Getting to Know the Millennials
I have read and heard so much about Millennials recently. How to “manage these impatient young professionals” who are “demanding” and “will leave you hanging” as an employer. These beliefs ignore some important contextual factors and really short-sell a generation of ambitious and passionate young people.
As a Millennial, here are some of my insights:
1. We Have Super Active Minds. So Yeah, We Can Appear a Little Impatient.
We were raised in a time where DSL was the dinosaur age of internet speed from our childhood. Now, in our teens through early 30′s, we can access almost any information in the world in less than 1 minute on our phones, iPods, iPads/tablets, laptops, etc. We almost always have access to the internet.
Yup, we fidget through meetings as we wait to check our phones, or sulk quietly as the same material is presented for the third time (I’m embarrassed to be guilty of this). We are antsy! We’re used to multi-tasking, and in order to keep our attention on one thing, it has to be truly engaging (sorry?). Get us involved! Have us look for supplemental information or contribute in some way. We’re extremely bright, as we rapidly analyze multiple pieces of information. When we only have one thing to focus on, our busy brains get distressed and our minds start to wander. We’re very intelligent and capable, but have shorter attention spans. Harness our busy brains to maximize your digital reach.
We are extremely efficient and we don’t like to waste time (or any more than anyone else), because we value it! We can utilize the resources available to us in hyper-speed. Consider encouraging your Millennial staff members to contribute ideas and education regarding technology and social media to other staff. Also consider paying them for this, as this is truly a service, and they know it.
We have changed the way that we retrieve information. Rather than accessing it in our brains, we access it through our devices. This can sometimes result in fragmented areas of knowledge, resulting in “blind spots”: some things that may feel intuitive to someone with years of work experience may not even be on the radar of your new Millennial employee. In contrast, when we know what is expected of us, many of us become extremely knowledgeable in both depth and breadth of information (but we’re a bit more hard pressed to cite our sources). We don’t need hand-holding, but we do require some mentoring of our implementation skills, as YouTube or Siri will be hard pressed to give great advice about professionalism…
2. We’re Value- and Goal- Driven. We believe in work-life balance.
I think that this is motivated by a variety of things: more women in professional roles, a decrease in the ideology of “working for your reward in heaven”, and most importantly, a value system based on our tangible quality of life. We grew up in a time where many of our parents said, “What do you want to be when you grow up?!”"What makes you passionate?!” These questions are oriented around our selves and our contributions to the world. What life do we want for ourselves? When I ask Millennial clients, “Say that you’re at the end of your life. Looking back over it all, what do you hope to see?” I have yet to have someone answer “I’d wish that I’d worked more”. Instead, we say things like: “That I positively affected my community”, “That I had a healthy and happy family”, “That I can see the world”, “That I am a life-long learner”. These require a level of work-ethic, integrity, passion, commitment and love, and say nothing about the number of hours we spend in an office. We want to achieve great things, but we’re going about it differently. This is the way that the world is turning- productivity is not always directly correlated to hours in the office.
We are value-driven. We will stand behind a company when they have a mission that we resonate with! We will dedicate ourselves to the employer that is dedicated to us and in alignment with our values.
We will not likely enjoy a job that has us in the office 60 + hours per week and dangles the carrot of possibility in front of us for long periods of time. When we’re skeptical that the carrot is attainable, and we’re getting exhausted, then the cost-benefit analysis encourages us to start exploring other possibilities. If you need your employees to work a lot, offer some (frequent but smaller) attainable incentives and stick to them!
3. We’re Adaptable and Believe in Mutuality. Millennials Leave Their Jobs Not Because They Can’t Commit, But Because They Don’t See Mutual Commitment.
After watching many of our parents get dumped on their a**es in their greatest time of financial need (say, mid-50′s) by the company that they dedicated their whole careers to, we do not naively trust our employers to take care of us. This is NOT to say that we leave all jobs. Rather, we leave the jobs where we are: over-worked and under-valued, our ideas are not appreciated, heard or implemented, or we see no ability to advance. I’ve heard consultants giving employers the advice that young people will definitely leave in 3-5 years. I’m not so sure that’s always true- the employer has some responsibility in this. If we come in knowing you’re not investing in us as a part of this company, then doesn’t it make sense that we get all of the experience that we can and move on? I certainly see the rationale there.
We are extremely adaptable and often diversify our areas of skill so that we ensure ourselves a “fit” into the work force as it changes. Congratulations to you, our employers, as your evolving business will undoubtedly benefit from our flexibility.
Mutuality is key. We don’t want to be someone’s doormat- we grew up believing that we’re valuable and contribute (and we do!) We’re highly educated, often deeply in school debt, and have the drive to get things going ASAP. Honestly, can you blame us?
Are there some lazy Millennials? Of course! Are there some overly demanding Millennials? I’m sure. But find me a generation of people where everyone is hard-working and easy-going, and I’ll find you a bunch of liars. Expand the conversation around Millennials, cause we offer a lot, and are the leaders of tomorrow.
“Children are the future, which is why I’m sucking up to them now” – Stephen Colbert.