Constant feedback is key to managing younger employees

As CIOs, how should we connect with our youngest team members?

My generation—the Baby Boomers—really like being liked as bosses. That is important to us. But that mentality is not helping our Gen Y employees. For CIOs to lead younger people and bring them into line, everything turns to managing expectations.

A winning tactic I’ve found useful is to constantly state flat out that if they do these certain things, they are going to be successful. Then when they do those things, you must give them immediate feedback and, if you can, reward and salute them then and there.

Feedback isn’t an annual review.

The immediacy of the feedback is the key. What doesn’t work well is having the view that you come in and work hard every day, and knowing that you’ve done hard work should be a sufficient reward. The younger generations need to be told that they’ve done well. The quiet hero is not part of their world view. Quiet is translated as passive or uncaring.

Likewise, the old model of one performance review a year is not going to get the response you want. Constant feedback will. That feedback has got to be thoughtful, and it’s important to explain the “why” of things. If done well, this can even serve as formal mentoring.

There is something to the idea that this generation has a sense of entitlement, but that can be a good thing as long as it comes with a sense of responsibility.

Why get up in the morning?

The question for us is whether the discipline of coming into the office for specific hours is a necessary artifact of the workplace or some hangover from the factory model. We were taught to come in, wear this kind of uniform, do this kind of work.

Maybe that’s the wrong model now, and maybe Gen Y is an agent of that change. It’s something for each CIO to weigh; we must strike a balance that fits our organizations.

Discipline aside, instilling responsibility is part of a CIO’s job as the leader. Give them projects with goals, even if it’s maintenance work framed as a project. At Purdue, I also reinforce that after protecting borders and saving lives, ours is the third most important job in this country—educating people.

On a wet Tuesday, that’s a worthy job to get up to. Every CIO should identify that driver for their own organization and communicate it to raise their employees’ sense of purpose and pride in what they do.

McCartney is CIO and VP of IT at Purdue University and a Council member. E-mail topics or questions for mentors to [email protected].


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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