Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Millennials

Thinking differently about the workplace

By Sue O'Shea - Director, Integrated Insight

I am a Baby Boomer – albeit just barely – but still a boomer as I possess many of the traditional boomer traits.  As a former manager of a large staff I always worked hard to understand Generation X, their work style and what keeps them motivated and productive.  Now that the Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000, approximately) are coming into the workplace, it’s time to understand who they are and what they want from work and from life.

According to a Pew Research Center study Millennials are generally confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change.  They are more ethnically and racially diverse than older adults. They’re less religious, less likely to have served in the military, and are on track to become the most educated generation in American history.  I have also heard them described as entitled, adverse to hard work and over-confident. TIME suggests in their May, 2013 article “rather than being inherently self-centered or overconfident, Millennials are just adapting quickly to a world undergoing rapid technological change. They’re optimistic, they’re confident and they’re pragmatic at a time when it can be difficult just to get by.”

The Millennials were children and young adults when they witnessed the horror of 9/11.  They were also hit hard by the recent Great Recession.  Just like our parents or grandparents who survived the Great Depression, the Millennials have been affected by these and other recent events.  One result is their attitude regarding money.  It’s a widely-held belief that Millennials are obsessed with money, but don’t mistake it for an obsession with getting rich.  PwC recently conducted one of the largest global generational studies  and found that Millennials want flexible hours and job development over salary in their ideal workplace.

The PwC survey also found:
  •  Many Millennial employees are largely unconvinced that excessive work demands are worth the sacrifices to their personal life, even with the promise of substantial compensation later on.
  • A significant number of Millennial employees want greater flexibility at work, and would be willing to give up pay and delay promotions in order to get it.
  • Millennials do not believe that productivity should be measured by the number of hours worked at the office, but by the output of the work performed.  They view work as a “thing” and not a “place.”
  • They value transparency especially as it relates to decisions about their careers, compensation and rewards.
  • They want to provide input on their work assignments and want and need the support of their supervisors.
  • They have grown up not expecting their organizations to meet all of their needs, including job security, and don’t see themselves working for one organization for their entire career.
  • Although Millennials have a natural aptitude for electronic forms of communication, email and social media platforms are not always their communication vehicles of choice, especially when it comes to discussions with their managers about their careers.  In these instances, they prefer face-to-face.
  • While the same basic drivers of retention exist for both Millennials and non-Millennials, their relative importance varies, with Millennials placing a greater emphasis on being supported and appreciated. 
Great food for thought on how the workplace should evolve, but remember that one size does not fit all.  Meeting all generational needs with personalized engagement will be critical for years to come. 

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