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Lead Your Team Managing

Young Professionals Need Passion Above All Else to Succeed

Young Professionals Need Passion Above All Else to Succeed
Credit: Gajus/Shutterstock

Of all the stereotypes about millennial and Generation Z, there's one that does ring true: These younger workers have different professional needs than their older peers.

This means they must be led and pushed in new ways, said Cherrie Clark, a professor of the practice of management at the Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management in Tennessee.

If employers don't change they way they manage their younger workers, these employees likely won't feel passionate about their work, which is critical to their success, Clark said. There are no better employees than younger workers when they are passionate about what they're doing, she said.

"They work hard," Clark said in a statement. "They work all hours of the day. But if they are not passionate, good luck with that."

The key to managing millennials and Generation Z workers is to provide them with lots of feedback, challenges, recognition and mentoring. Clark said younger workers crave feedback because that's what they are used to in the rest of their lives. When they make a post on Facebook, they receive instant feedback; when they write a blog, they can quickly hear what readers thought. They want that same type of response from their bosses, Clark said. [See Related Content: Millennials Give Performance Reviews a Failing Grade]

"The old model of [the] once-a-year performance review is going away," she said.

Giving younger workers special projects will also help keep them engaged, Clark said.

"They are looking for challenges and recognition that they are doing a good job," she said. " If they are passionate about it, they will work around the clock to make it happen."

The recognition they receive helps show millennials that they are doing a good job and that their employers have a pathway for them, Clark said.

In addition, younger workers want more flexibility on when they work. Today's technology is allowing employees to work outside of the office during times that previously were spent only on personal time.

"The lines are blurred," Clark said. "It isn't work-life balance so much for them as it is work-life integration."

Clark came to her conclusions about the need to lead younger workers in different ways after studying millennial and Generation Z workers. During her research, she found that younger professionals, because of the way they grew up, bring a different attitude into the workplace than previous generations have. More so than their older counterparts, younger workers enter their careers expecting to quickly move up the ranks, and they are eager to jump ship if they get a better offer. They also leave the impression that they have a general lack of respect for experience, Clark said.

"It rubs people the wrong way and makes people feel [like] they are entitled," Clark said.

During her research, Clark uncovered several reasons why young employees' attitudes about work are different from those of previous generations. One is that they are digital natives who grew up learning to use computers before ever learning to write.

This digital expertise has many younger workers feeling like they know more than many of their bosses who aren't as technologically savvy, Clark said.

"They bring in a power and that diminishes the authority in some ways of the traditional boss," she said. "That creates a different dynamic than has been the case in the past."

Another reason for their different approach to their work is that they grew up in very turbulent economic times, Clark said. Seeing the massive number of layoffs that came during the economic downturn had a massive impact on how millennials and Generation Z workers view employers, she said.

"The Great Recession devastated this notion of loyalty from employers," Clark said.

The key for younger workers is to find a balance between working on their own personal goals and making their bosses' and co-workers' jobs easier, Clark said.

"There is a way to do that where it is clear that you are adding value and not just claiming value," she said.

Chad  Brooks
Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.