Recruiter’s Note – Understanding Millennials in the Workplace
By: Fannyrose Ramas
Millennials continue to puzzle the general population. Older generations like the Boomers are still trying to pinpoint how Millennials approach life. They are trying to understand how to impress millennial colleagues, how to sell to them, or how to retain them as employees. They want to know what it was like to grow up with today’s technology and how that impacts one’s outlook.
The term Millennials is applied to individuals who reached adulthood around the turn of the 21st century. Neil Howe and William Strauss, authors of the 1991 book Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069, are often credited with coining the term. Howe and Strauss define the Millennial cohort as consisting of individuals born between 1982 and 2004.
A Millennial Snapshot
- Millennials grew up in an electronics-filled, increasingly online, and socially-networked world.
- They are the generation that has received the most marketing attention.
- As the most ethnically diverse generation, they tend to tolerate indifference. Having been raised under the mantra “follow your dreams” and being told they were special, they tend to be confident.
- While largely a positive trait, the Millennial generation’s confidence has been argued to spill over into the realms of entitlement and narcissism.
- They are often seen as slightly more optimistic about the future than any other generations — despite the fact that they are the first generation since the Silent Generation that is expected to be less economically successful than their parents.
- One reported result of Millennial optimism is entering into adulthood with unrealistic expectations, which sometimes leads to disillusionment.
In the Workplace
- Workplace satisfaction matters more to Millennials than monetary compensation and work-life balance is often considered essential.
- They are less likely than previous generations to put up with an unpleasant work environment and much more likely to use social networking to broadcast their concerns.
- On the other hand, satisfied Millennials are often employed advocates for the organizations they work for, providing honest, free, and convincing — public relations.
Technology at work
- Millennials grew up with computers, the Internet, and the graphical user interface. This familiarity makes them adept at understanding interfaces and visual languages.
- They tend to adjust readily to new programs, operating systems (OS) and devices and to perform computer-based tasks more quickly than older generations. Although it’s been proven that multitasking is not usually an effective way to work, Millennials may be the employees that are most likely to pull it off.
- Millennials are generally comfortable with the idea of a public Internet life. Privacy, in the Millennial eye, is mostly a concern of functional settings limiting who sees their online shares.
- This comfort with social media means they are good at self-promotion and fostering connections through online media.
- But this approach often results in an issue when comparing themselves to peers. Millennials are sometimes frustrated by the grass seeming greener on the other side of the fence. That impression may be due to people’s image crafting, which emphasizes their good qualities and exciting parts of their lives.
- In schooling, the technology focus increased in programming thus Millennials can also very dependent on the Internet for learning how to do things.
- When their computers or devices don’t work they often need some form of assistance to troubleshoot and correct these issues without the aid of the Internet.
- In contrast, the technically-inclined members of Generation X may have started when electronics were hobby kits and the best gaming machines were unquestionably self-built computers. That starting point often meant Generation X has a deeper understanding of programming and hardware issues.
- Conversely, they show the highest support of political independents and protestor-formed governments.
- Although Millennials have less faith in religious institutions, at the same time the numbers have also risen for those who have absolute faith in the existence of a god. Many churches’ messages clash with the Millennial ideal of tolerance for religious, racial, gender, sexual orientation differences.
- Millennials are also concerned about social justice and will not support institutions that they see as in conflict with social and economic equality. As such, Millennials are exerting their influence on the world around them, as all prior generations have done.
Now that we understand them better, how do we manage them?
- Show them respect:Listen to their ideas and complaints, and show that they have value by doing more than giving lip service. Create a process that allows for the consideration and implementation of those ideas. Millennials want to know their voice is heard.
- Give them attention:Millennials have been given attention all of their life. Anything that smacks of a lack of attention can be seen as a form of disrespect or being taken for granted. While they don’t want to be micro-managed, they do want their work and efforts to be noticed and lauded if they’ve done a good job. Unlike previous generations, you generally can’t drop a project in their lap and not follow-up through the process for feedback.
- Don’t be a wet blanket.Millennials grew up in a society and with parents who told them they could do anything. Encourage them instead of being discouraging (even if you think you’re being a realist) on their ideas or passion. Help them develop confidence by giving them opportunities to taste true success as well as pick themselves up from failure and try again.
- Talk to them face to face.Millennials are no different from other workers. They want to communicate about their work and possible career advancements in person (96% of them, in fact). While it’s tempting to think Millennials prefer digital communication because they grew up with it and are adept at it, they are no different than other generations in preferring in-person communication in these areas.
- Understand the team.We’ll talk about his more in a bit, but understand that to Millennials, the team has as much pull, in some cases, as any management. Respect the team, get comfortable working with the team, and focusing on leading and guiding the team instead of reigning from on high and controlling the team.
- Adopt a conversational style.Millennials are going to question leaders and management. This is not out of disrespect. The best response isn’t shutting them down or giving orders, but having a conversation. Most of the time Millennials just want more information.
- Be decisive and strategic.The Deloitte study revealed that Millennials want leaders who possess strong social skills, but that doesn’t mean leaders can be weak in more traditional areas of leadership. Having vision, passion, and being decisive are still valued.
- Provide structure.There might be a general sense that Millennials want some kind of free-for-all where they can do what they like when they like, but this is not the case. You still have productivity expectations for the work that has to be done, meeting times, project deadlines — Millennials understand this. Think of it like a horse race: The track is there, it has rails along the outside and a start and finish line, but you have no jokey and no bit. Provide the necessary structure, but let Millennials work it to the end without micromanaging.
When in doubt
- Lead, not manage.
- Pay attention to, and care about, the individual.
- Foster a sense of belonging to a team doing something great.
- Create a sense of purpose that will better society.
- Be sincere about adding genuine meaning to life.
As the most collaborative and inclusive generation to date, these young adults expect their place of work to embrace the same idealism and values they hold so dear. Creating an environment that aligns with the participation economy will be your biggest opportunity to create a company where Millennials not only want to work, but seek out as a top professional in their chosen careers.
About the Author
Fanny is a dynamic, resilient and well-rounded professional who is passionate about the recruitment industry. She is currently the Unit Head of the Recruitment Process Management Department of TeleDevelopment Services.