They’ve been called cocky, tech-obsessed, entitled and impatient, although the same traits have also been described as confidence, tech-savviness and openness to change. These are the qualities of youth — regardless of generation — yet we’re told Millennials are a different breed.
Just how different is a matter of perspective. And to motivate them the right way, perspectives first must change.
Millennials Aren’t the Only ‘Job-Hopping’ Generation
Born between the early 1980s and the end of the millennium, the Millennials (or “Generation ‘Y’”) were taught by their Boomer parents from young ages that they could land any job they desired so long as they worked hard, got high marks, and racked up the right accreditations along the way.
It didn’t quite happen that way. Most Millennials graduated into the Financial Crisis and an economy defined by increasing income inequality.
Little surprise, then, that as early as 2012 Forbes Magazine reported that underappreciated Millennials were likely job-hoppers. Other business publications have put a megaphone behind this message. In 2015 The Wall Street Journal pointed out thatMillennials stayed with their companies only half as long as an average employee.
But statistics like this one fail to compare like with like. Younger employees who lack experience, families and tenure are more likely to take a new position than their older counterparts, something that is as true of previous generations as of today’s Millennials.
You Can’t Fight the Future, But You Can Guide It
The image of the slouching, headphone wearing 20-something skating through the workday on ego and energy drinks misses much of what young employees have to offer. Today’s young hires are just as full of ambition as those that came before, having grown up in an era of market disruption, dying unions and lauded entrepreneurs.
Millennials may be one of the easiest and most cost-effective groups to reward and motivate. They thrive more on attention and continuous feedback and less on the promise of promotions or raises. So when businesses approach Millennials the right way, they often retain stellar talent while keeping their costs low. Here’s how:
Give in to Millennial ‘Neediness’
Millennials have been taught to chase perfection and gather achievements. They grew up in a time of rising GPAs, nationalized competitive youth sports, and adoring parents eager to see trophies fill up their children’s bedroom shelves. Managers may deem their younger employees desire for a sense of accomplishment as “needy,” whereas Millennials see themselves as craving input so they can do things the right way.
Managers can benefit from:
- Providing a consistent stream of feedback as opposed to quarterly or annual reviews.
- Giving positive reinforcement and ensuring that the majority of feedback is presented in a constructive way.
Give the ‘Slackers’ a Chance to Be ‘Leaders’
Young employees thrive on management training opportunities. Most want to become influencers in their organizations, yet few Millennials focus on promotion solely to gain authority or increase their future earrings. Engaging them on self-betterment projects is often enough to satisfy their personal goals.
The first generation to grow up using the internet, with access to any kind of knowledge literally at their fingertips, Millennials accept that learning and adding to one’s skill set is standard practice.
Draw a Pathway to Success
Patience is not a virtue of the young, and Millennials dislike bureaucracy even more than the Baby Boomers and Generation X. Waiting for the gears to grind along isn’t their strong suit (especially when there’s already an app that can do it faster).
Managers should consider it a plus that Millennials like to cut through red tape when possible. Give them a path to follow and they’ll start sprinting down it; and they may just find a shortcut along the way. But keep them in dark and that energy often turns to angst. Managers who let their young employees know what success looks like and provide a clear understanding of what it takes to reach it may be surprised when their teams find ways of surpassing their expectations.
Make Friends With the ‘Children’
Millennials are, arguably, more disliked than any generation in recent history even while lacking the radicalism that defined their Boomer parents. Whereas the Boomers howled, marched and toked up in defiance of their more conservative elders — the flatteringly monikered “Greatest Generation” — Millennials are at once accused of being praise-seeking approval hounds while at the same time railing against oldies and what they represent.
Yet few are likely to take to streets; if indeed they do disdain the way their older coworkers run things, such protests are largely consigned to Facebook posts, Twitter feeds and anonymous memeing. They have plenty to vent about, but so do older generations that faced recessions, gas shortages, the fall of labor unions and a dozen other economic calamities before the first Millennials were born.
Understanding each other’s struggles is an essential first step in bridging the generational gap. Workplace culture begins with management, who by learning these differences and similarities and pulling Millennials into the fold rather than treating them as the “other” can encourage employees of all ages to cut out the cold conflict.
Future Perfect Tension: Millennials Mulling Middle Age
Over 53 million Millennials are already in the American workforce, and the last of them are just now getting their driver’s licenses. Many chafe against the rigidness they’re expected to get used to, yet a with a few tweaks to the way a business motivates its personnel, employees of each generation may just start better appreciating what the others bring to the team.
If you found this article informative, may we suggest:
- To learn more on giving constructive feedback to Millennials, read How Continual Feedback Helps With Annual Performance Reviews.
- To learn more on the cost of replacing employees, read How to Calculate Turnover Rate and Why It Matters.
- To learn more on setting the right expectations for your staff, readEffective Job Descriptions Keep Employees Great, Too.