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The Five C’s of Working with Millennials

Millennials grew up in participatory learning environments — and thrive in collaborative work environments.

Just like any other generation of employees, millennials want to feel intellectually stimulated, inspired, and motivated at work. But with millennials,”it just takes a little bit more,” said Dr. Jesse Calloway, president of Leadership and Motivation Consultants and author of All the Way to the Top: A Practical Guide for Corporate and Business Leadership

Generation X responds best to a simple “transactional” style of leadership, Calloway said. “When I was younger and going through school, it was all about a transactional view. In other words, ‘You do this, you’ll get rewarded. You don’t do this, you’ll get punished — or at least not rewarded.’”

Millennials, on the other hand, respond to a collaboration-based “transformational” style of leadership, which has also been shaped by the kind of education that this generation received growing up. “With millennials, it was more of a group, participatory kind of approach,” he said. “The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 —one of the things that that it did, in addition to having schools focus on standardized test scores, was it required lots and lots and lots of teacher-student engagement and feedback.”

The feedback millennials received as students has followed them into their careers as adults, Calloway said, impacting how they best respond to being motivated in the workplace.

“If I’m a manager, and I want to work with millennials and I want to get the most out of millennials and develop them, improve my organization, then I as a manager must adopt the transformational leadership style. That’s what their teachers and parents have done, they’ve set the stage for it,” Calloway said. In order to implement this style of leadership, Calloway suggested referring to what he calls the Five C’s: conversation, calculation, collaboration, communication, and cognizance.

1. Conversation

The first step involves simply striking up a conversation about how an employee can make improvements on an individual or organizational level. “I know you’re thinking, ‘Well, that seems so simple,'” Calloway said. “But trust me, a lot of people don’t like to have those conversations.”

2. Calculation

After discussing how an employee can improve his or her work, he or she might need help planning how to achieve that goal. “Now it’s time to start to calculate,” said Calloway. “‘How do I approach it?’ And with millennials, it’s really, ‘How do we approach it?'”

3. Collaboration

As professionals, Calloway said, millennials thrive in collaborative settings. “It’s not like you say, ‘Hey mister or missus millennial, go do this’ and that’s it. No. There’s collaboration.” 

4. Communication

Once determining a plan of action, millennials will want to communicate the details of their improvement project to the rest of their department. “They’ll want to have that conversation, that feedback, about what the goals and objectives are.”  

5. Cognizance

Millennials are particularly interested in measuring real-time results of their actions. “That’s the final stage — understanding the progress along the way,” Calloway said. “I think a lot of companies are recognizing this [new leadership style] and are realizing that they need to focus on millennials differently, in a transformational manner, than Gen X-ers.”

Casey Gale