Millennials, aka Gen Y, have gotten a bad rap in the past few years. They have been deemed self-entitled, self interested, lazy, unfocused and narcissistic. They are also known as job-hoppers, because they seem to just leave when the going gets tough and the novelty of the new job wears off. But, is there more to them than meets the eye?
Let’s define who millennials are: the millennial generation are those born after 1980 and they are the first generation to come of age in the new millennium. Right now, millennials are between the ages of 22 and 37 and it’s projected that they will comprise up to 75% of the job market by 2030.
With so many millennials moving into the workforce, business leaders are not going to be able to avoid them. So, what makes millennials the way they are and how can we help them to achieve success in their careers?
Millennials have grown up with access to sophisticated technologies across most industries. They have had unprecedented access to information and opportunities that couldn’t be imagined in previous generations. Though, it seems like millennials have a social void that yearns for deeper positive connections. They have missed out on fundamental human relations that thrive on trust and effort, instead of instant the gratification from social media.
Unfettered access to social media is showing us that millennials have been bombarded with images that create false expectations, it works as a vice to numb them from feeling lonely and isolated — but in doing so, it creates shallow interpersonal relationships that fuel an increasing lack of self esteem.
This means that when stress rears it’s ugly head, millennials are turning to a device instead of a person.
“You have a generation growing up with lower self esteem that doesn’t have a coping mechanism to deal with stress” — Simon Sinek
The digital age has also garnered a sense of impatience:
“Everything you want you can have instantaneously, except job satisfaction and strength of relationships; they are slow meandering and messy process — there ain’t no app for that” — Simon Sinek
In a society where digital access means instant gratification and immediate action, millennials haven’t had a chance to learn patience. They only see the peak of the mountain and try to get there straight away, whilst missing the actual mountain — which takes patience, strategy and hard work to climb.
The answer for senior leaders
So, what can senior leaders do to enable millennials to achieve success in the workplace? Build trust and facilitate a sense of purpose.
Research shows that millennials aren’t really interested in the traditional incentives, i.e. job stability, bonuses, leadership positions — they are more eager to have a positive work culture where they can feel at home and be themselves. This is a great area for organisations to start to unpack.
We see a marked difference in how millennials look at their work and career progression. There have a large focus on lifestyle and want to have more control over their work and personal lives. Millennials want to make sure that their family commitments and personal priorities are being achieved in tandem with their career progression.
Forward thinking organisations are moving into an area of work-life-integration. This is where companies are offering more diverse working arrangements that allow offsite office hours, flexible office hours and work from home options.
Invigorating the stale corporate culture
Millennials are providing the real push into a 21st century way of work. They thrive on community and social interactions, meaning that the tiny boxed cubicle style offices are going to stifle their enthusiasm and creative drive.
Simon Sinek says that when leaders ask millennials what they want, they say:
“We want to work in a place with purpose, we want to make an impact…(jokingly) we want free food and bean bags”
So, we’re taking this generation who have so may different cultural variables in their upbringing and putting them in a rigid and binary corporate environment. This is an environment that only cares about numbers and results; which doesn’t help fill the void that millennials feel in their lack of self-esteem.
Many C-level companies are opening up their offices into open plan and collaborative spaces. This allows people to feel a sense of openness and connection, and it encourages a positive social setting in the work place. Millennials don’t want to be silos, they want to feel connected to people with out the lingering musk of bureaucracy.
“This evolution translates to workspaces, or activity-based working (ABW) models, that offer superior flexibility while allowing for the type of community-based collaboration that millennials find comfort, meaning and joy in. In many cases, these spaces are informal settings, such as lounges, collaboration areas and break-out rooms.” — Forbes
Thriving companies are putting a positive culture at the forefront of their organisation. They are investing in their employees both professionally and personally. Recent studies showed that employees who are happy are 20% more productive than their unhappy counterparts. It also costs far less for a company to invest in their employees’ happiness than it does to rehire and retrain new employees. A great culture helps everyone, and it’s something that millennials are desperately looking for in a long term career.
Investing in staff means that organisations need to take a holistic approach.
Managers need to make clear the ways in which millennials have leverage over their career.
Things to be specified are:
Guarantees of time annual leave and time off
Opportunities for professional development and experience
The opportunities to move laterally (diverse roles) or vertically (higher authority roles) through the company.
Millennials are changing the way we do business
On the surface they may seem self-entitled, lazy and unfocussed and un-committed, but in reality, they are the product of a completely new environment. Millennials have grown up ‘digitally’, it’s no wonder that there are going to be teething pains.
But, the great news is that because of this generation, we are seeing massive shifts in the way businesses are prioritising their staff’s wellbeing. We are seeing more flexibility in work, which enables people to have both a quality family life and a successful career path if they choose. As leaders, we should take the nurturing of millennials seriously, because it will determine the overall future success of our company.