Tips for Managing Younger Employees
Allie’s post college graduation life isn’t turning out the way she expected. She finished her senior year in her childhood bedroom followed by a Zoom graduation. Pre-Covid-19 Allie had landed a job but two weeks after graduation she learned the company laid-off 30 percent of their workforce including younger employees like Allie. She was disappointed but not surprised.
She got back to it and after eight months of sending out resumes and networking with friends, family and anyone who would talk to her she landed her first post-college role. “This is it. I’m an adult,” Allie thought when she signed her offer letter. That was two months ago and today she feels incredibly isolated and alone.
Her manager told her to reach out anytime Allie had a question, but Allie has a question every ten minutes and knows her manager is busy and doesn’t want to bother her with “silly” questions. Allie tries to figure out the answers for herself but after an hour of trying she gets frustrated to the point of finally breaking down, reaching out to her manager and getting a response an hour later. By then it’s noon and Allie realizes she has another question.
Starting your first post-school job is a significant milestone for everyone. Whether you loved or hated that first job, it influenced how you thought about work, how you saw yourself at work and how likely you were to stay at this organization or quickly leave.
In 2020 3.7 million people graduated from high school, one million with an associates degree and 2 million with a bachelor’s degree. This means there are six million young people right now navigating their first job with a significant number of them doing it remotely, just like Allie.
Remote younger workers across the country have complained about the lack of connection and poor communication at work. They describe how hard it is to get a quick answer to a question and the miscommunication that happens when they’re not hearing the words but simply reading on Slack. Now imagine what it would be like for you if you were 22 years old, had never met anyone at work in person and this was your first job out of college.
If you’re managing a young employee, or any first-time employee that you think might be struggling working remotely, then there is an acronym you can use to guide your interactions with them: V.I.C.T.O.R.
Here’s how you can use V.I.C.T.O.R. for managing younger employees:
Validate and acknowledge how difficult it is to start a job remotely. Your young workers need you to recognize that starting a career remotely during a pandemic is incredibly challenging and not what they were expecting. Many younger employees are sitting in front of their computers alone with their thoughts. They’re afraid if they tell you they’re struggling you’ll think they’re not up for the challenge of the role. When you acknowledge how these aren’t the ideal circumstances for anyone starting a new role they’ll start to feel seen and heard and less alone.
Identify the Challenges:
Now that your young worker is feeling heard, talk to them about their biggest challenges. Is it that they have a lot of questions all the time and feel unsure of who to talk to? Do they have ideas they want to bring to the team but feel overwhelmed during large Zoom meetings? This will give you the opportunity to listen and understand their biggest pain points.
This is a huge learning opportunity for your young worker and you can teach them how to navigate your workplace. Teach them how to think about their role and who would be the ideal person for each kind of question. You can coach them through their concerns about sharing a new idea in a large group. Your role as their first manager and point of contact is so critical to their success in the company.
Make sure to observe your younger employees during team meetings to see if they’re implementing the things you discussed. Since you’re not able to physically see your young worker every day, observe them in other ways. Ask around to other team members and colleagues to see if they’ve been engaging with your young worker. Gather feedback from others about your young worker’s performance that you can use to support their development and growth.
Keep the dialogue going and make sure to reflect to your young worker what you’re seeing on your end and what others are observing. Your young workers are very used to getting lots of feedback. Don’t forget they’ve been in school their entire lives and are used to getting feedback constantly from parents and teachers. Now that these young people are working remotely, they have no idea how they’re doing and it’s easy to fear the worst when you don’t have anyone who understands the dynamics at work to discuss your concerns.
Final thoughts on managing younger employees:
Managing someone in their first job out of school presents an incredible opportunity to make a huge impact in their life. Your young worker will remember how you made them feel and you will influence and shape their careers, which is a victory in itself.
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