As I speak with different Chamber leaders managing Young Professional (YP) programs, or thinking about starting one, the conversation eventually leads to the social aspect of the group. Unfortunately, some YP organizations obtain bad raps because of the stereotypes of YPs. It is not uncommon to hear, “all they do is want a coordinated happy hour” or, “their drinking is too liable for our chamber to take on,” yada, yada, yada.
The truth is these YPs are thirsting….but more than likely for knowledge and not the after hour cocktail that they are constantly branded with. Mentoring YPs is something your Chamber or YP organization should focus on. If you visit generational studies, you know that young professionals filter through excessive amounts of information at a fast pace. They seek guidance, information and direct feedback. YPs are not scared or intimidated by titles and hierarchy – they want to sit at the table. They want to be heard, and they want it now. Diversity is not something they need to be taught as the world is truly flat for them. If you don’t believe me, check out where their friends are from on Facebook.
So here is where mentoring comes in: While formality seems to be wasting away, it is still a useful skill that should be widely revisited. Maybe we can get Justin Timberlake to write a song about bringing it back… but I digress. YPs have amazing skills, but lack some of the business etiquette needed to represent your company.
You can aid in the education of formality in a variety of ways. You can also do yourself a favor and understand that today is today and not yesterday. Just because you walked up a hill (in the snow no less) to school every day doesn’t mean everyone younger then you needs to climb the snow-covered hill, too. Accepting and embracing change can, and should, be the first step. With that said, figure out what your business isn’t willing to let go of, change or compromise on. If certain values, skills or traits are important to your company or business than you should communicate that… but how?
One thing you can do is set up a mentoring program in-house. When the boomers retire, knowledge gaps will exist in most businesses. Here is your opportunity to close that gap. Assign key people in management the task of mentoring. Identify emerging leaders in your company, and pair them appropriately. Create a program where you’re being proactive in the transfer of knowledge. One thing that may surprise you is that this will benefit all who are involved. The teacher becomes the student.
Another way you can implement formality training is to conduct courses. Plenty of consultants and professionals have the ability to train your workforce. A generation brought up by video games, the Internet and TV simply may have never been exposed to concepts that are second nature to you. Invest in the training; the reward will outweigh the initial investment.
Finally, have open communication. I am always amused by how people have “issues” with other generations, and when I ask the simple question, “did you have this conversation with them?” the answer is, “no.” Don’t make it about the person, make it about the behavior. Don’t assume people know the behavior you expect of them. Be clear, concise and direct; most importantly, ask for them to repeat or explain what they just heard to ensure there isn’t miscommunication. It’s not personal, it’s business.
Your local Young Professionals Organization probably has programs in place to address some of these common workplace issues. Look into it and support your employee’s involvement in them. Your employee’s development is essential to the success of your future.