Millennials, the misunderstood teens and young adults of yesterday, are growing up and establishing themselves in the working world. According to Pew Research Center, millennials currently make up the largest generational group in the workforce, so it's no surprise managers are working hard to understand this significant portion of their teams.
Millennial workplace expert Lindsey Pollak told Business News Daily that millennials are questioning almost everything about work. They often want the same things as most working professionals, like flexible schedules, better managers and career mobility — but they're more willing than older generations to leave a job if they're not getting those things.
Because of this prevailing attitude, some employers may still believe a few persistent negative stereotypes about millennials:
They are entitled and narcissistic. Millennials have a reputation for expecting the world without working hard to get it, said Charu Sharma, founder of Go Against the Flow, a movement to inspire women to be entrepreneurs.
"I think it stems from a few sources," Sharma said. "We grew up with the internet, in a time when people are more connected than the human race has ever been. We've traveled more than previous generations. From our perspective, our reach-for-the-stars ambition is more resourceful than entitled, but it's not always interpreted that way."
They'd rather text you. Millennials do love their smartphones and are extremely well-versed in many different forms of digital communication. However, in a survey of millennials by Bentley University in Massachusetts, more than half of respondents said they wanted to speak with colleagues in person when possible. Only 14 percent chose texting as their preferred communication method, and 19 percent chose email.
They're lazy and not willing to pay dues. Employers are raising their standards for entry-level jobs while struggling to attract top talent, and working to accommodate the needs of employees in the millennial generation. Companies may favor tech-savvy and highly coachable new hires a couple of years out of college over professionals established in their industries. As a result, it's true that millennial employees don't always feel obligated to pay their dues in entry-level jobs. When industry "rules" are constantly changing, workers are less inclined to follow them.
They don't believe in job loyalty. Gen Y have gained a reputation for job-hopping — that is, leaving their positions after only a year or two with the companies. By this standard, millennials should have about a dozen employers on their résumés by the time they reach age 40, but most of them don't feel this will be the case. Eighty percent of the millennials surveyed by Bentley University said they believe they'll work for four or fewer companies during their entire careers.
Developing millennial leadership
- 80 percent of millennials are leaders today.
- 69 percent of millennials aspire to be leaders in the next five years.
- 77 percent of millennials who consider themselves leaders today also aspire to be leaders in five years.
"Companies and organizations need to stop seeing millennials as a problem to overcome, but [rather] as a business opportunity," Pollak said. "This is a giant generation of leaders who are interested in making a difference."
The Hartford's Millennial Leadership Survey found that the No. 1 thing employers can do to demonstrate their investment in young people becoming leaders is to train and develop them, including providing coaching and mentoring.
"I think this is all good news," Pollak added.
Improving work relationships
When managers and higher-ups don't understand their workers or peers, it creates tension. The best way to avoid that is to identify when employees feel uncomfortable in their roles.
When millennial workers go through such feelings of disillusionment or begin to lack inspiration in the office, managers can provide support in a few ways, said Sharma:
- Let employees know you're not there to police, but rather to serve and coach them.Trust your team to be autonomous, make smart decisions and pursue their most productive, efficient selves.
- Help millennial employees broaden short-term goals.The millennial generation tends to focus on the "now." Encourage them to consider career and life goals over the next 20 years, and empower them to make strategic choices today that support such longer-term goals.
- Embrace your employees' personal ambition. The workplace is becoming less rigid; modern technology enables distributed teams and flexible schedules, and companies are offering such benefits as competitive perks.
- Recognize what motivates your employeesand support those priorities; most millennial workers value an inclusive, meaningful work culture over financial compensation and traditional benefits.
"If organizations evolve to meet millennials' needs, the benefits will be enjoyed by others, including generations to follow," Pollak added. "The companies that harness the power of these leaders will evolve with the times and prevail both today and tomorrow."
Additional reporting by Nicole Taylor.