Set the expectations millennial employees crave

Posted on May 23, 2017 in Dairy Performance
By Bob Hagenow
The workforce is currently made of three different generations:

  • Baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964)
  • Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000)
  • Generation X (those born between these two generations)

Each of these generations approaches work and is motivated differently based on the life experiences that shaped them.

For example, baby boomers are typically driven by financial reward, take on work for an identity and as a means to get ahead, and are highly competitive with one another.  Comparatively, millennials are not as driven by financial reward and advancement, tend not to look at work for identity or purpose, and want to be a part of a high-functioning team.

Why is this important? 

In the next 15 years, we will see a drastic shift in the generational makeup of the work place with the baby boomers retiring and millennials dominating the workforce.  As the preferences show above, it is clear a baby boomer supervisor will have to pursue a different approach to set standards and expectations for a millennial workforce.

Consider the following tips as you work to effectively manage millennial employees.  (The examples provided relate to milking parlor employees, but the concepts can be applied to other jobs on the farm.)

  • Set and define the individual objectives that need to be completed within a certain time frame.  (Example: Milking training will be completed within two weeks.)
  • Define what behaviors and actions are not acceptable to meet objectives.  (Example: Mobile devices are allowed to seek additional information, but not for social purposes during work hours.)
  • Spend time explaining the “why” of your organization and the mission you are trying to accomplish.  (Example: Quality milk is vital to our success.  Therefore, we want you to be properly trained in milking cows to ensure good teat end health and low plate counts.)
  • Define what success looks like and how it will advance the team and overall purpose.  (Example: Success is a monthly somatic cell count average below 150,000 for the herd and 90 percent of teat ends in healthy status.  Individual success is measured by cows milked per hour by milking shift.)
  • Clearly understand the training and resources needed to complete the objectives, and hold yourself accountable for providing that environment for the employee.  (Example: Training consultation with the herd veterinarian is encouraged along with the herd manager and fellow milkers.)
  • Determine how often check-ins and feedback are desired.  (Example: The supervisor will check in daily with formal discussions at the end of the week.  Questions are encouraged throughout the process.)
  • Assemble the team and identify team resources and mentors.  (Example: The herd manager and other milking team members will be part of the functioning team, while the veterinarian and lead milker will be key resources and available as mentors.)
  • Learn how and when they will ask for assistance and determine the role you will play in their success as a supervisor.  (Example: The supervisor will coordinate any resources and scheduling.  Questions or comments can be asked in person, text, or email.)

This is not an exhaustive list of items to consider, but it should be clear that a different approach is needed to motivate and set expectations for millennials compared to other generations.

Millennials have already contributed significantly to the workforce and will continue to have an impact.  They want to be engaged in their work and lives and find their “calling.”  Once they do, their motivation can lead to success for their team and organization as a whole.  It is our job as supervisors to create this environment to allow them to accomplish their objectives and the team’s goals.

This article was originally written for the April 1, 2017 issue of Progressive DairymanClick here to read the full article.

About the author:  Bob Hagenow is a sales manager with Vita Plus and has been an employee owner for more than 25 years.  He grew up in eastern Wisconsin on a registered Holstein dairy farm and actively participated in 4-H and FFA.  He attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and earned his bachelor’s degree in dairy science in 1985.  In addition to his nutrition and farm consultation responsibilities, Hagenow is involved in training and recruiting at Vita Plus.  He is actively involved in numerous organizations and is well networked throughout the dairy industry.

Category: Business and economics
Dairy Performance
Employee management