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Workplace coaching for millennials – what they really want

Generation Y, or also called millennials, because they were born as one millennium ended and another started, get a lot of coverage in the press. As the rest of the us tries to figure them out, they can’t understand what all the fuss is about.

They have changed the way we work, play and see the world, they are the most educated generation and they like to do things differently. As this cohort grows into the workplace, they are calling for a new way of leadership. How the older generations work and organise the workplace, just isn’t going to cut it for this newest and largest generation.

Braidwood Consulting recently conducted interviews with millennials (graduates) who are in their first career job out of university or college about what they want from professional development coaching, and here are our observations on the two most important implications for providers of coaching services.

Firstly, millennials reported they value experience the most.

Very likely this is because they don't yet have the level of experience required to succeed in their job, company and career, and they are working under (their own) expectations of much shorter timeframes to career advancement.

They reported they are looking to gain both specialist (industry- and role-specific) and generalist experience, and that they prefer individual sessions to maximise their ability to learn.

Experience takes time and as we know, millennials are impatient . They have been taught from a very young age that they can have anything they want, and they have never had to wait for it either.

One option to speed up the gaining of experience is through mentoring services. The key advantage with this process is the natural focus on transferring experience. However, a major disadvantage is that the benefit is often short-lived: in mentoring, we typically bring ‘fish' to our mentees rather than 'teaching them how to fish'. In other words, we may be building their capabilities but not their capacities.

At first glance, coaching might not be an option: coaching generally requires a critical mass of experience (different for every person and situation) to reflect on and work with, so goals can be achieved through option development and prioritisation.

But could a combination of both options be most effective for millenials?

We’ve tested this with millennials and the answer is ‘yes’. It works as follows: short-term mentoring services for mentees to rapidly build relevant experience and then follow-on coaching services to develop options that apply that experience directly to their job and career goals.

Secondly, millennials reported that the boundaries of their jobs are fluid.

This is likely to be because there is a high need for disruptive products and services for organisations to remain competitive, and rigid job descriptions can stifle the creativity required.

But millenials report that fluid job boundaries make it hard for them to understand if they are on the right path.

Could a similar combination again be most effective for millennials? Short-term mentoring to learn about how to manage fluid job boundaries, then follow-on coaching to develop options that apply that experience directly to job and career goals.

As with everything that involves our latest generation, the millennials, standard coaching practices just won’t work for them, they require a hybrid version that embraces their spirit and tames their impatience, giving the world and the workplace, a whole new look.

We are conducting ongoing research in this area, and will advise of further findings.  We also would be interested in interviewing you – as a millennial or as their line manager across all industries.  Please email me   matt at braidwoodconsult dot com ,  to arrange a suitable time to talk.  Appreciate your help and honesty in making us all better coaches in the workplace.

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