Is it so difficult to work with millennials? Nope, it isn’t – and I’m going to tell you why.
Being a millennial myself, what motivates me to give my best (or perhaps going the extra mile) is to have a good working environment (positive vibes only) and friendly/ supportive colleagues (not the fake ones).
Therefore, my career will be one of choice, not chosen merely out of desperation. It will basically align ‘who I am’ to ‘what I do’.
But before diving straight into the key points that you should know about working with millennials, it is only appropriate to have some basic understanding about this unique generation.
Background about millennials
The millennial generation are those born between 1980 and 2000 (that includes me!).
They are now entering employment in vast numbers and will shape the working world for years to come.
Being able to attract and retain the best of these millennial workers is becoming critical to the future of businesses.
This is because millennials will define the culture of the 21st century workplace through their career aspiration, work attitudes and knowledge of new technologies.
Why does millennials matter?
Millennials matter because they are not only different from those that have gone before, but they are also more numerous than the soon-to-retire Baby Boomer generation (1946 and 1964).
The millennials generation is already forming 25% of the local workforce, and by 2020, millennials will form 50% of the global workforce.
Although they will soon outnumber their Generation X predecessors (1965 to 1979), they remain in shortage of supply particularly in the parts of the world where birth rates are lower.
This causes them to be more valuable as millennials will work to support a significantly larger and older generation due to the increase in life expectancy.
However, attracting and keeping these millennial workers remains as one of the biggest talent challenges in most companies today.
Companies see a hiring crisis ahead – they have to hire and retain the next generation of younger talent.
If you are a business owner, department head or a hiring manager, it might be obvious to you that the millennials are becoming a powerful generation of workers; and those with the right skills will be in high demand.
They may be able to command creative reward packages and also influence the way they work in an organization.
At the same time, they may also represent one of the biggest challenges that most organizations will face.
Do millennials differ from past generations?
Millennials’ use of technology clearly sets them apart.
It might be true to say that some of their behavior and attitude reflects a lack of responsibility, but to dismiss the issue entirely on that basis would be a mistake.
One of the defining attributes of the millennial generation is their affinity with the digital world.
It isn’t rocket science to realize that they have been surrounded and grown up with instant access to information through broadband, smartphones, laptops and social media.
In other words, this is the first generation to enter the workplace with a better grasp of key business tools compared to their senior workers.
Apart from technology, millennials behave differently too. Their behavior is colored by their experience of the global economic crisis and places more emphasis on their personal needs.
Millennials also tend to be uncomfortable with the rigid corporate structures and are turned off by information silos.
They expect rapid progression with a varied and interesting career coupled with constant feedback (instead of the yearly appraisal system).
In a nutshell, millennials want a management style and corporate culture that meets their needs, at the same time, helps them achieve self-actualization.
Another distinct characteristic of millennials is their ambition to pursue their passion and their desire to keep learning to move up quickly in an organization.
If these expectations are not met, they are not hesitant to move on quickly to another career opportunity that can fulfill their needs.
While millennials want a flexible work approach, they also aspire for regular feedback and encouragement. They want to feel that their work is worthwhile, and their efforts are being recognized and appreciated.
The business landscape has changed drastically over the recent years due to the increasing number of young, talented workers.
Well, irrespective of the organizational long term objectives and ambitions, a more inventive talent strategy is required in order to successfully attract, develop, lead and retain millennial talent, and to bring out the best in them.
Because money isn’t everything to them, therefore it is our capacity to attract, develop, lead and retain millennial talent not solely dependent on the compensation package, but rather on our ability to create a sense of belonging to an organization.
At the same time, offering a sustainable relationship, professional development opportunity and has a clear conception of organizational goals – of what it wants to be and how to achieve it.
Let me share with you how to effectively attract, develop, lead and retain millennials:
#1 How to Attract Millennials
Organizations should take a different strategic approach when it comes to recruitment and retention of young talents.
Millennials are generally looking for more in life rather than just a job or a steady climb up the corporate ladder. Gone are the days of loyalty (I will work till I retire) for the sake of comfort zone.
They want to do something that makes them feel it’s worthwhile, which takes into account the values and principles of a company when considering a job.
I think it’s also safe to say that most millennials are motivated by much more than money.
It’s not that competitive wages isn’t important – but the biggest draw for millennials is the opportunity for career progression.
