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NEWS | June 17, 2015

Leading millennials to success

By Tech. Sgt. Mark Welling 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant first sergeant

Are you getting as much workplace productivity out of the millennials as you should be? The majority of Airmen in the Air Force today fall into the age group that constitutes being a Millennial (born in the 80's or 90's). Millennials are identified as being well educated, skilled in technology, very self-confident, able to multi-task and very energetic. This is the first generation that has never had to ask for information or wait for it to be passed to them from a source. Millennials have also grown up with multiple ways to communicate. Even the older millennials, like me, had the internet from a young age, although we had to hang up the phone to use it.

Today's Airmen want to feel that  they are an equal part of the team and like to know their contributions matter. I have been receiving feedback from junior NCO's   that "leadership" doesn't do a good job of disseminating why decisions or policies are being made. This lack of communication discourages millennials from putting forth their best effort. Don't negate Airmen from a discussion just because it's "above their pay grade." Enabling millennials is one of the best ways to inspire them. When asked to do a task, most millennials will respond, "yes, but..." You may need to explain why you are asking them to do a particular job. However, once you have, they will buy in to the idea and produce outstanding results.

The millennial Airman is also interested in feedback on his or her performance. Traditional semi-annual reviews are too infrequent for millennials. They want to know that they've done a good job and they want to know now. Coincidentally the Air Force is a culture based on feedback, which makes these Airmen the perfect fit. Feedback can be as simple as telling somebody they did a great job at even the most menial task or as in depth as completing an Airman Comprehensive Assessment. I prefer to tailor my feedback methods and frequency to each individual and their unique personality.

Once you recognize that millennials are motivated differently than people from previous generations, you will be able to lead them more effectively. For millennials, texting and checking social media at work is a normal thing. They don't see it  negatively impacting their performance. This is partially due to the fact that the lines between on duty and off duty are blurred to them. Similarly, they check their personal accounts at work and their work email and messages at home. In fact, most of them will check their email before going to bed and immediately after getting up; there is no nine-to-five for them. If accepted by leadership, this is just one of the many behaviors that can be a production booster instead of a negative activity allowing your millennials to thrive in the workplace.