In my previous post I mentioned that a university education isn't right for everyone and the new Project Management Apprentice scheme now enables young people to embark on the first steps of a career in project management straight after A Levels. But what might that mean for the makeup of project teams in the near future and the generation gap between new and more established project team members?
It is likely that teams will be comprised of the "old guard" who took the traditional route into project management via a degree, then working in their chosen industry before moving into projects; and Generation Z who will be significantly younger, typically born after 1995.
One advantage of a very young team is the energy and enthusiasm they can bring to a project – always a bonus when you have a tight deadline to meet. But there will also be challenges so just how can you best manage a youthful team, who have widely used the internet from a young age and are comfortable interacting on social media, to maximize their skills and capabilities to the project's advantage?
Terminology and tools
First of all ensure you are all talking the same language; terminology used by those born before 1995 can be markedly different to those born after so it is worth establishing common terms upfront so everyone knows what everyone means by certain phrases.
Generation Z are the "app for everything generation" so there may be some compromises on both sides: older team members may come to learn the value of apps that can help everyone stay informed but younger team members may come to learn the value of a long-term, considered approach – of course, depending on the type of projects being completed.
Working practices and values
Many younger people will be used to instant communication and response tools and not appreciate the value of a detailed response to a request. They may not even appreciate the importance of detailed research and information gathering prior to making decisions. If this is the case, and the project warrants it, then clear guidelines should be set out especially for young team members who may be at a very early stage in their training.
And that means setting out expectations at every point of communication, whether that's an email, phone call or meeting, every time. They should also understand that not every answer can be found via an internet search but may require discussion and brainstorming. Brainstorming is the ideal opportunity to uncover innovative ideas from younger team members that could benefit your project and your organisation.
On every project there will be tasks that less experienced team members can take full responsibility for and this is a chance for project leaders to discover what each team member is capable of when given the opportunity. That doesn't mean you won't monitor and help when necessary but it does mean not micro-managing the less experienced members. After all they may discover the best solution to a problem if left to solve it by themselves.
If you want young people to continue to be enthusiastic about a project – even during the hard times - then you do need to acknowledge their input and reward it in the same way you should motivate any team member. A public thank-you (or a private one, as appropriate), a coffee or a beer after work all go a long way to motivate and enthuse all team members.
If you nurture and encourage the energy and enthusiasm younger team members possess, those qualities can reinvigorate your projects.