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How to Manage Youth to Better Your Workforce

Despite the obvious truism that we were all young once, many bosses can be loathe to hire workers who are too young or lack a few years of proven industry experience. There is a persistent idea that young people, especially those from the much-maligned “millennial” generation now entering the workforce, are lazy, entitled, and difficult to manage. But such blanket statements are simply excuses not to put effort into correctly using young people; the truth is many leading businesses make sure they keep a quota of fresh employees constantly turning over, because they understand the advantages that such youth can bring. And with these simple tips, so can you.

Get them engaged by making them responsible

There is a fantastic quote from the founder of browser game colossus Zynga, one of the success stories of the last decade: “you should make everyone in your business CEO of something”. He was highlighting what he saw as a key to managing the driven and the young – giving every worker a meaningful amount of responsibility. Managers who struggle with young people try to stamp down on inconsistency and the possibility for mistakes. Giving them responsibility for something in your workplace makes them feel like their work matters and encourages them to chase improvement for their own sake. Young people love a challenge and the feeling that they have value and respect, and they’re willing to fight for it – turn that drive to your advantage.

Be open to suggestions

This adage is simply not followed enough in the modern workplace; fresh eyes on a problem, or a process, or a set of tools, can all too often spot shortcomings where those too caught up in the situation have missed them. Even an employee without the experience to know all the ins and outs of your business can potentially identify an area where things “don’t make sense” – new hires can essentially be cut-price consultants for you. But you have to encourage them that their voice will be listened to, and that means working to cultivate a mutual respect.

Help young people get SMART

One area where young people are known to be consistently lacking is goal-setting; it’s hard to have a proper long-term perspective when you simply don’t have enough experience to predict how things are going to turn out. Without sound guidance they can meander along without accomplishing much, but to the frustration of some bosses trying to lock them into standard performance programs can lead to resentment and low work engagement. Those responsible for supervising the young have to make sure they are setting goals that young people will respond to – the SMART criteria (Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time Based) have had proven success at fine-tuning office performance since the 80’s. Make sure your performance goals are well communicated and clearly understood.

Be the first boss that you would have wanted

Despite some superficial differences and the cultural shifts brought about by the internet, young people of today are still at their cores similar to the young people of 10, 20, 40 years ago. However, they’re entering the workforce under a public stigma that paints them as lazy, selfish, and entitled, unfit to do the jobs their parents did, while also struggling much more financially than previous generations have at an equivalent age. How you treat a young hire early on will have a huge impact on whether they see your business as something they can buy into, or a confidence-sapping disappointment. Try and empathise with their position and allow them the room to grow into their role – like with any investment, you have to risk some capital upfront to get any decent return. Someone at some point in your career has invested in your business development, so try and return the favour. You’ll find that young people can be your most loyal and determined workers, eager to repay the faith you’ve entrusted.



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