Millennials in the Workplace

517598716I’ve worked with dozens of companies and virtually of all of them in some fashion are trying to better attract and retain Millennial employees. The Millennial workforce, which now has become the largest demographic group in today’s workplace, views their employment far differently than prior generations. Those who view Millennials as lazy, self-entitled products of an “everybody gets a trophy” generation are badly mistaken. Millennials do have different values, but they also have excellent technical skills and the ability to work hard and be productive. They are tomorrow’s leaders (in some cases today’s). But they are surely different in significant ways.

1. They want to grow and are largely impatient if they feel stagnated.

They average 2 years in a position and then they are off to “greener pastures”. You cannot blame a millennial if they can accelerate their career with a short term jump. There’s also a reality that employees are free agents in today’s changed business world. Loyalty goes both ways so more power to them. But the reality is they jump quickly.

2. They are comfortable with technology.

They are the first generation to grow up in the digital age and as a result have the ability to solve technical problems far more easily or quickly (this does not mean they have the savvy or wisdom to solve complex strategic problems as quickly). In fact a little less multi-tasking would do them well. Always best to focus on the most important tasks.

3. They seek feedback

No, they don’t want a ribbon for showing up to work, but they seek feedback on their performance on an ongoing basis and not just during their “review”. In fact if you wait for their review they may be gone before then.

4. They don’t like traditional structure and seek workplace democracy

This is a tough one for many companies to cope with who value traditional structure and who believe that the best run businesses are benevolent autocracies, not democracies.

5. They seek flexibility

Work from home, flex hours, unlimited paid time off are many of the workplace benefits that they seek. Depending on the industry, companies may (or may not) be open to a more flexible work schedule. But Millennials surely seek it. Those companies with a more flexible structure and work environment become more attractive employers.

6. Many are entrepreneurial

Many are fearless (a sign of youth) and are willing to strike out on their own to build a business. Since “working for the company” is hardly the only career track, more Millennials are risk takers than in prior generations.

On the downside many Millennials have poor written communications skills, which remain important to succeed in business. Their career impatience can also sometimes be a hindrance to greater success. Yes anyone can gain a few extra dollars by job hopping. But have a longer term vision of a career at their current employer (if appropriate) is often not even on their radar screen. And there is a bit of naivety of democracy in the workplace. Management does not need to vet every tough decision.

But on balance, Millennials are great employees—smart, tech savvy and willing to work hard for a business they believe in.

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  1. ks says:

    Thought provoking as always, Lonny.

    With respect (and speaking as a Gen-Xer), the values listed above aren’t limited to the Millennial workforce. Impatient if I feel stagnated in my career? Heck, yeah. Comfortable with technology? Bring it on – personal computing started in the mid-1980’s. Transparent, constructive feedback? Sign me up. Flexibility in where and when I work? Absolutely. Independence and creativity in the face of uncharted territory? Many of us were latchkey kids who grew up in single-parent households, where we learned the importance of maximizing unstructured time.

    I guess my (and your larger) point is: for everyone, the world of work has shape-shifted into something more fluid, more collaborative, less hierarchical. The metrics of success have changed; our capacity for emotional intelligence has evolved. Loyalty is measured according to our ability to adapt. We all want to work for people and causes we believe in. If Gen X has any advantages, it’s a little more practical experience and a lot less distraction.

    Thanks for publishing this. I always enjoy reading your insights.

    • Lonny Strum says:

      Great feedback as always, Kel. And yes, I agree Gen Xers have many of these qualities too and also emerging gray hairs (and experience) to boot.

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