There is so much attention right now on the Millennial generation, with good reason. I have been taking the opportunity to research and read what I can on this highly questioned group and have some thoughts on their impact on our teams as it pertains to who they are, what their needs are and how they go about their day to day lives and how we as coaches, universities and professional organizations need to handle their needs so we can all achieve success together.
Here are 11 developmental ideas for your program or organization.
1. The need for Mobile, Open opportunities for development.
Millennials are an uberconnected generation. Everything is in the palm of their hands now. 24/7 access to anything in the world. They are used to a non-stagnant work, study, training and life environment… working from home, school, an apartment, placing less emphasis on their physical presence in a workspace and freedom of choice is a must. This is also a huge distraction by itself on getting them to focus on getting in the gym. We as coaches and athletic administrators have to maneuver through this carefully and get them to the training facility, academic support center and team sessions at varying times. 24/7 access to academic and training facilities gives them the control and freedom they crave. Safety, monitor systems, budgets are all a factor and a concern. We must devise time tracking and security features to become totally ease of access for us to ensure production, development and safety.
2. More Transparent Communication
Because the Millennials are “always on” and constantly sharing their activities and interests with the world. This makes them value transparency highly. Everything to them is right there, instant and real. Look for them to make big changes in how they handle communications with teammates, coaches, university staffs, the community and your fans. Listen to them, engage and involve them in the process.
3. Importance of Trust
A very important by product of the transparency of the Millennials is there’s more of a focus on trust and the integrity of their surroundings. They want to do good and provide something great and they are going to expect that of you, your staff, their teammates and the organization. This is a tremendous opportunity to build great leaders and to teach them how to Do It Themselves. There will be less of a focus on competition or achievement and more focus on being around the right person or people. We have to be able to bread both environments into a strong team.
Millennials are the FUN generation! Everything they gravitate to, they choose their activities each day based on things they love to do and the elements around them that are fun. As they interact with society, specifically each other and us, they will bring a vibrant perspective and perception of this environment to the world around them instantly by their use of social media. Involve them and their social media platforms in all you do.
5. Interactive Involvement
Coaches and programs that don’t test the beliefs and assumptions on how Millennial student-athletes, coaches and universities all work together are going to struggle in the years to come. Millennials will expect to be more included in things happening around them within the program. A perfect opportunity to instill ownership in the program and teach the responsibility of acceptable “Standards of Behavior,” A different type of SOB. This may be hard for some coaches to grasp and embrace, but the programs that do – will quickly develop the reputation needed to attract the best of the best. Completely involving al team members in the decision making process must become commonplace as coaches rely more and more on the group mindset and building common standards amongst the group to help develop their thinking on an on-going basis. Directly develop their ability to learn to police themselves, to learn proper communication with each other in times of conflict, duress, strife and stress.
6. More Remote Work
How do we manage academic achievement and the old school model of “study hall” and the Millennials need for a remote, 24/7 work environment? That is going to become the greatest question to solve in athletic academic support. The tablet and iPad and it’s evolution on the academic and work worlds has completely changed how educators teach and students learn. We, as coaches, must stay on the forefront of technology use in secure video transfer, 1-on-1 interactive on-line video sessions with coaching members and all of the academic support areas that can be utilized remotely. We have beautiful, state of the art academic centers, but those are more meeting and collaboration spaces than places where student-athletes want to come every day to work. I think this is the future of athletic academic support, where how many hours of study hall and where you do them aren’t as important as what work you do and the learning that occurs.
7. A Leadership-Based Culture
When we recruit highly talented Millennial student-athletes, we outline and establish our culture of ownership and leadership at all levels. How we present to them, the technology and visuals we use to engage them in the home visit, on the campus visit and through mail, email and social media campaigns is critical. Millennials love to this challenge: they are highly driven, risk takers that are focused on becoming the ultra-talented leaders of tomorrow. They can’t be board to tears with us in the process of showing them why our organization is the best. I believe more and more universities are actively embracing a culture of student-athlete ownership and leadership, allowing for a more driven working and challenging environment.
8. Autonomy is Growing
The need for more flexibility and more autonomy within their collegiate experience is vital to the Millennials. Flexible, self-directed academic programs and majors, on-line course work and socially interactive community based learning are all on the rise. Universities must be comfortable having their student-athletes work remotely as these student-athletes want to be able to engage the community and society around them and set their own schedules. Combining this with the responsibility and accountability of their production is key for a balance of the needs and successes of the program and fits the characteristics of the Millennials. To attract the most talent rich student-athletes, universities must have their ways of operating evolve and grow along with their policies.
9. Evaluation Focused on Impact… Not just Criticism
Millennials have unfortunately developed a reputation for acting entitled. Spoiled. I don’t agree. I see them as a group driven by purpose. This generation is simultaneously creating AND making new judgments in a world where instantaneous access and the technology to have it can improve life. The screaming coach in the two-button polyester shorts and whistle days are long gone. When engaged and challenged, Millennials feel a great sense of purpose and responsibility to move our society and our teams forward. As leaders, they will inspire and permeate our team and the community around us with a feeling and quality that desires progress within the team culture they create. Focus our evaluation on their development, not critical statements and screaming and move on quickly. It is not that the Millennials don’t want to be evaluated and criticized, it is the nature of the evaluation. It is too easy for them to access the world. They must be engaged in the evaluation, challenged without demeaning and have their creativity captured and driven towards their own development.
10. Less Face-to-Face Communication – Problem or Priority?
Millennials are becoming more reliant on social media as their main form of communication. This is both dangerous and exciting. Balancing the negative of creating a team and society of leaders who have engaged in less and less face-to-face communication and suffer from lessening “people skills,” while having the access and instant knowledge base of social media world is very tricky. Baby Boomers grew up with in-person meetings, snail mail and phone calls, but this generation is relying more on technology, whether it’s Twitter, Instagram, Skype, Gchat, SnapChat, etc. the problem is developing that we’re losing the personal touch and the ability to communicate face-to-face. Both within the classroom and the athletic realm we can’t lose touch with personal interactions between student-athletes, coaches, professors and administrators. It presents too many potential problems and things can too easily be misinterpreted. Millennials want to be engaged and involved with their teammates and coaches in a “real” way. Team dinners at the head coaches home are great, but they are tired and predictable interactions. Get outside the box, get into new surroundings and get your entire program involved together, interacting in ways you and no other program has done before.
11. Authenticity the KEY to Reaching the Millennials
Authenticity is vitally important to Millennials. If you are a phony… they will know and you will lose them. It’s just that simple. Millennials are becoming your leaders. You have to teach them how to lead and how to be a leader. It cannot only be acceptable to engage and train 2 or 3 student-athletes to be leaders, your captains. Teach everyone to Do It Themselves. It’s increasingly important to cultivate a program and department culture completely compatible with the needs and values of the people around you. With the growing emphasis by Millennials on truthfulness of origins, commitments, sincerity and intentions, university athletic departments who do not have strong credibility and real relevancy to their student-athletes will suffer in their to attract the most talent-rich Millennial student-athletes.