10 Ways To Whip 20-Something Employees Into Professional Shape


Photo: Misterajc via Flickr

20-something employees are cost-efficient, energetic, motivated and innovative. They can also be a pain to manage.

Harvard Business Review’s Michael Fertik offers tips to oversee young employees.

Teach them: Younger employees are more motivated by education than small salary bumps

Fertik says managers who offer praise and incremental education to young hires get results.

If you're managing someone younger, overexplain your decisions to them. These employees may not have the experiences or perspective to read between the lines of what you say and do, but they are eager to learn.

'Three short minutes of explanation usually make excellent junior employees excited, since they feel the immediate benefits of gaining insight into decision-making processes,' Fertik says.

Have them start making decisions immediately

And if they don't know how to do something, tell them to figure it out.

Many young employees will try to ask questions because that's the easy thing to do. But most inquiries can be answered with a little bit of effort on their end.

If you hold your employee's hand they won't learn anything, so show a little bit of tough love.

Reward them when they do something well

You don't have to send a big 'congratulations' email or praise a 20-something in front of coworkers.

Simply asking them questions in front of senior colleagues is rewarding enough.

The question-asking tactic helps young employees learn, it makes them feel important, and it will improve their status to their peers.

Ask a lot of questions

This goes hand-in-hand with rewarding young employees.

20-something professionals need to know you want their feedback and that you value their opinions. This stimulates growth and education.

Younger employees tend to be more shy than their older counterparts, so give them a chance to pipe up.

Stand up at your desk

Yes, physically stand up from time to time.

If you get up and walk around, it will be more inviting to younger employees who may feel older bosses are unapproachable. It's also good for your health!

Give them some attention

Whether the attention is in the form of a Christmas card or birthday email, the gesture will mean a lot.

People will forget what you said, but they'll never forget the way you made them feel. Strive to be someone a younger employee wants to work hard for.

Design projects with quick turnarounds for short attention spans

Daily or weekly goals with strict deadlines will motivate younger employees to do the task at hand promptly.

It will also cater to their notoriously short attention spans.

Fire older people who are slacking

If a younger employee sees an older colleague who isn't working hard or efficiently, they will get discouraged.

'One toxic colleague can destroy an organisation. Younger employees often haven't developed the ability to wall off the toxin,' says Fertik.

Be wary if an immediate superior is too close in age

Ferick says younger employees tend to be intimidated, not motivated, by peers who seem to be exceptionally smart.

Not to mention it could spark an unprofessional relationship or an office romance.

Give young employees the benefit of the doubt

Young employees might slouch, roll their eyes, or wear questionably informal outfits to work. Try not to take offence; they mean no disrespect.

'It's just leftover adolescent crap mixed with professional immaturity and generational sloppiness. They are following your leadership much more closely than it might at first appear,' says Fertik.

Sometimes, younger employees do mess up. Check out:

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