Millennials. Lazy, entitled, self-obsessed…. They’re the worst. But are they really? Here’s some light shed on why we think of Millennials in such unflattering terms, and some ideas on how to integrate them into your workforce.
As the era of the baby boomers and Generation X came to an end, 1982 gave birth to a lot of people who would come to form what is commonly known as Generation Y of the Millennials. The credit to coining the term Millennials goes to American author William Strauss around 1987.
This was the generation that would be graduating or studying in high schools in the Millennium year and creating the major part of the work force for years to follow.
The constant evolving of technology has given Millennials the tools to explore themselves and create opportunities that older generation don’t always understand. But, if we cross check our history: every generation thinks that the ones before them are too outdated to understand the way they think. And every older generation thinks the new one is just too naïve and immature to understand anything that they have to say.1
Older generations judging the latest one as lazy, narcissistic and obsessed with technology…sound familiar?
It is a cycle, so employers need to ask a question to themselves: are the Millennials at fault here, or are employers simply not taking the right approach to create the best possible workforce?
It seems like this generation is narcissistic, obsessed with taking selfies and such, but employers can’t really afford to just write them off. This is the same generation that will make up much of the consumer market and the future workforce. This is the same generation that will sell and buy the products that big corporations have been creating for decades. This is the generation that can figure out how to create, sell and market to its own membership.
Employers first need to put the bias aside that they have a superior work ethic and motivation. A 2016 study found: “Three hierarchical multiple regressions found no effect of generational cohort on work ethic endorsement.”2 In other words, when they studied Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials, they couldn’t find much difference in their work ethic.
In order to move forward, employers need to adjust their thinking and seek out ways to integrate millennials into the workforce.
Although a Millennials’ work ethic may be on par with other generations, there are some distinct differences in how they approach their work and their jobs.
1. Millennials want structure and set work expectations
Millennials are optimistic and see opportunities everywhere. This can be overwhelming sometimes and send them off in (seemingly) random directions.
What you can do as an employer: By giving them a start point and a defined set of expectations, you set them up for a better chance of success. Millennials are very good at sticking to a set of specific tasks as long as they are spelled out in the first place.
2. Millennials expect to share responsibility
Millennials have been raised by their parents to be included in decision-making process. They expect their opinions to matter.
What you can do as an employer: Instead of dismissing Millennial workers, try offering them decision making opportunities on a micro level. Once they can demonstrate their ability (and learn in the process), they can move on to larger roles.
3. Millennials ask a lot of questions
Millennials have also been encouraged by their parents to ask questions. This can come across as disrespectful and ‘know-it-all’ in the workplace.
What you can do as an employer: Instead as perceiving questions as annoying, consider it an opportunity to scrutinize and articulate your process. Letting your employees know the ‘why’ of a particular task is inherently a good approach. Not only does it allow them to consider the larger picture, it may even result in some good suggestions for improvement.
Millennials want to hear from their managers early and often. They want motivation (and yes, praise) on an ongoing basis.
What you can do as an employer: Instead of perceiving this behavior as ‘attention-seeking’ or ‘needy’, see it as an opportunity to mentor an employee and potentially course correct an on-going project. Think about adding some additional brainstorming sessions or meetings, or adding an extra component to existing meetings. Be explicit in your instructions to Millennial employees, precisely outlining the scope of work, and defining the expected outcomes. Let Millennials know what kind of job they’re doing, whether it’s good or bad. And when they perform a task well, make sure your whole team hears about it.
It’s inevitable. In the simplest terms, Millennials are the future workforce because when everybody else retires, they’re up next. It would be far more effective to train and work with this generation now instead experiencing a larger crisis in a few years down the road.
1, 2 Take Your Workforce to the Next Level, Workshop for the York Region Employer Leadership Council by Josh Davies, CEO, The Center for Work Ethic Development.