Managing millennials: key facts to keep in mind

There has been much debate, frustration and many challenges surrounding cross-generational managing in the workplace, especially when it comes to millennials. Millennials have typically been seen as a ‘special breed’ of employees that require a different approach to manage. Labelling and compartmentalising them further adds to the mystery that we have created.

“Any new generation, when viewed by the previous generations, are seen through the perspective of being different,” says Dr Mariam Sha, founder and director of Awakening Excellence. “The truth of the matter is that those previous generations play a major role in contributing to many of the behaviour patterns of the new generation. We raised them through our value system. Each generation is also influenced by the broader environment of the time – media, social norms, new technology and new perspectives that guide their own needs and how to achieve them.”

Millennials at work: what does research really say?

You don’t have to search too far and wide through the internet to find claims being made about millennials, who they are and what makes them tick.

Some claims are negative: they’re lacking in work ethic (Marston, 2009) or overly self-confident and self-absorbed (Pew Research Center, 2007). Some commentators go further, labelling millennials the ‘Look at Me’ generation.

Other claims are positive: they are more accepting of diversity, more comfortable working in teams, better communicators and better with technology (Myers & Sadaghiani 2010).

As organisations look to improve the employee experience to drive wellbeing and productivity, these types of claims will likely influence the process, particularly as the concentration of millennials in the workplace rises.

Job-hopping is likely a marker of age rather than generation

Millennial loyalty is often called out and they are said to be more likely to job hop between positions at different organisations. There is some truth in the idea that millennials are likely to move between jobs.

However, it’s not unique to the millennial generation. In fact, figures on job tenure are the same for people in their 20s now as they were in the 1980s.

In other words, it seems a tendency to move jobs in your 20s reflects age-appropriate behaviour, rather than being linked to the generation you were born in. Job-hopping is most likely a strategic move by younger people designed to advance their careers and earn more money.

Working culture and hours are determined by life stage

Working hours typically correlate with seniority (Deal, 2007). So when people say that millennials work less than previous generations, it may simply be that they are less senior and therefore their roles do not demand such long hours.

In fact, the Family and Work Institute in 2005 found no difference between the hours worked by millennials between the ages of 18 and 22 and Generation X between the same ages.

Work may be less important to millennials, but this is societally driven.

A desire for work-life balance – i.e. how central work is to your life compared with personal domains – is more likely driven by life-stage factors, such as having a young family at home, rather than generational differences, and right now the millennial generation are marrying and having young families.

Millennials are more comfortable with technology, but this is a trend, not a generational quality. People often say millennials have grown up with technology and so are more comfortable using it, and expect good technology to be present inside organisations.

Millennial health is definitely a cause for concern

Deal, Altman & Rogelberg (2010) highlight that if health behaviours do not improve, millennials will be less healthy due to obesity than other cohorts at the same age. This is bad for society as a whole, but also for productivity as the cost of health-related absence is so high.

Of course, with the dominance of the knowledge economy, the cohort following the millennials – Generation Z – will face the same problems.

That’s why it’s important we focus on wellbeing in the workplace to enable better physical and mental health, both for public health and for productivity.

Staff Members

Your staff may be unhappy – here’s why you should care

From office politics, cliques and favouritism to employees being overworked and feeling under appreciated, an unhappy, disengaged workforce is one of the main reasons many businesses will not reach performance targets.

Through my experiences in training and executive coaching, I have often noted with surprise how, time and time again, c-suite executives overlook the very obvious connection between toxic culture and poor business performance. What could have gone wrong, when all the boxes – strategy, innovation, forward-thinking – were all ticked?

There are many factors constantly at play and contributing toward the overall culture of an organisation. Leadership teams have an important role to play in this regard, ensuring there is effective communication and dialogue taking place between employees and management, that there are measures in place to prevent favouritism, bullying, and unhealthy workplace practices. 

The truth is that Peter Drucker’s famous quote, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”, rings truer than ever, reminding us that no matter how well considered your strategy may be, it’s nothing more than a paper exercise without engaged employees who contribute meaningfully to company culture to execute it.

What do we mean when we talk about a ‘holistic’ approach? Find out more over on the blog
On our blog, you will also find a case study in excellence, JET Education Services journey to overcoming the challenges dealt by Covid-19. And, in keeping with our theme of positive organisational cultures for positive bottom line impact, our insights into the importance of creating a coaching culture are an absolute must read for organisations preparing to brave the socio-economic impact of the Covid waves.

I sincerely hope you enjoy our content this month. Reach out and let me know if there’s anything else you’d like us to cover in upcoming newsletters and blog content – or even if you would like to collaborate!

