You have been a project manager for some time now.
While you can explain processes in your sleep and have a firm grip on your projects’benefits, there is still something that eludes you…
the team member from Generation Y.
Born in the mid-1980s and later, there are probably members of Generation Y on your project teams. You may encounter even more 20-somethings if you lead projects in emerging markets like India, Brazil or South Africa, where the median age of workers is 25 to 29, according to the World Factbook.
Wise project managers should take advantage of the unique capabilities of these less experienced professionals. They can bring much to the table in terms of being adaptable, collaborative and technically savvy.
It’s up to you to harness their skills and positive attributes to build a cohesive team, maintain a high level of productivity and achieve better project results.
Here are three tips to consider:
1. Understand Their Motivations
One of the best ways to engage any team member is to understand what motivates him or her. Generation Y tends to value a collaborative working environment.
A global research study, Millennial Inc., found that younger generations want to make contributions in a collaborative workplace. More than half of respondents said they prefer to “be part of a team that makes decisions on a consensus basis,” according to the report. Thus, younger professionals would not likely stay engaged in a project environment with a traditional command structure.
Further, you should present them with opportunities to really contribute and make an impact. Let them know they have a say.
“The new generation of professionals has a completely different mindset than individuals in their 50s and 60s. They feel the opportunities in the world are endless, and because of that they are motivated by a different set of rewards and recognition,” said Philip Diab, MBA, PMP, a past chair of the PMI Board of Directors. Mr. Diab is CEO of Leadership Formation, a management consultancy in Amman, Jordan where 70 percent of the workforce is under the age of 30. “…It is not about instant gratification, it is about them wanting to make a contribution.”
2. Use a Variety of Communication Channels
While professionals from older generations are familiar with the various technologies available for communication, they still may favor communicating in more traditional methods like status reports and memos.
However, members of Generation Y have been raised on high-tech tools and are more apt to text, tweet and use instant message — no matter the purpose.
It would serve you and your team best if you use a variety of communication methods to send out alerts or status updates. You’ll find there is just as much value in face-to-face meetings as there is in text messaging.
“Face-to-face communication builds trust on a team,” Stephen Granade, senior scientist and director of projects at Advanced Optical Systems (AOS), an aerospace research and development company in Huntsville, Alabama, USA. He works with team members ranging from recent college graduates to senior engineers with more than 30 years of experience. Mr. Granade relies on weekly 10-minute stand-up meetings to keep teams connected, while embracing technology-based communication tools for daily updates.
3. Allow Coaching to be a Two-Way Street
Pairing younger, less experienced team members with veterans is the obvious way to develop skills and knowledge. However, mentoring doesn’t need to be a one-way street.
To make the most of traditional mentoring roles, Voices blogger Conrado Morlan, PMP, PgMP, regional program delivery director in the international express and logistics industry, notes that it’s all about the approach.
In the project environment, Mr. Morlan wrote, Millennials are close in temperament and outlook to Baby Boomers. They look for smart mentors who don’t talk down to them. When these types of relationships mature, Boomers will show Millennials how their wants can align with an organization’s needs.
Baby Boomers and other experienced project professionals also can learn some new tricks from their younger team members. While more mature team members bring with them the knowledge of product or organizational history, younger team members can suggest solutions that have not yet been tried or introduce innovative tools beyond the latest communication trends.
At the heart of the multigenerational team is the goal of having successful project results. An added bonus is using all of your team members to their fullest potential.