Jack Welch On How To Manage Millennial Employees

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This is part of the “Moving Forward” series offering advice to small business owners on technology, mentorship, productivity, and growth. “Moving Forward” is sponsored by Ink from Chase®. More posts in the series »

Members of the millennial generation, defined by Pew Research Center as those born between 1980 and 2000, now comprise about a third of the U.S. workforce and are
expected to make up nearly half of all workers by 2020.

And while they may be the most educated and diverse generation of any before them, they are also notorious job hoppers and a challenge to motivate and retain. So how can business owners successfully manage these employees and engender a sense of entrepreneurship in them within the larger company?

“You get what you measure,” said management guru and former GE chief Jack Welch at the recent World Business Forum in New York City. “Get the values straight in your company and measure them, and you’ll change the game.”

Welch said it’s important to create a higher purpose in your company — a reason for being there — to rally young employees around a common goal and make it an exciting place to be. Once you’ve established a direction for the company and the kind of behaviours that will help you get there, then you need to praise those actions every time you see them, he said.

“Create role models,” Welch advised. “If you see millennials grabbing onto an idea and doing what you like to see, blow the horn, cue the band, and shine a spotlight on it.”

By praising the employee’s achievement, however small, you celebrate their success, show that the behaviour is important, and create more people who want to do it.

When Welch was at GE, he gave out handwritten notes with genuine words of thanks to acknowledge employees who did something special. With his bold handwriting and signature stationery, he would write simple, heartfelt messages like “you are a friend of our company” and “thanks for your [work] and the good luck it brought.”

“You’ve got to constantly show appreciation,” Welch said. “You will only grow from the reflected glory of their efforts.”

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