Warm regards, 
Dr Mariam Sha,MD at Awakening Excellence
Author of The Engaged Workforce: 6 practical steps to creating a coaching culture

Business Coaching

Improve business bottom line through coaching at work

“Improve business bottom line through coaching at work.”

One of the fastest growing industries in the world, coaching, is embedding itself as a widespread development tool. It is being used by organisations across the UK and increasingly worldwide. In South Africa, a number of larger organisations encourage and pay for their management teams to receive coaching, whether it is from an internal or external coach. Many leading organisations in South Africa have also empowered and developed managers to become coaches at work. Coaching is being used in numerous areas, both in and outside of the corporate environment, including for personal development, change management, performance management, communications, team development and career development, personal wealth, stress, relationships and, most recently, for work/life balance and lifestyle  change.

Why Coach?

Coaching is unique in that it is based on the belief that every person has all the mental, physical and emotional resources they need to be successful doing whatever they choose to do.

What then, are the impediments to achieving our goals? Often, as individuals we question our journey direction and experience challenges in meeting our life goals as we easily get side tracked. Often we give up because of our own limiting beliefs, irrespective whether these have been acquired through circumstance or self imposed.

A coach can help us to unpack limiting beliefs, embrace supportive beliefs and ensure we are accountable for actions agreed with the coach. Furthermore, a coach assists to unlock any hidden or as-yet-unrealised potential. With the use of effective questioning techniques a coach can help us to clear any limiting beliefs by bringing clarity and purpose to our lives.

What makes coaching appealing?

Coaches do not impose their solutions, opinions or products on the organisation or individual, they: –

• Specialise in and use modern continuous improvement and personal development tools and techniques (e.g. GROW Model, NLP, Inner Game, Self Assessment models, improvement planning)

• Create an ‘outside-in’ viewpoint and awareness, in which solutions and actions are seen very clearly
• Offer a non-directive form of development
• Focus on improving performance and developing an individuals’ skills
• Deploy activities that address organisational and individual goals
• Challenge the ‘normal’ way of doing and thinking about things
• Create an atmosphere of openness, honesty and the desired (but rarely achieved) states of ‘relaxed concentration’ and ‘flow’
• Focus on the specific needs of the person or organisation being coached
• Provide an independent sounding board
• Are able to hold people accountable to actions whilst maintaining rapport
• Do not have to ‘manage’ (e.g. enforce policies, standards and rules)
• Do not carry the baggage of previous relationships or the organisation’s history – in the case of external coaches

The Benefits of Coaching for organisations and individuals

According to a survey by the International Personnel Management Association, training and development has shown that, following training, employee productivity increased by just over 22%, whereas training combined with coaching produces an increase in productivity of 88%.

Many experts and I, in my own experience, have observed marked improvements in the individual’s focus, clarity and purpose, work life balance, confidence in abilities and future, being equipped with tools to effect real change in ones life whenever it becomes necessary, achieving goals they could never reach on their own and being more organised according to ‘first things first’ – after receiving coaching.

Corporate coaching is used in a number of different ways to achieve real value for the organisation and its people, including: –

  • Achievement of performance goals at organisational, team and individual levels
  • Improved effectiveness and efficiency
  • Successful change More effective leadership
  • Improved teamwork and partnerships
  • High impact communication
  • Robust, value-added performance management and continuous improvement systems
  • Maximising the return on investment from formal training

The basic structure of a coaching session is:

  • Looking at where the client is now
  • Setting goals for the session
  • Exploring possible options
  • Agreeing actions to move closer to the goal
  • Summarising what has been agreed
  • Reviewing previous actions

Contact us on to book a coaching session.


Coaching: Fad or Fallacy?

Globalisation of business; flatter, leaner organisations; rapid changes, restructuring and cost-cutting strategies; and the inadequacy of training on its own have been some of the driving forces behind the greater need for coaching.

The demands placed on organisational leadership in the new business environment has expanded greatly; talent, skills and leadership have been lost through downsizing. In the mean-time, those left in charge often do not have the years of experience needed to inform their decision-making.

According to Valerio and Lee (2005), coaching emerged as the preferred “just-in-time” learning to help leverage the areas that would have the greatest impact on results.

There is much confusion as to what coaching really is and how it differs from counselling and mentoring. The general definitions of coaching suggest that a coach works with an individual to unlock their potential with a focus on taking an individual from their current state, to a positive desired future state.

