The One Thing Millennials Wish Bosses Would Do Differently

by Anita Bruzzese on May 5, 2015 8:00:00 AM

iStock_000049055040_SmallManagers often are looking for that magic bullet when it comes to engaging millennials, and it may just be that it can be found in having a meaningful conversation about an employee’s strengths, shows a new study.

Specifically, a VIA Institute on Character study finds that:

  • 71% of employees are more likely to feel engaged and energized by their work if they believe their managers can name their strengths

  • 64% of employees report they believe they will be more successful at work by building on their strengths rather than fixing their weaknesses

  • 69% of millennials who use their strengths regularly describe themselves as “flourishing” at work.

Despite such findings, many managers still rely on using employee feedback sessions to discuss weaknesses, but that outdated practice should be scrapped, says Michelle McQuaid, a workplace well-being expert and author of Your Strengths Blueprint.

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These strengths-based conversations, which can take place several times a year or once a week, should focus on some key areas, she says. Among them:

  • Discovery: Ask employees to tell you about the times they felt engaged and energized and enjoyed what they were doing. Offer feedback on where you see them at their best and the strengths you think they're using.
  • Building: By asking the worker about what seems possible in the future if they’re using their strengths, you can better understand the ways they want to put their strengths to work. This helps a manager to try and find the best fit between both the employee and the tasks they’re given. “Offer your thoughts on how they could use their strengths in the coming days, weeks or months to help achieve your team's goals,” she says.
  • Development: Employees should be quizzed about what kind of development opportunities would help them use their strengths, whether it’s on-the-job opportunities, coaching, or training. “Having a strengths-focused conversation doesn't mean you ignore weaknesses and only talk about what's working well,” she explains. “It does mean you try to spend around 80% of your time looking for ways to improve performance by dialing up or dialing down the strengths people have and 20% of your time managing any weaknesses head on.”
  • Clarification: Managers should ask workers "if there was one action they could take to immediately improve their performance, where would they be willing to start?" she suggests. “This helps you gauge their commitment to creating positive changes in their performance. Offer your thoughts on how this action can be best executed and be sure to check in on how they're progressing.”

McQuaid says strengths management is especially appealing to millennials because “they crave meaningful work.”

“A strengths-based management approach helps people to tap their intrinsic motivations — the things they'll do whether they are recognized or paid for them —because our strengths are often aligned to values that we hold,” she says.

Finally, McQuaid says research shows that when millennials in the workplace believe they have an opportunity to do what they do best every day in their jobs, 81% say they believe what they do makes a difference and is appreciated.

 

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This post was written by Anita Bruzzese

Anita Bruzzese is an award-winning journalist specializing in workplace and career issues. She is the author of two career-advice books including “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy.”

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