When it comes to the Millennial generation there are a lot of misconceptions around how hard they work and how committed they are to their jobs. Turns out those misconceptions are just that, and employers that wrongly buy into them will face a difficult time managing and retaining a group of people that will have a huge impact on the future growth of companies across the country.
“The large significant misconceptions from more senior generations about Millennials are that they are entitled and don’t want to work as hard, but my own experience has been the opposite,” says Lauren Stiller Rikleen, Executive-in-Residence, Boston College Center for Work & Family and founder of The Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership. “My sense is this generation is very accomplished, have done a huge amount in a very short period of time and do work hard.”
Unlike generations before them, the Millennials aren’t solely motivated by salary and career development. Yes, they want to be paid well, and yes they want to move up in their company, but that’s not their only reasons for joining and staying with a firm. They also care about balancing work and life, being recognized for their efforts and being part of a team. “Millennials value work/life balance, and the majority of them are unwilling to commit to making their work lives an exclusive priority, even with the promise of substantial compensation later on,” says Terri McClements, US Human Capital Leader for PwC. “Millennials also have a greater expectation to be supported and appreciated in return for their contributions, and to be part of a cohesive team.”
Pretty much everyone has a smartphone these days, but what’s different with the Millennials is that they grew up with it rather than learned it later on. Because of that, Millennials are extremely tech savvy, able to multitask and expect flexibility with how and where they work. For older generations, it may seem like they are thumbing their noses at the establishment when they are texting during a meeting or want to work from home but it’s simply their reality. “Technology is just a part of them,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half International, the staffing company. “This is who they are.”
Sometimes known as the trophy generation, Millennials like to get the recognition they deserve and can be a huge motivator for them. That doesn’t mean managers always have to give them prizes, but if they want to keep them they have to motivate them and that’s where recognition comes in, says McDonald. This group also doesn’t want to be managed in the traditional way where they are given an assignment, told only what they need to do and expected to execute on it. Millennials want to be part of the team, have a say in the project and have access to more senior level management. “It’s a generation anxious to undertake leadership roles and it’s a generation that feels it has a lot to contribute so its important to figure out a way make them feel a part of the workplace and that they do have voice,” says Stiller Rikleen.
For many generations the normal movement within a company is to climb the ladder vertically, but for Millennials they not only want to move up but they want to try other areas of a company, which present a huge opportunity for medium and large sized companies, says Tom Gimbel, founder and chief executive of LaSalle Network, a staffing and recruiting company. Give them the ability to move around within an organization and chances the company will have a loyal employee, he says.
What also sets this generation apart from the previous ones is its strong desire to give back to the community and their preference to work for a company that cares. That’s not to say Millennials won’t take jobs on Wall Street or are looking to solve world peace, but they are drawn to firms that offer some structured way to give back to the community and ones that have a philanthropic bent. Companies that provide employees with the opportunity to work on a service project or to raise money for a specific cause are going to be attractive to Millennials.
In order for companies to attract and retain this group they need to create a flexible work environment that embraces technology and gives Millennials the ability to grow and make a difference. What companies can’t do is try to force old establishment type rules on this group or make them into something they are not. “You can teach the corporate environment and the decorum necessary, but don’t try to change the Millennial,” cautions McDonald.