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"We need to look around our environment and say, 'Is our environment encouraging the best talent possible? Are we choosing the right generational mix of people?'" Meagan Johnson says about the responsibilities managers have today.
Johnson and her father, Larry, are multigenerational workforce experts who recently spoke with me about their new book, Generations, Inc.: From Boomers to Linksters -- Managing the Friction Between Generations at Work, and the challenge of managing multigenerational workforces. One of the unique challenges managers face today, they told me, is learning to work with and manage a new generation of workers they refer to as "Linksters."
Who are Linksters? A Cheat Sheet
- Also known as "The Facebook Generation," this group of 15- to 19-year-olds live and breathe technology
- They still live at home and, unlike previous generations, are typically best friends with their parents
- They are more tolerant of alternative lifestyles than their predecessors
- They're very much involved in green causes and social activism
10 Tips for Managing Linksters
- Ride herd on them. They have short attention spans and lose interest if the work is boring. If there's a way to incentivize task accomplishment, do it.
- Provide them with job descriptions. Linksters need clear direction about what you expect. This includes basics, such as when you expect them to arrive, number of hours, and duties of the job. They are used to being told what to do, in detail and explicitly.
- Treat them like valued coworkers. Linksters are used to a steady diet of connection and communication from family friends. If you have a company party, be sure to invite them. Same with meetings, where appropriate.
- Lead by example. Linksters are still trying to figure out how to act and behave. They will look to older coworkers and managers to shape their workplace identity and demeanor.
- Orient them to the obvious. Be specific about expectations that may seem obvious. For example, teenagers are used to having their parents cover for them. Make sure they know the consequences of showing up late, taking lunch breaks that are too long, or texting on the job.
- Welcome them with open arms. Let your people know them Linksters are joining your team and ask everyone to welcome them. Pair Linksters with buddies -- good role models with good work ethics. Call Linksters the night before their first day. Remind them of dress code, arrival time, items to bring, traffic, snacks and water, where to park, whom to contact once they arrive, and quitting time.
- Know what songs are on their iPods. Young people have a language that's distinctly their own. Make an effort to get to know their culture.
- Create microcareer paths. If you have a young person manning the cash register, give her other tasks that help her understand different aspects of the business from time to time. This keeps her challenged, engaged, and feeling valued -- and sets her up for more responsibility.
- Reexamine your uniform policy. Part of being young is having a heightened interest in how you look. Are you asking your Linksters to wear embarrassing uniforms? Are they comfortable? Are they outdated? Try to remember what being a teen felt like.
- Thank their parents. Linksters are young and may still live at home with parents. Invite their parents for a visit, call and express appreciation for raising a great kid, and thank them for helping to get your young employee to work on time, well rested and prepared.