Read almost any article about today’s workforce and you’ll be hard pressed not to find something about millennials and their impact in the workplace. They tend to paint this generation as completely revolutionary and in-touch while also being entitled and disengaged. You can see the obvious paradox in these stereotypes and it can be hard to try to understand them, or anyone, based on an article and then try to apply that information to the new hires you’re bringing on-board.
Full-disclosure, I am at the tail end of the millennial spectrum in terms of year of birth, but I feel that there is a lot to be learned, and gained, by demystifying some common misconceptions so that we may empower and leverage this fresh talent.
Myth #1: Millennials are job hoppers.
Fact #1: Millennials change jobs just as often as previous generations (baby boomers and generation x) did at this stage in their life.
We have to remember that not all job changes are voluntary. Compound that with the fact that this current generation grew up with the crash of 2008, which disrupted nearly everyone. We would be doing a great disservice to ourselves, this generation, and our organizations to hold on to this idea that “this person is not going to stick around long, so why bother?”
The mentality that millennials share regarding an organization is simple: “I want to learn as much as I can, contribute as much as I can, and benefit as much as I can.” The motivation is there, it just manifests itself in ways we are not accustomed to.
They may have their faces glued to their smartphones and not the Wall Street Journal, but that doesn’t mean they are not informed. If anything they are abundantly informed about a wider variety of issues.
Millennials are looking for an organization that aligns with their values. They will be looking at a variety of things, not just a job title. What is your involvement in your communities? What does your employee development plan look like? What can they contribute in addition to what’s listed in their job description? How can they introduce new ideas for improvement of efficiency?
If given the right training, opportunities, and platform, you will find that these up and coming individuals can be a great asset to your business on a variety of levels.
Myth #2: Millennials are disengaged.
Fact #2: Millennials are the most engaged generation, they just interact differently.
Yes, text messaging, snapchatting, tweeting, and using whatever the newest social platform is will be a big factor in the way that millennials communicate and absorb information. That doesn’t mean that they are not listening or in tune with the message that you or your organization are sending. We have to learn that this is a generation that was born with technology in the palm of their hands--it's an extension of themselves, even. Find ways to engage them by utilizing their platforms. Perhaps you can find better ways of delivering your company messaging through some of these outlets that you haven’t considered.
Don’t misunderstand millennials' behavior as disengaged or disinterested. It may simply be a new way of looking at things. Set clear guidelines during their on-boarding that when they are working, you expect them to work, but don’t punish them for their connectivity in the process. Measure their productivity and seek efficiencies and opportunities, not reasons to restrain them. They are here to stay and will soon be leading their own companies.
Myth #3: Millennials are just looking for a paycheck.
Fact #3: Millennials are looking for ways to contribute and be a part of something greater.
When presented with two seemingly identical roles--one being a high compensation job with a cold, uninviting company culture where "we’ve always done it this way" is the backbone of their organization, or another that's fairly compensated with an engaging environment and team plus the ability to explore opportunities and give back--millennials are going to gravitate toward the more well-rounded and rewarding opportunity.
This generation is the most socially active and conscious we have seen. They value teamwork and social responsibility, collaboration and connectivity. They want to work with an organization, not for an organization.
If we take a moment to look at the bigger picture, we all want our organizations to thrive. The most rewarding experiences and the happiest (read: productive) employees are those that have a vested, emotional connection to the company. Your annual revenue and their paychecks are a moot point if your millennial employees are not going to have a desire and genuine passion for what they do or what you, as an organization, are there to accomplish.
Instead of fearing change, we should learn, understand, and embrace it. That is the nature and makeup of any great organization, big or small. We have the opportunity to propel ourselves into the highest echelons of success, but we won’t achieve that if we stick to our old ways of doing things. It's better to embrace this new, vibrant, and innovative talent and see if millennials can teach an old dog new tricks.