Use the Kolbe Index to Find the Best Work Styles for Your Millennial Employees


You may think your millennial employees require a unique leadership style, but the truth is, all employees want to be treated like individuals. Image source: Unsplash

You may think your millennial employees require a unique leadership style, but the truth is, all employees want to be treated like individuals.
Image source: Unsplash

Millennials make up a big portion of our workforce. The most recent Pew Research survey states that they make up the largest portion of our workforce. This new breed of worker has created a new breed of leader, and many of these leaders are changing up their styles in order to work with Millennials and give them the leadership they need. Despite all that, about 60% of Millennials will leave a new job within three years. So why isn’t this new leadership working?

Part of the problem is that much of the focus on Millennials has been on what they want instead of what they need to succeed. Creating a positive work environment for a generation that has had a fundamentally different upbringing than any prior generation means more than having a loose dress code and paying for hot yoga. It means a better understanding of how they work, what suits them best, and how to get the most out of their efforts. Millennials are often talked about as a monolithic group, but while it might seem like a paradox, the best way to understand this generation is to learn about them as individuals. Profiles like the Kolbe Index help you learn what works best for each individual and can help ensure that you aren’t just urging everyone to row in the same direction. Instead, you’re giving each of them the right oar for the job.

Generations: Similar Wants, Different Methods

Millennials want satisfaction out of their jobs and lives, stability, and the ability to look back at a career and life full of challenges and successes. This was confirmed by a recent IBM report showing that millennials, Gen-Xers, and baby boomers have the exact same top ten goals when it comes to their careers:

  • Make a positive impact on their organization
  • Help solve social and/or environmental challenges
  • Work with a diverse group of people
  • Work for an organization among the best in their industry
  • Do work they’re passionate about
  • Become an expert in their field
  • Manage their work/life balance
  • Become a senior leader
  • Achieve financial security
  • Start their own business

So if their goals are the same, then what’s the difference between the generations? The main difference comes from expectations about how work should be done. Previously, the common belief was that everyone could achieve success by working in more or less the same way. There were set hours, there were set processes, and there were best practices. However, for a generation whose formative years coincided with the rise of the internet, and especially social media, that kind of funnelling is no longer appealing. By and large, this is a generation that is extremely self-analytical. Millennials are aware of their individual potential and tend to know what works best for them.

That’s why smart businesses are less interested in personality tests than they used to be. Want to know someone? Just ask them, or better yet, look at Facebook. Businesses have been turning toward other types of assessments for help. This can help companies determine how a person will work best, so they can tailor the job around those strengths and skills. These tests take a person’s innate strengths into account, making them ideal for Millennials. One of the most prominent of these instruments is the Kolbe A Index.

Focus on the Individual with Conative Profiles

Unlike personality tests, the Kolbe doesn’t measure your cognitive abilities by asking you to think through a problem, nor does it categorize your personality. Instead, it determines an individual’s “M.O.”— their Mode of Operation. This is how a person will behave on an instinctual level, using what is called the “conative faculty” of the mind. The Kolbe Index is meant to show how people will behave in certain situations, how they operate, how they react to events, and how they learn most effectively. This is unique because it doesn’t push an employee to guess what their boss wants to hear on an ethics test, nor does it rely on generational generalizations, but takes into account the individual and how they work best.

There are four main aspects to the Kolbe Index which are known as action modes. These help leaders determine not just what kind of employee a prospect will be, but also how best to help them achieve maximum satisfaction while moving a business forward.

  • Fact Finder: How you gather and share information

This is your propensity to seek out information before acting, or before making a decision. Are you more likely to read a recipe, watch a video, and witness a demonstration before cooking a new dish?  Do you only need some information before starting to cook (it’s chicken and it will be sautéed)?  Or are you more likely to see a picture and wing it from there?

  • Follow Thru: The way you arrange and design

Are you a systems creator, or a person who bypasses the system to get the task done? Those who score high here are able to document processes and develop repeatable systems; they won’t put a puzzle together until they are sure all the pieces are present. Those who score low here adapt to find ways to accomplish the tasks through multitasking or other shortcuts.

  • Quick Start: How you deal with risk and uncertainty

This describes your propensity to do stuff without knowing the outcome. Typically, a high QuickStart person will be heard saying stuff like, “I don’t know, let’s just try something!” They are an experimenter. Those who score low here will want to stick with tried and true plans, avoiding risk taking. Those scoring in the middle of the road will check things out before trying them.

  • Implementor: How you handle space and intangibles

This measures how we work with physical space. For example, do we work with our hands to create something physical? Those who score low here can visualize things and they can understand how physical objects work together. Those who score high here can create physical solutions to problems. Most mechanical people tend to be high scorers in Implementor.

All of these are measured on a scale of 1-9, and each one can help you understand how best to work with your employees. Say you have a new method of sales that you want to try out. One of your Millennial employees has a score of 2 in Quick Start, and the other is a 9. Give the new method to the 9, as she’s more likely to jump in and try it out. The 2 might nibble at the corner of it and resist the new method until it’s proven because this employee wants to minimize risk and uncertainty. Both are great in certain situations. This is all about knowing who to put in what situation.

It is important to know how to get Millennial employees to succeed, and setting them up for success is a huge part of that. They have expectations of job-hopping, so if they feel like their particular talents and styles are not being utilized, there is no institutional loyalty to stay. Understanding how your employees work as individuals allows you to better understand how to lead them. Regardless of their age group, all employees want to feel like individuals. This makes conative assessments more important than ever.

Ending Generational Blindness

Adjusting your leadership style for a generation doesn’t have to mean wholesale changes in direction, just slight changes in perception. It’s all about understanding who makes up your workforce. The generations have a lot more in common than people might assume in terms of goals. The difference is not ends, but means, and learning that everyone has their own path is how you make sure that everyone is running in the same direction. That’s the way to create an effective team and workforce.

An important part of leadership is understanding your own personality and your approach to problem solving. At our Key Leader Development Summit, we will cover your Kolbe Index and how you can use what you know about yourself to lead your employees. Contact us today to learn more.



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