Millennials Want to Be Coached at Work


Harvard Business Review

By Karie Willyerd
Reviewed by Ann Wendel, PT, ATC, CMTPT

It is believed that each generation has common traits that give it a specific character. The term “Millennials” refers to the generation born roughly between 1982 and 2004. This generation often demonstrates “pragmatic idealism,” a deep desire to make the world a better place combined with an understanding that doing so requires building new institutions while working inside and outside existing institutions.

In her 2015 article for Harvard Business Review, Karie Willyerd states that the young people in our offices crave—and respond to—a good, positive coach, who can make all the difference in their success. In a global survey conducted by Success Factors in 2014, 1,400 Millennials stated that they wanted more feedback from their managers. Most wanted monthly feedback, whereas non-Millennials are comfortable with feedback less often. Overall, Millennials want feedback 50 percent more often than other employees, and while they stated that their number one source of development is their manager, only 46 percent agreed that their managers delivered on their expectations for feedback.

Willyerd explains that Millennials made it clear that what they want most from their managers is not more managerial direction, but rather more help with their own personal development. Millennials stated that they would like to move ahead in their careers and that they needed constant coaching and feedback from their managers to be more efficient and proficient.

In an analysis of psychological tests of 1.4 million college students from 1938 to the present, Millennials were found to have more self-esteem while also having more anxiety and a higher need for praise. In order to effectively coach your Millennial employees to success, you need to understand their coaching needs. Specifically, Millennials have stated that they want managers to:


Inspire them. Millennials engage with causes that help people rather than institutions. The team and the mission, especially tied to a higher purpose, are far more compelling motivators than a message of “Do this for the company.” The four biggest traits of inspiring leaders are providing a vision, enhancing relationships, driving results, and serving as a principled role model. Just by noticing an employee’s efforts, you can inspire them.

Surround them with great people. Millennials repeatedly stated that they wanted their leaders to “help them up their game by working with people who are talented and better than they are [now].” As a manager, you can coach your recent grads while they are most fragile, rather than fostering a sink or swim environment.

Be authentic. Millennials seek an approachable manager and a role model whom they can emulate. Managers who are authentic coaches and good listeners build trust—an essential foundation upon which to build a great team.

In summary, Willyerd says that coaching is not about telling people what to do, but helping them to achieve all that they are capable of doing and being. Private Practice leaders can play a big part in encouraging Millennial team members to reach their full potential.

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