How to Have Millennials Show Up to Work on Time

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Ryan Jenkins

By: Ryan Jenkins
Next Generation Speaker / Inc.com Columnist

How often are workers late to work? Is the 9-to-5 schedule obsolete? Are employers becoming more lenient with worker tardiness?

CareerBuilder recently explored this topic with a Jan 2017 nationwide survey of more than 2,600 hiring and human resource managers and more than 3,400 workers across industries. Here are the findings…

  • Twenty-nine percent of workers admitted they were late to work at least once a month. (Up from 25 percent last year.)
  • Sixty-four percent of employers and employees believe the concept of “working 9 to 5” is an antiquated practice, but 53 percent of employers expect employees to be on time every day.
  • Forty-one percent of employers have fired someone for being late.
  • Twenty-nine percent say they have no problem with the occasional late arrival, as long as it doesn’t become a pattern. (Down from 33 percent last year.)
  • Sixty-nine percent of workers who arrive late will stay later to make up for it. (Up from 62 percent last year.)
  • Top reasons for being late to work: Traffic (49 percent), oversleeping (32 percent), bad weather (26 percent), too tired to get out of bed (25 percent), and procrastination (17 percent).

Even though these trends point to a greater employer lenience for tardiness, arriving at work or meetings on time remains a pertinent challenge that I hear frequently from my audiences of folks who manage Millennials.

Millennials have a 24/7 always-on approach to work so coming in late at 9:45am isn’t a big deal since they were sending emails since they woke up at 7:00am and plan to work until 11:00pm. And other times, Millennials are simply unaware that their tardiness is having an effect on those around them.

Whatever the case may be, these six steps should help managers:

1. Believe the Best

Leadership expert, Andy Stanley, says, “Occasionally, there are gaps between what we expect people to do and what they actually do. As leaders, we choose what to put in this gap. And what you as a leader choose to put in that gap will shape your culture. And what you put into that gap, will also be what your staff puts in that gap. You will either assume the worst or believe the best.”

“Developing a culture of trust is critical to the health of your organization. Trust fuels productivity. The message of trust is this…I think you are smart enough to know what to do, and you make a mistake, you will tell me then fix it,” says Stanley.

Stanley makes a compelling case to insert trust into the gap when you see your Millennial employee show up late. Choosing to insert your own assumption (for example: all Millennials are lazy) could cause you to overreact or lash-out and ultimately erode trust.

If the tardiness becomes a chronic issue, continue with the below steps.

2. Address Quickly

“If you want to build a culture of trust, you must confront fairly and quickly and refuse to sit on it. Before I assume the worst, I should at least ask for the facts. The consequences of concealment are far greater than the consequences of confrontation,” says Stanley.

Waiting so long that you react in anger towards the tardy employee is unacceptable and unprofessional. Or waiting too long and beginning to document their every move, you run the risk of making the employee feel like they are “being watched.”

After a few offenses, approach the employee directly. Schedule a one on one, coffee run, or lunch where there is ample time for both the employee and the leader to discuss the issue. They might not have a valid excuse or reason for their behavior, but they will appreciate you believing the best.

Don’t let your fear of being the “micro-manager” or “bad manager” get in the way of being the manager they need.

3. Diagnose the Cause

While in conversation with the late-arriver, take the posture of a coach trying to help the Millennial employee (like a doctor trying to diagnose the problem) and ask probing questions like…

  • Are you late for some things or everything?
  • Is there a certain day or time when you’re late?
  • How do you feel when you are late?
  • Does the amount of time you are late vary? (It’s likely there is a psychological hurdle if the amount of time is always the same and a mechanical problem if the amount of time varies day to day.)
  • What causes you to be late? According to Diana DeLonzor, author of Never Be Late Again: 7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged, there are seven categories for late people:
    • The Evader: Struggle leaving the existing task until it’s perfect or 100 percent completed.
    • The Indulger: Lacking in self-control.
    • The Rationalizer: Won’t admit the problem and blame external factors.
    • The Rebel: Actually enjoy the idea of knowing that other people are waiting for them.
    • The Absent Minded Professor: Prone to innocent flakiness or the condition of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and get easily distracted on their way. They often lose track of time, misplace car keys, and forget appointments.
    • The Producers: Over-achievers who simply over-schedule their days and underestimate the amount of time their tasks will take.
    • The Deadliner: Subconsciously enjoy the thrill of the last minute rush. Rushing relieves boredom.

These are not excuses. Knowing the tardiness tendencies is the first step in getting lateness under control.

Both parties have responsibilities: Managers should take an active role in helping Millennials diagnose the cause and Millennials must be open and willing to discover the causes or tendencies that cause them to be late.

Alternate Step: Offer a Flexible Schedule

Why fight biology, hardened habits, or extenuating circumstances (family obligations, medical issues, etc.) when a re-engineered or custom schedule would allow the employee to be more productive and relieve you of some heartburn. Steps 1-3 may reveal that a flexible schedule would work best for the individual and team.

If you go this route, be prepared to explore other options for other employees, but you might be due for a 9-to-5 shake-up anyways. (Read this for how to manage a Millennial remote team.)

4. Communicate the Consequences

Don’t assume Millennials realize how their tardiness impacts others. Help them to see it clearly.

Quantify it. When you’re 10 minutes late to a meeting with 10 of your teammates, that is 10 minutes times 10, which is 100 minutes of unproductive time.

Help the Millennial to see the ramifications/consequences their tardiness has on other people. For example, because you were 15 minutes late, James had to fill in for you and the client ended up having to wait. Or not having you available online at 8:00am results in customer requests that sit for more than one hour.

Or consider putting it into context Millennials might understand: imagine having an issue with your Netflix account, submitting a trouble ticket and waiting an hour for someone to contact you. Would you tolerate that timeline?

Also communicate some of the intangible consequences of being late: diminished trust, colleague resentment, and looking less responsible as a professional.

5. Discipline

Every employee but especially the early-career Millennials will have varied learning curves when it comes to correcting their tardiness. Some will only need a subtle reminder while others will need disciplinary action.

Disciplinary action could include:

  • Requiring they make up the time.
  • Docking their pay.
  • Decreasing their bonus.

Enforcing steeper disciplinary action may be warranted if their behavior has negatively impacted the bottomline, the company culture, or a client relationship. (Read this for how to terminate a Millennial.)

6. Acknowledge Improvement

If the Millennial employee’s behavior improves, make it a priority to acknowledge it. (Read this for how to deliver recognition to Millennials.)

(This is 1 of the 47 strategies Ryan shares in his new book, The Millennial Manual: The Complete How-To Guide to Manage, Develop, and Engage Millennials at Work.)

This article was originally posted on Ryan’s Inc.com column, Next Generation Insights.

Reprinted with permission.

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