They are attracted to employers who can offer more than just merely ‘a good pay’.
It is also said that millennials are apparently prepared to be more practical and realistic when it comes to accepting a job offer, such as salary trade-off for location and corporate reputation.
–A question of reward–
A recent survey suggested that customizing the remuneration package and benefits to each employee could potentially attract millennial talents.
With their constant desire to learn and progress, financial benefits are not the only factor that would attract them. In fact, it is the training and development, and flexible working opportunities that they are looking for.
However, employers should remember that millennials generally focus on benefits once they are sure that their basic requirements on wages and working conditions have been satisfied.
While salary may not seem to be their main consideration, that doesn’t mean they don’t care about it.
–The emphasis of comfort–
Work-life balance with strong diversity policies have always been a priority and central selling point for millennials.
More importantly is the transformation from work-life balance to work-life integration.
Besides, the smartphone, once known as a fancy gadget, is now an integral part of daily life – from a personal and business perspective.
Thanks to the internet and smartphone, we are no longer confined in the physical office space, and we can access to what we need at any time and place.
Hence, millennials need to know that their superior trusts them to handle their workload and not looking over their shoulder throughout the day, or texting them about work late at night or during off days – which ultimately defeats the whole premise of work-life integration.
It is suggested that millennials could be rewarded based on results, rather than the number of hours worked in the office.
Thus, millennials should be allowed to decide when and where to do their work.
Productivity should be encouraged and rewarded with opportunities created equal for all.
“Why do I want to work here?”
Millennials want their work to have a purpose.
They want to be able to contribute and add value to the world.
They want to be proud of their employer.
The brands (employers) that appeal to this young generation as consumers includes those that emphasizes on their environmental and social record.
Millennials might avoid working in a particular sector or company if they believe it had negative image towards environment and society.
Nevertheless, while corporate values undoubtedly influence millennials’ choice of employers, other basic needs may be equally or more important, such as adequate pay and working conditions.
#2 How to Develop Millennials
The younger workers are generally defined by their energy, enthusiasm and optimism, believing they can achieve anything with the right focus and access to learning.
Millennials are intensely ambitious and are keen for rapid career progression in a company.
It is evident that millennials have particular needs and expectations when it comes to learning and career development.
In an ideal world, they would like to see their manager or boss as a coach who supports them in their personal development but also they prefer to learn by doing it themselves rather than by being told what to do.
One of the strongest millennial attributes is that they welcome regular and continual structured plus constructive feedback on a job, and expect praises for a job well done.
Millennials expect to keep on learning as they enter the workplace, while gaining new experiences and absorbing new information.
Millennials are attracted to employers who offer excellent training and development programs as these young workers relish the opportunity to engage, interact and learn from strong coaches and mentors (senior management).
Moreover, these mentoring programs can be particularly effective to relieve tensions between generations.
However, with the millennials’ ease with technology means that they respond well to a range of digital learning styles and delivery methods, which includes online learning modules, webinars and interactive workshops.
They are inclined towards collaborative learning in teams. Thus, a one-sided lecture is less likely to hold their attention.
Nonetheless, the best training programs consist of a mix classroom instruction, self-directed study, and group learning.
Despite their preference for independence, millennials yearn for employers to clearly define the structure and objectives that must be achieved.
In this increasingly globalized world, millennials have a strong appetite for working abroad with overseas assignments as they view international experience as a vital element to a successful career.
International employers should recognize this demand and take active steps towards fulfilling the need. This would also form a new approach towards flexible career paths.
#3 Lead, not Manage Millennials
Don’t even try to manage millennials – lead them. Yes, you’ve read that right. Now let me tell you why.
Those born just before the turn of this last century are different. They cannot be managed the same way other generations have been managed.
They must be inspired and enabled to realize their potential in contributing to the world with a clearly defined purpose.
Companies who cling on to the rigid model of fixed working time and place was better suited to the industrial age. In this digital age, employees are more productive if they have greater autonomy over where, when and how they work that suits them best.
Millennials feel constrained when they see outdated traditional working practices, rigid hierarchies and old-fashion management styles.
In fact, employees should be rewarded by results rather than the number of hours or the location they work; while offices becomes a meeting space instead of a fixed location for the working day.
Hence, a millennial-friendly environment may be fully digital but it also needs to be comfortable and creative. Millennials expect to work hard, but they don’t wish to sit in a cubicle all day. They will be drawn to companies that offer a comfortable, engaging and stimulating atmosphere that creatively blends work and life.
