 2014, the number of Millennials in the workplace overtook the Baby Boomers, and just a year later they surpassed Generation X workers too. By 2020, the global workforce will be significantly dominated by Millennials.  Growing up with tech as a given; innately connected and globally hard-wired, there’s no doubt that the differences between Millennials and previous generations are significant.  Therefore, organisations can expect unprecedented cultural change as Millennials become a greater force in the workplace.

Social historians have noted that Millennials are not just shaped differently by the advanced technologies of their time.  For the most part, there have also been notable differences in the ways they have been raised.  Anxious not to repeat their parents’ mistakes, the parents of the Millennial Generation are generally regarded as more conscious, more concerned and more doting.  Millennials were children who have been both seen and heard.  

While Millennials may be criticised by some for their sense of entitlement, demands for recognition and hurry to advance themselves; they are equally praised by others for their positive self-worth and outlook, their ambition and wish to make a difference, as well as their team spirit, ease with diversity and readiness to adapt.

They bring to the workplace a fresh set of values, perspectives and outlooks that include:

  • expecting open communications and collaborative relationships with accessible managers who provide them with regular, constructive feedback
  • responding positively to encouragement, and having little tolerance for hostility in the workplace
  • expecting to participate in decisions of how they are to be managed, coached and mentored so that they get customized support
  • wanting clear road maps and goals so that they know and like what is up ahead for them
  • needing clear and implicit instructions and guidance when it comes to social boundaries in the workplace
  • preferring frequent, quick, clear interactions and engagements

What is interesting for coaches, is that studies such as this one reported on in the Harvard Business Review, shows that they’re a generation with not just an openness to being coached in the workplace, but a strong desire for it.

So, are we ready to coach Millennials? We asked George Phipps, Executive Coach and SACAP educator for his views:

1. Do you think that coaches will need to adapt their styles, signatures and interventions to best meet the needs of Millennials?

“I believe it is incumbent on coaches to understand the way Millennials relate to their world and be able to consider and acknowledge any pre-conceived biases or assumptions they may have before they work together with them. Working with a Millennial will require the coach to build good rapport and trust upfront.   It would be important to ask them how they would like to be coached and to set your intentions and boundaries – that is setting the stage for the coaching intervention upfront.

2.  Do you think that coaching Millennials will be more or less challenging for coaches?

“This may depend on the age of the coach and their knowledge and experience in working with Millennials. Many coaches today have teenage or adult children, and may have preconceived thoughts about this age group. Coaches need to be aware of and consider who they are coaching. It may be extra challenging for them to not want to offer advice or to hold the space for the Millennial client. As coaches we never know what may come up in a coaching session, we refer to this as ‘dancing in the moment’ with our client. The ‘dancing in the moment’ with a millennial client may be a very different to what they are used to.”

3. What are your top 5 suggestions for those coaching Millennials?

  • “Figure out what really drives them, understand their values and their map of the world
  • Use really powerful questions to get the ‘why’ and the ‘bigger picture
  • Ensure you and your millennial client have solid mechanisms in place to address accountability
  • Be sure to set them up for success in regards to SMART goals
  • Celebrate their successes and be sure to provide lots of feedback, encouragement and consistency in your sessions.”

4. Are there any generational ‘pitfalls’ that coaches should be particularly aware of?

“Millennials can take on too much too fast.  They want to get to the top as quickly as possible and may not have considered taking all the right steps. I think, as coaches, we need to support them in the creation of awareness around exactly what is involved in getting to where they want to be and the drawbacks of moving too fast. Millennials also tend to have a short attention span, so it is important for coaches to understand this and work with it. Our job is to provoke thought and create awareness through powerful questions. I have worked with many Millennial clients; they are a fun, exciting group of people with lots of energy. Coaches need to use this fun and energy to support them to move forward and achieve SMART goals and successful outcomes.”

The future of coaching looks bright, with so many energetic and inventive young minds set to enter the workplace. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in coaching, why not study a coaching course at SACAP? Courses on offer include the Postgraduate Diploma in Coaching and the Coach Practitioner Programme. For more information, enquire now.

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