By: Caitland Conley
We won’t be the first or the last to talk about millennial employees at work. After all, they’re only growing in importance to the national and global economy each year, and they’re revolutionizing aspects of work as we know it. Here at GuideSpark, we understand that employee engagement programs are not cookie-cutter solutions. There is no one-size-fits-all work environment or ideal program or software to help you understand how to manage and engage millennials.
First, what exactly is a “millennial?” Well, millennials (also known as Generation Y or “Gen Y”) are the generation after Generation X (“Gen X”) but before Generation Z (“Gen Z”). Generally, millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, and they’re currently in the prime of their careers and driving the modern economy in the process. Older generations like Gen Xers were born in a pre-Internet, pre-smartphone era, between 1961 and 1981. It’s been said before, but millennials and Gen Z being complete “digital natives” is no small feat.
Employers who are predominantly built to accommodate the work behaviors of a previous generation shouldn’t necessarily drop their existing culture and systems to accommodate the millennial generation. After all, millennials are a group of people that are as diverse in new skills and strengths as the Baby Boomers who preceded them. It’s better not to speak in generalizations about generations.
However, there are clear trends emerging on millennial behavior at work that managers and executives should pay attention to in order to work with, manage, and mentor their millennial colleagues effectively.
Times Are Changing
Growing up trained and versed in complex technology and software means millennials work and think differently. They switch jobs more often, and they’re aware of the effect rapid technological changes can have on the status of their jobs.
According to the Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019, forty-nine percent of millennials believe new technologies will augment their jobs. Coupled with increasing focus on higher education and devaluation of the Bachelor’s degree in getting competitive work, millennials were introduced to the workforce after a major recession and in a period of intense competition.
As a result, millennials are hard-wired to be skeptical of stability in their work. They’re technologically-savvy, which can be hard to balance with coworkers who request their expertise at tech tasks. Sometimes it is assumed millennials will be good at social media or technology simply because of their age, which can skirt the line of ageism.
Imposter syndrome is also a rapidly growing phenomenon, where millennials and Gen Z entering and moving up in the workplace feel a sense of insecurity, the idea of “Am I good enough?” Employers can nurture millennials in the workplace in a few key ways, like:
- Thoughtful Managerial Oversight: Millennials prefer to have honest relationships with their bosses and managers, where their manager feels comfortable bubbling up issues in a transparent and non-aggressive way. Employers should focus on managerial training and establishing consistent processes across their organization.
- Goal Setting Programming: Millennials stay in jobs longer when they feel like there is a path of growth and professional development. Nurturing and engaging this group through quarterly goal setting and clear plans for advancement, in addition to competitive, fair salaries.
- Individualization: If you’re referring to the millennials in your workplace as “the millennials” or “young people,” you’re doing them a disservice. Millennials want to be taken seriously at work just like everyone else, and bunching people together due to age may make their work feel replaceable.
How Millennials Thrive at Work
We love to say it—Millennials are plugged in. The chaos of modern work culture and always being “on” and reachable via email, phone, and social media can cause a real disconnect between being at work and working.
In American work culture today, the average millennial is getting work done at home after a full day of answering email, attending meetings, responding to constant Slack messages, and hurrying through lunch breaks. During all this, millennials are managing to keep in touch with their friends and grow their personal lives through social media.
Millennials value their company affiliation when it has purpose and meaning as well as benefits. In an era of the gig economy, most millennials have a “side hustle” or a way to make supplemental income, which they put toward debt, augment their paychecks, or use toward fun purchases like entertainment and dining.
Embracing Flexibility as an Employer
Millennials value work-life balance and strive to achieve a lifestyle that accommodates personal growth and development. They’ve spent years watching their parents and loved ones make slow motions toward retirement after years of service and dedication to their jobs.
Massive student loan debt, rising housing market costs, and shrinking 401k matches by companies mean that many millennials live with sustained financial instability, or the feeling of it. The 2019 Modern Wealth Survey by Charles Schwab and company revealed 59% of the 280 millennials surveyed live paycheck to paycheck. There are a myriad of reasons why this may be occurring, from coming of age during the 2008 financial crisis and recession to rising costs of living in urban areas where employment is concentrated.
As a result, millennials may be looking for more than just a job. They’re searching for meaning and purpose, which is why brands, technologies, and tech that make statements about their belief systems often rise to the top of the ladder.
Millennials are also enthusiastic about remote work, flexible office environments and work schedules, including the ability to work from home if they need to, or a more casual dress code. They thrive when they are trusted by their employer, and when they don’t feel like “Big Brother” is watching their every move.
According to Gallup’s State of the American Workforce study, 43% of workers in the U.S. already telecommute or work remotely some or part of the time. It’s likely that number is increasing each year, as millennials value this flexibility from their companies, particularly as they start families, move up the corporate ladder, and become executive-level decision makers.
The sheer amount of multitasking millennials are capable of isn’t always an indication of distraction. Managers should be specially trained to identify the difference between an under-stimulated employee and a completely disengaged one.
It’s key for employers to understand why millennials thrive off-site, and discover techniques to build trust with remote or flex-time employees. The idea of the nine-to-five job is often questioned these days in the wake of “digital nomadism,” which comes with its own set of challenges.
How do you work efficiently with time zone changes, technical difficulties, and evolving schedules? The counterargument to that: how can eight and nine hour days at the office ever truly be productive?
Looking to learn effective tools to understand how your employees work, analyze your organizational pain points, and quantify the success of your employee engagement solutions? Crack the code for engaging Millennials, Baby Boomers, Gen Z, and beyond within your organization today with GuideSpark.