This type of employee-focused environment may seem like an indulgence, but it’s actually good for retention, which means good for business because engaged employees are more productive than those who are not.
–Loyal to principles–
Although millennials appreciate personal develop and new opportunities, they will not follow your lead just because you are the boss.
Instead of trying hard to get millennials to be loyal to your leadership or organization, focus on developing and communicating the principles and purpose behind your organization’s work because millennials need to know that they are working to make the world a better place.
Millennials believe that there is no success without sustainability for individuals, society, organization and the environment. If you can convince them in an authentic and genuine way that what you are doing is principled, millennials will be loyal to your purpose.
–Doesn’t put up with bad bosses–
For millennials, they believe that power is distributed and control requires permission. They don’t listen to authority figures if they don’t agree with them.
This may seem like a challenge for traditional bosses, but in the long run, more and more employees will stop accepting poor leadership.
The lesson here is: Don’t be a high and mighty leader. Learn to communicate and make sure your millennial employees understand why your organization are doing what they are doing.
Don’t just tell people they should do things just because you said do. Walk the talk and be an example to them. Also, don’t neglect leadership development because investing in your leadership capabilities will help to motivate millennials workers.
–Listen, listen and listen–
You don’t learn if you don’t listen.
You can’t assume or generalize situations.
You need to embrace the differences.
Any good leader needs to understand and figure out how to be relevant and resonate with their younger workforce.
Always learn to keep an open mind because we’re talking about an audience where one size does not fit all.
Treat your millennials with a customized, unique approach. Most importantly, your words and actions have to be genuine.
#4 Beyond Recruiting – How to Retain Millennials
When I went for a job interview, the CEO asked me: What do you want to do for the rest of your lives? I said, I don’t know. He looked surprised.
To me, a career is 4 years, not 40 years. It’s 10 times lesser than the older generation of workers.
Now, that’s a career, not a job.
Contrary to the stereotype that millennials are job hoppers, millennials actually don’t prefer changing organizations every few years.
In fact, millennials would like to stay for a long time, because they want to learn, grow and become leaders in their organizations.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that millennials aren’t looking or willing to make a change.
Millennials, like everyone else, leave an organization because they can get something better elsewhere.
Some millennials are trying to escape a situation they don’t like, such as a bad boss, negative environment or office politics.
Others leave because they feel overloaded and underpaid for the work they are doing.
Or some are looking to ‘level up’ to a better situation in order to gain access to better options in their career.
The question remains as to how do you keep these young, restless workers from moving on to another job before they fulfill their professional potential?
Organizations should pay attention to these points:
Colleagues, friends, team and boss are all part of the retention package.
Create an environment so that millennials can develop true, genuine friendships.
Be sure that managers and team leads are well trained, and have time to connect and build relationships.
If millennials don’t feel like they have a community at work, they are most likely to look for it elsewhere.
What they do and how they do it is critical for millennials’ workplace experience.
It would be advisable to structure work so that it’s interesting and meaningful. This enables them to enjoy a balanced life.
Millennials worry that they could stagnate and won’t be competitive in the job market.
Thus, make sure organizations provide them with the right opportunities, including enough feedback, compensation and development for them to feel that they are continuously progressing even as they stay with the same organization.
In a nutshell, millennials are a talented and dynamic generation.
The best of them are hard to find and even more difficult to keep.
The finest of them are already in high demand.
Research suggests that there is a significant gap between what millennials expect from their employers and career, and their experience of the workplace.
Superficial changes that are intended to connect with younger workers will not work, such as ‘greenwashed’ corporate values and unconvincing media outreach.
Ultimately, retention starts with making people happier, because otherwise, they won’t stay. One of the ways is to make people happy, that means no one in the company feels like it’s a dead end.
Before long, this generation will form the majority of workforce, and they will look for employers who are truly acting on their promises.
As such, organizations that can provide the conducive working conditions that millennials crave will benefit their bottom line as they are willing to work hard and stay for a long term.
Therefore, by looking beyond millennials’ reputation as job hoppers and focus on their potential through offering meaningful work, career development and work-life balance, companies can go a long way to ensure that their future health and growth is sustainable.
Credit goes to Michael Devanesan for giving me this brilliant idea to research on this topic. Thank you boss! 😀