Millennials have gotten a bad rap over the years. It's been said that they are lazy, entitled, have no organizational loyalty. It's been whispered that they're only interested in material perks and high pay, and want too much time off. Although some in this age group may display those qualities, the group as a whole shouldn't be labeled as such (hello stereotyping?). And while I can't promise that the entire millennial generation has all the great qualities we're about to talk about, there are plenty who do. Smart companies are beginning to recognize the upside of having millennials in the workforce and your organization should too.
They're tech savvy.
Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are currently the youngest generation in the workplace (but not for long, the Echo Boomers are coming up FAST). Classified as being born between 1980 and 2000, these young people grew up in an emerging digital age and can multi-task between cell phones, tablets, and laptops, desktops and televisions as if it were in their nature…because it is! With technology an increasingly important part of today's workplace, companies should take this knowledge and use it to benefit their organization. How?
- Pair younger workers with older, more experienced workers for a two-way mentorship.
- Allow Gen Yers to teach quick hit tech workshops on new systems to help them learn leadership.
- Give millennials the space to prove they can be productive while multi-tasking (as long as it doesn't bother other workers).
They're eager to learn.
According to an MTV study, 65% of millennials say they should be the ones to mentor their older coworkers when technology is involved. The study also says that "what could be misinterpreted as 'self importance' is just a deeper sense of having new ideas and wanting to contribute", additionally with the "desire of having their tech skills and savvy tapped by senior managers".
The survey further found that leveraging generational creativity can be a win-win situation for not only the company and the workforce, but also the consumer. So the 20-something on your team isn't trying to come off as entitled and all-knowing, they just want to learn and grow, which is another HUGE part of understanding the millennial worker.
This can definitely come across as a turnoff but the leaders of today shouldn't discount the leaders of tomorrow. In fact, according to David D. Burstein of the Huffington Post, you should be placing Millennials within positions of power because as the largest and most dynamic generation in history, your company needs to understand Millennials. Considering that this generation is going to make up 36% of the workforce by next year and over 46% by the year 2020, it's increasingly more important to attract and retain these young adults in your company. With a growing skills gap, companies should reframe the discussion around workforce planning rather than entitled millennials.
They want to believe in something.
Millennials are, and should be, some of the most viable and sought after employees today, especially because 65% value the notion of continual growth within their professional careers. Jenna Goudreau of Forbes Magazine says though young professionals don't know how things used to work, they position themselves as change agents that are open to the future and able to adapt to learn new programs and strategies.
They believe authority goes both ways.
In a survey conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership, their data showed that Millennials are "as likely as other generations to believe that employees should do what they're told at work" This age group was raised with the value of "ask and you shall receive", so they are more likely to ask multiple questions until they get all the information they need to finish their delegated task. Although this can be perceived as a negative, millennials are simply trying to achieve the most optimal outcome for themselves and the assigned task. As far as authority goes, Generation Y'ers respect their elders. In fact, most of them in this study stated that the older generations are far superior to their generation when it comes down to work ethic and moral values.
So what does your company do to retain this generation of workers?
"Careers of millennials are no longer going in a straight line. There is no longer one single career interest. Adhere to their needs and interests, but also advise them on acceptable practices".
To a millennial, the world is their oyster and their values and morals guide them to be ever-learning, yet flexible. You don't need to upend your current policies and completely cater to the millennials, but you do need to realize that they are the harbingers of the future, and harnessing their young talent and drive will only help your company succeed when you get there.