Learning to Love the Millennial Workforce

By | Posted July 31st, 2012

There has been a lot of talk about what Millennials mean for the workplace, but unfortunately, a lot of it falls into stereotyping. Every generation is different, so it’s natural for Millennials to have their own views on how to be productive, valuable, and happy employees. The key is simply understanding their perspective, their aspirations, and their work ethic—even if they have a slightly different view than the generation before.

As Millennials are entering the workforce more and more, it’s imperative for employers and employees alike to start realizing not all assumptions about Millennials are true. And, for the record, the following is important for any generation trying to understand one another. Hopefully, by the time it’s 2025, (and young people are 75% of the employees around the world), there will be a deeper level of understanding about every generation.

Let’s take a look at some of the claims made about Millennials overall and examine their validity.

Millennials are overconfident.

Instead, try: Millennials want to contribute.

CNBC reported on an MTV study, which found that 92% of Millennial employees felt that their bosses could learn something from them. Before you assume Millennials are arrogant, think about what could have caused this percentage to be so high. According to the article, Millennials probably feel this way because they want to contribute to their companies and feel that they have something valuable to offer. This ties in with their knowledge of technology and any other new ideas their generation brings with them, and they want to pass this knowledge on to other generations.

After recognizing that statistic is probably based in enthusiasm, there are ways to help Millennials excel at work. Business Insider recommends using more of a coaching method of leadership rather than a mentor-based one. That’s because coaching allows for employees to ask questions and come up with their own resolutions instead of simply being told what’s best.

As Forbes puts it, the Millennials are simply approaching work the way they were trained growing up: They want to question and improve the way things are done. While this can make employers uneasy, it could also bring a lot of beneficial changes to a company if the Millennials’ motivation and insight is harnessed correctly.

Millennials need constant reinforcement.

Instead, try: Millennials value feedback.

The author of a ZDNet article expresses his extreme dislike for the assumption that Millennials need praise on a constant basis. He seems to relate the notion with the stereotype that Millennials don’t have any experience, which is why they need someone to tell them that they’re doing a good job constantly.

While it may not be because they are inexperienced, the MTV study does show validity in the thought that Millennials want feedback. In fact, 80% of Millennial employees want recognition and feedback regularly, and 50% want it at least once a week. InformationWeek points out that many managers dislike having to provide this sort of praise, but in order to make Millennials happy, they have to be responsive and give recognition regularly where it’s deserved.

The important thing is not to assume that this is because of inexperience. Business Insider notes that the need for immediate and frequent feedback is not only a result of Millennials wanting to know if they’re doing a good job, but also a result of wanting to know how they can improve.

Millennials won’t be loyal to a company.

Instead, try: Millennials want to love their work.

The MTV study also found that 60% of Millennials would change jobs within 5 years in order to find their dream job. Many of them also believe they deserve to work at the job of their dreams. But instead of being about entitlement, this could be about something more admirable. MTV’s Nick Shore points out that wanting to find the perfect job actually exhibits Millennials’ desire to really connect with their work.

Business Insider describes a survey of college students that illustrates Millennials’ interest in staying with a company for about 4.7 years, which is more than double how long they actually are staying at their jobs. This can be attributed to the challenges they face in moving up within a company. Again, what could be thought of as a lack of loyalty may just be that Millennials are striving to contribute and succeed.

Liam Brown, Marriott International’s chief operations officer, told Businessweek that the Millennials are often called the “and” generation—they want a balanced life, a good career, and the ability to impact the world. According to AOL, a recent survey seems to agree with this sentiment—Millennials place having a good work/life balance as their number one priority when it comes to looking for a job. As you can see, it’s more than just Millennials not wanting to stay at a company; it is particular values that lead them to certain positions.

Conclusion

No generation should be stereotyped, so take the time to explore what the driving force is behind certain apparent behaviors. While the baby boomers and Millennials may differ in some ways, it doesn’t mean that one group is drastically different from the other.