Counselling, from a psychological perspective, addresses historical issues of the past and focuses on understanding and working on how past experiences impact on an individual’s current behaviour.
Mentoring is the transfer of skills from an experienced and skilled individual on a specific subject to another requiring this skill. A coach does not need to be a subject-matter expert to coach an individual.
It is the technique of questioning, listening and motivating as well as being goal-oriented that is key to the coaching relationship.

In South Africa coaching has been introduced in organisations for a number of reasons. Retaining talent, refining leadership style, enhancing and supplementing training, and addressing under-performance are among the many outcomes an organisation anticipates from coaching. And what transpires as coaching is often a combination of teaching, mentoring, counselling and coaching.

In organisations where it has been introduced as an under-performance improvement measure, coaching as a positive tool is often tainted by negative perceptions, where people shy away from the experience. When clear and measurable objectives are not set by coach and coachees for the coaching intervention, imprecise outcomes are formed that call the value of coaching into question. In this way and for this reason, some organisations are reluctant in creating a coaching culture.

However, research confirms that coaching taps into the natural way the brain functions, improving and enhancing individual performance. Because of this, coaching is certainly valuable for underperformers, talented individuals or anyone wanting to change behaviour or achieve a goal. Creating a coaching culture empowers every individual in the organisation to take on a leadership role by applying the coaching methodology in their leadership style.

In addition, the move away from instructions and authoritarian styles of management means that individuals are respected for their contribution through an ingrained belief that they have the answers to their problems. As such, coaching is powerful and effective, because individuals reach their own conclusions, deciding on actions that they willingly commit to. This culture creates a climate that empowers individuals and teams to generate results.

Furthermore, research shows that training supported by coaching is significantly more effective than coaching alone. According to a survey by the International Personnel Management Association, the impact of training on productivity is 22.4%, whereas, training plus coaching achieves a dramatic 88% increase in productivity. Hence, coaching in the workplace has a positive impact on the bottom line.

The International Coaching Federation (2009) reported that executives who were coached for a minimum of six months experienced a 77% improvement in their working relationships with direct reports; 71% with supervisors; and 63% with peers. Additionally, job satisfaction rose by 61% and organizational commitment went up 44%.

Coaching is not a fad, nor the latest trend in management, neither is it seen as a ‘feel-good’ exercise unrelated to business objectives. Coaching is increasingly recognised as a methodology for creating effective conversations, assessing and reformulating values and goals, and reaching solutions (Zeus and Skiffington, 2002).


Why a coaching culture is key to employee engagement

When we think of the most important qualities every manager should possess, the first to come to mind might be innovativeempathetic or motivating.

Google, on the other hand – known for its people-centric approach to creating a successful organisation – identified 10 behaviours that all its best managers share. The most important of all at the top of this list was ‘being a good coach’.

A coaching culture is certainly not a new concept, but one that is increasingly being adopted in businesses across the globe that have recognised the value of coaching and its impact on business, employee well-being and engagement, and management effectiveness. And, with employee turnover rates being higher than ever before, having a manager who is equipped to coach, engage and motivate their people is one of the best ways to retain talent.

How does an executive, manager, supervisor, or team leader who is equipped with the skills to coach individuals, help keep employees engaged at work?

  1. Using coaching skills, managers are better equipped to listen, understand and empathise with team members’ experiences. These insights help to create a more accepting and pleasant workplace atmosphere.
  2. As senior internal members of staff are empowered with coaching skills, they serve as examples to the rest of a workforce that the company values continuous growth and development.
  3. As managers or leaders coach others (peer coaching), creating thinking partnerships, demonstrates to employees the solution focused approach of leaders and the organisation.
  4. Coaching empowers employees to take ownership and responsibility for their work, isn’t this what most employers grapple with?
  5. Coaching encourages diversity of thinking, bringing in new perspectives to an issue or challenge, creating an innovative work environment, much needed in this digital age we are in.
  6. In our ‘Coaching for High Performance’ training in particular, managers are trained to measure the impact of coaching interventions undertaken with their own coachees and teams. This includes financial, non-financial, tangible and intangible impact. In this way, the ‘coach’ is able to glean how well individuals are responding to coaching and make changes where necessary.

Building coaching into the fabric of a business by imparting coaching skills to managers and, by ripple effect, across all employees, is a great way to foster a coaching culture, build a strong pool of leaders ready to tackle any challenge, and enable an engaged, present workforce.

Remember that there is no one size fits all approach to coaching, and it may not be a question of choosing either internal or external coaching as a way forward for your business, but perhaps both. Speak to us about our Coaching for High Performance training and one-on-one as well as group coaching interventions to find out how your business can prosper from building coaching culture in 2022.