A lot of people have a lot to say about Millennials, especially as this generation begins to distinguish itself as the largest segment of the workforce.
If you’re like me, you likely once harbored the mistaken belief that Millennials, despite their size, could expect to be conformed by the workplace like everyone else. In other words, they’d learn to suck up the bureaucracy, the hierarchy, the authoritarianism, and so forth, just like the rest of us.
Well, maybe not.
Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace has this to say on the topic (bold mine):
“Most workers, many of whom are millennials, approach a role and a company with a highly defined set of expectations. They want their work to have meaning and purpose. They want to use their talents and strengths to do what they do best every day. They want to learn and develop. They want their job to fit their life.”
So here’s my question – is your company Millennial ready?
Working to Live and Not the Other Way Around (With a Twist)
The Great Recession of 2008 put a hurting on many workers, including millions of Millennials who were entering the workforce at just the wrong time. Armed with their liberal arts degrees and their idealism, they found themselves smack dab in a highly competitive market where professional, good paying jobs with benefits were few and far between. They became salespeople. They became nannies, mannies, baristas, and bartenders. They moved back home with their parents.
Eventually the market got better, and Millennials did better. But the damage had been done. Traditional employers expecting to keep these workers in line using the old “command and control” style of management would find themselves, for the most part, disappointed. Millennials had learned their lessons. Employers aren’t loyal to them, and they won’t be loyal to employers. These young employees like paying their bills, and they definitely want to make an impact in their communities, but if the work relationship doesn’t work for them, they’ll stop working for it.
Now here’s the twist. Although Millennials are working to live and not living to work, work is still very important. In fact, it’s so important that they’re prepared to keep switching jobs until they find one that fits.
Never a Dull Moment
Most of us want work to be intellectually stimulating. Being bored at work as a matter of course is … well, boring.
Millennials are no different and in fact may be even more prone than the rest of us to eschew boredom. After all, they came of age during a time when constant stimulation – via the Internet, hand-held electronic devices, and television – was the norm. (Actually, it still is the norm.)
And guess what? Gallup reports that Millennials are the most bored generation at work. This is particularly bad news for many employers, because (as previously mentioned) Millennials want their work to have meaning. If they’re bored, most likely they aren’t long for your workplace and/or are merely “going through the motions” until “something better” comes along.
But there’s hope.
Getting Ready for Millennials – The Big Six
In that same report referenced immediately above, Gallup offers the following advice for getting your company “Millennial ready.” They call these the “Big Six:”
- Understand that Millennials aren’t driven by money. Paychecks matter, but they don’t matter more than meaningful work and work environments that treat people respectfully.
- Personal development is key. Perks like free coffee and casual dress codes are nice, but Millennials want to be learning and growing.
- Command and control management is out. Well, it’s not out just yet, but Millennials (and a bunch of Gen-Xer’s too, I might add) wish it would go away. Instead of authority figures, Millennials want coaches who offer support, guidance, and resources.
- Forget the annual review. Millennials want feedback in real time. The traditional once-a-year-review just won’t do.
- Focus on strengths. Rather than focusing on “fixing” weaknesses, Millennials want employers to develop their strengths.
- Work needs to enhance life. Again, Millennials want their jobs to fit their life. Work needs to provide purpose and be aligned with their personal values.
To be sure, this is a tall order and may be impossible for some organizations for a variety of reasons. However, organizations willing to take on the challenge of meeting Millennials where they are will be rewarded with a team of decidedly un-bored and highly productive staff.
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