If you have been tracking my blog posts lately, you perhaps have read through my posts on millenials and my recent experiences training them. In the last month I have trained two groups of millennials from two leading South African IT companies with corporate cultures that are worlds apart. In the past week the millenials based at the first company I trained 3 weeks ago, were shocked to learnt that an International Microsoft Exam had been scheduled for them and, like it or not, they were supposed to sit for the exam this part week. The next 48hrs after the exam was scheduled was filled with a string of unbelievable events.
3 weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to train a group of interns at this top South African I.T company, which I will call Company A. This group was mostly made up of university graduates who acquired non-IT degrees like Economics, Human Resources Management and Account. My instruction was to train then on Microsoft SQL Server based, Database Administration Fundamentals. Needless to say, the 3 day training session was well received by all, and in my view as a trainer I was under the impression that after 3 months of real exposure to SQL Server environments, they would be ready for the exam.
Fast forward 3 weeks later, when the International exam had been set for them (as a result of management pressure to meet important deadlines), 3 sets of students sat for the exam. (1) The first was a group of students, the unprepared ones, who mourned at how then had been caught by surprised by the shock announcement. I eventually learnt however, that repeated warnings about the upcoming exam had been communicated earlier. (2) The second group was those who had a solid background in Database Administration, who took it upon themselves to study and prepare, so as to pass the exam despite the odds.
(3) The third group which I found most remarkable was those who during the prior 3 day training I had undertaken with them, did not look promising at all, but actually struggled a bit with the course material I delivered. These ones somehow knew that failing the exam, for one reason of the other was going to negatively affect their career path and immediately put together the exam preparation tools I had recommended for them and for 2 days prior to the exam, did literally nothing else except to study hard in preparation of the exam. In the end, students in groups (2) and (3) passed the exam. Hence, here is key learning points in this experience:
Explain Your Vision
This could be the overall company vision, or merely behind a specific task. Millennials, want to know, and want to buy-in into whatever vision you present to them. Give them a full understanding of the “why”, of the tasks you want them to undertake. Millennial workers are more likely to look for meaning and impact in their work and aren’t satisfied simply punching a clock. Helping them understand their role in a larger plan gives them a clearer sense of purpose.
Provide Encouragement And Regular Feedback
One interesting part of this story, is that the Manager who had been assigned to manage this group, was under immense pressure to deliver results to management. In my further investigations of the activities that led up the interns sitting for the exam, I then learnt that she kept pushing this group almost on a daily basis, encouraging them and telling them that they were more than able to sit for the exam, sooner rather than later. And at some point, the majority of the group actually confirmed that they were ready to sit for the exam (perhaps just to please her), however that buy-in prompted her to schedule the exam. Encouragement and regular feedback keeps you engaged with millennials and their potential, often hidden through excuses and sometimes laziness.
Make Their Professional Development Your Business
Because of the information overload millennials experience on a daily basis, they do not really know what the best career path that they are suited for. Therefore if you are directly responsible for them, you have to help them to map out a career path that will set them up for greater achievement. The goal behind this particular exam that the group in my story sat for, was really meant for them to appreciate that irregardless of the education background you they were coming from, be it Human Resources or Economics, at some point in the near future they would be faced with a task of manipulating lots of data, therefore SQL Server skills will really come to your rescure, when such a situation occurrs