Get ready to throw out everything you think you know about the millennial generation and learn from a millennial with 22 years experience under their belt. Millennials get a bad rap but with the shifting demographics, they will begin to make up a large portion of your working force. How will you learn to adapt and deal with your Millennials at Work?
Before I get started, let’s go back and refresh our memory on some other generations, so we can easily see the differences and how they compare.
Baby Boomers upbringing directly impacted their values and views of the world. Born between the years of 1946-1964, they grew up in political and social turmoil. As such, they highly value security and stability and aren’t afraid to sacrifice for their jobs. They are extremely job-focused, work-centric, and believe success entails sacrifice. They appreciated clearly outlined goals and tasks, and favour traditional forms of training. Baby Boomers are extremely competitive, and believe workers should “pay their dues”. Since they just missed being raised with the internet, their preferred means of communication is face-to-face, or through email.
Generation X includes those born between the years of 1965-1984. They were victims of their parents’ sacrifice, and, consequently, many were latchkey kids. They are self-reliant, self-managing and independent. They value work-life balance and are not necessarily motivated by money. Instead, they want to feel pride in their work and want their work to make a difference. Gen X’ers are adaptable, resourceful and not afraid to change jobs frequently. They are results focused, technically skilled, and more skeptical than their parents.
Millennials have certainly been given a bad rap. We have been branded as lazy, entitled narcissists. Well, believe it or not, I took a break from creeping social media to dispel these false claims and find the truth. For starters, we’re definitely not lazy. According to a recent survey, over 50% of millennial workers forwent their paid vacations last year. Even more, 25% of 18-25 year-olds did not take any time off. Globally, almost 75% of millennials work 40 hours per week and an average of 45 hours per week in the United States. We’re also the most educated generation ever, and I mean ever. We are unwavering go-getters with a “can do” attitude, and serious technological and multi-tasking skills. We have ambition, confidence and extremely high expectations for ourselves. As such, we are not simply motivated by monetary compensation, with over 75% preferring to have a smaller paying career that they’re passionate about than a high-paying career they’re not passionate about. We see work and life as an integrated whole, value work-life balance and want our workplace to share some of our basic values. Millennials prefer flexible work hours, and believe performance should be judged on quality and quantity of work, not by how many hours were spent in the office. In fact, 77% of millennials believe they can be more productive with flexible schedules. Since we grew up with constant communication, we expect the same in the workplace. Constant feedback from employers on work performance should be given.
How Millennials Differ
Now that you’ve had a little bit of a refresher, let’s talk about what makes us so ~special~ (sorry, that was my narcissism speaking). As mentioned, we are the most educated workforce with a self-centered work ethic. We were raised by the internet, and have very different workforce behaviours. We live in the now and expect our work to rely on technology as much as our personal life does. Work and life are seen as an integrated whole, and we need strong work culture and meaningful relationships with our co-workers. Compared with Gen X’ers, were more adaptable and less loyal. Management must drastically change their traditional way of doing things if they wish to capture this new generation of employees.
So, why care? Well, turns out millennials are the largest age group since the Baby Boomers. In North America, we are currently the largest generation in the workforce and are expected to hold 75% of positions globally in less than 15 years. Moreover, experts agree millennials have more potential than any other generation.
Even though you may have to make some changes to accommodate this new generation, the benefits are well worth the costs. With all things being equal, simply decreasing turnover can save your organization big bucks, in the long run, considering employee turnover can cost as much as 150% of said employee’s salary. High turnover rates can also decrease employee engagement. Moreover, according to a recent survey, 51% of businesses stated that the most expensive thing about millennials at work is their training and development— and new hires may take two years until they reach the same level of productivity!
How to Manage the Millennials at Work
Evidently, traditional management methods will not work on millennials at work. But don’t panic, these mythical creatures are not as complicated to manage as you may think. Basically, just keep a couple of things in mind:
1. Be Flexible
Millennials need flexibility. You should be flexible with the hours they work, where they work, and what they work on. We grew up in a time with 24/7 access, so we never really “turn off”. As long as your employees get the work done, it doesn’t really make a difference whether they were working 9-5 or 11-7— or whether they were in the office or at home for that matter. Moreover, almost 75% of millennials at work believe their employers are not leveraging their full skillset. You shouldn’t pigeonhole these employees, they are extremely educated and technologically skilled and should be given room to share their ideas and work on a wide range of tasks.
2. Challenge Them
Millennials want to constantly learn. We thrive in a fast paced environment and crave opportunities for growth. Challenge us, teach us new skills, and let us help out on new projects. I promise we won’t disappoint!
3. Give Constant Feedback
One of the most important things to remember when managing millennials at work is their need for constant feedback. In fact, 41% of millennials desire monthly reviews and may interpret a lack of reviews as a negative sign. The feedback should be clear and specific, don’t be vague. Let them know exactly what they are doing right, what they’re doing wrong and how they can get better.
4. Create Positive Culture
As mentioned, millennials have a very blurred line between work life and personal life. They want to be able to have fun and enjoy their work. This can be as simple as relaxing the dress code or planning more company bonding activities. Additionally, they want to feel like their work is making a difference. Emphasize and explain the vision of your business, and align their work with what’s important to them.
Millennials are definitely not scared of change. In order to keep this highly skilled workforce interested, you shouldn’t be scared either. And you never know, maybe they’ll teach you a thing or two.
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