In their book Generations, historians Neil Howe and William Strauss coined the term 'Millennials' to refer to the generation graduating high school at the end of the millennium (i.e. around 2000). Nowadays, millennials or ”Gen Y” arguably refer to those born between the early 80s and 1994. In the workplace, millennials are stereotyped as being lazy, entitled or contemptuous of authority. However, these characterizations are generally ill-conceived.
While misconceptions swirl, there is one undeniable fact about millennials in the workplace that everyone needs to know: they can be tremendously valuable to the future of organizations if one understands how to leverage their considerable skills.
“It is crucial for firms and leaders to understand differences in generations so that they can make better decisions about training, leadership development and culture-building for a diverse workforce,” says Henrik Bresman, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD.
With that in mind, here are five truths about the growing millennial workforce.
Truth #1: Not Letting Millennials Get Bored
More than half of millennials surveyed said that they value opportunities for career growth over salary and other benefits when weighing prospective employers, according to PwC. Not surprisingly, millennials in the workplace are looking for leaders who are willing to support their career trajectory with clear guidance and goal-setting.
To nurture this need to avoid a career plateau, a culture of development in the workplace needs to be set-up, with opportunities to train millennials in new skills, encourage them to take initiative on new projects, learn where they excel and give them the chance to innovate in those areas.
Truth #2: Ditching the 9-to-5 Cubicle Mentality
One definite advantage of hiring millennials is that they often lack the shift mentality of previous generations. They want to work faster and more efficiently—but they also want to be able to do their work from anywhere. INSEAD research has shown that more than 70% of millennials place great value upon having flexible working arrangements. A 2016 report by Fidelity even assigned a monetary value to work-life balance for millennials. The research showed that millennials are willing to give up an average of $7,600 from their annual salary if it means better flexibility in their work arrangements.
But this does not mean that millennials are looking to slack off. In fact, millennials are less likely to use all of their vacation days than previous generations. With this great value they place upon flexibility, they can easily be motivated by telecommuting options. This empowers them to put in their best efforts in an arrangement that suits their lifestyle without compromising productivity.
Truth #3: Going Dark
This truth might seem counterintuitive when managing the most technology-inundated employees in history. However, by keeping in mind that millennials are one of the first generations ever who are choosing to check their work emails in bed at night. With this consideration, it’s easy to see how fatigue builds up even when millennials are not sitting at their desks.
Millennials need to be encouraged to take their vacations without logging into their work emails or without turning on their work phones. It may seem silly but it can go a long way toward relieving burnout and retaining them in the future.
Truth #4: The Need to Pay Them Well
Yes, the majority of millennials say they value flexibility over salary. And yes, millennials are willing to forfeit their vacation days and check their work emails in the middle of the night. However, they still want to be paid fairly. In this case, what’s fair might not necessarily mean negotiating a salary based on seniority. Instead, pay for millennial employees should be based on an evaluation of the projected impact they will have on businesses—and ransparency with them on how this figure was reached.
Millennial employees are saddled with a financial burden that previous generations have not felt. The average 2016 graduate in the US took home more than $37,000 in debt along with her diploma. By offering access to platforms that can help millennial employees pay off their considerable debt, companies will go a long way toward offering them the financial security that frees them to remain with companies and fully commit to doing their best work.
Truth #5: Show Them the Path to Success
According to a 2014 global survey from INSEAD, Universum, and the Head Foundation, millennials overwhelmingly said that they are happy to be coached and mentored by their managers but would prefer not to be bossed around. Understanding the nuance between being a coach and a boss can make for a more successful relationship with your millennial employees.
At the end of the day, millennials are not really that different from their workplace predecessors. Just like everyone else, they want to feel invested in the future success of the businesses where they work. Bringing them to the table to share the vision and a snapshot of the road ahead for the company. This type of transparency motivates millennials and appeals to their desire for workplace authenticity.
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