“Millennials became the first generation to fully conceptualize themselves as walking college resumes. With assistance from our parents, society, and educators, we came to understand ourselves, consciously or not, as “human capital”: subjects to be optimized for better performance in the economy.” ― Anne Helen Petersen
It is no secret that the Millennial workforce is a different breed than those that have come before it. Millennials are highly educated digital natives who grew up during a recession, shaping their views on work, authority and organizations. As a result, many employers are struggling to find ways to keep their Millennial employees happy and engaged.
- 71 % of American adults think of Millennials as selfish (Time.com)
- 65 % of American adults believe that Millennials are entitled
- 70% of millennials do not feel that they are in the right job environment (Medium.com)
But fear not – there are a few things you can do to make your workplace more appealing to this generation. This blog discusses millennial work attitudes and values and suggests policies and actions organizations can take to retain this highly skilled segment of the labor force.
Who is the Millennial generation?
As a demographic cohort, millennials, aka generation Y, is anyone born between 1981 and 1996 (roughly ages 25 to 42 in 2022). Those born from 1997 onward are considered part of the succeeding generation. According to the US Bureau of labor statistics, the number of millennials in the US workforce is about 56 million, or 35% of the total US labor force (Sept 2022). Millennials are currently the largest working generation.
Millennials Attitudes Towards Work
“When we decided not to sell our business, people called us many things besides crazy – things like arrogant and entitled. The same words that I’ve heard used to describe our generation time and time again. The Millennial Generation. The ‘Me’ Generation. Well, it’s true. We do have a sense of entitlement, a sense of ownership, because, after all, this is the world we were born into, and we are responsible for it.” –Evan Spiegel, Snapchat CEO.
Like other employees, millennials have certain expectations about their place of work and are highly motivated to succeed. Hence, they seek to connect with coworkers and managers and offer feedback. In addition, millennials often make efforts to demonstrate their career intentions and aspirations. In this regard, they are very similar to every generation before them.
Millennials are confident, well-educated, and better connected than previous generations. As a result, they have developed attitudes toward work that starkly contrast with the work values of their parents, older peers, and coworkers. In general, many millennials tend to express the following social traits, attitudes, and behaviors:
Millennials are not or do not:
- Are less religious than their parents and tend to put off building families
- Do not believe or have trust in the concept of a life-long job
- Do not place their automatic faith in institutions, authority, or popular trends
- Do not like being told what to do
- Do not have any patients for antiquated technology
- Do not want to work for organizations that don’t align with their values
On the other hand, millennials have also adopted these traits:
- Trust who they know, i.e., family, friends, and peers
- Think independently and intend to take control of their careers
- Are just as optimistic as previous generations
- Believe that the world is always in a state of technology-driven change
- Value continual learning and developing their professional knowledge and skills
- Are ambitions, hard-working and collaborative under the right conditions
- Know their value and are not afraid to walk away from a job
- Appreciate when their ideas are implemented in the workplace
One key takeaway is that millennials have experienced change throughout their formative years and have learned to embrace it.
Boomers Versus Gen Y in the Workplace
“My only advice is to try to get the job that’s most like the job you want rather than the one that’s more prestigious. Always try to be the talent.” Ezra Klein, Washington Post
Baby Boomers are loyal to their organizations, whereas millennials are loyal to the type of work they are doing. What’s more, baby boomer professionals have preferred to remain with one employer throughout the duration of their careers which is in obivious contrast to millennials, who tend to bounce from one job to another.
In terms of managerial preference, baby boomers accept leadership hierarchies and job titles. This means they expect direction from managers to lead them toward organizational goals. On the other hand, Millennials value collaborative leadership and peer relationships versus top-down command styles of management. For Millennials, Leadership Means Trust, Empathy, and Empowerment (Brunswick Group).
- 68% of hiring managers say that Millennials have skills that prior generations do not (Millennial Marketing)
Millennials have a reputation for being a challenge to manage in the workplace. Many baby boom managers view younger generations as impatient, unprofessional, and lazy. Conversely, millennials view their baby boom bosses as intransigent and old-school regarding their work values.
How to keep the Millennials Happy in the Workplace
“(Burnout) isn’t a personal problem. It’s a societal one—and it will not be cured by productivity apps, or a bullet journal, or face mask skin treatments, or overnight oats.”― Anne Helen Petersen.
The Deloitte and Robin surveys found that millennials want:
- Work-life balance.
- Learning and development opportunities.
- Improved mental health and wellness benefits.
- A commitment from their organization to have a positive social impact on the communities they serve.
Decent Pay: Many millennials work “side hustles” on top of their full-time jobs. In addition, high inflation combined with stagnant wages equates to millennial employees searching for the next best thing.
Wellness Benefits: recent studies conducted by the American Psychology Association have found that millennials are more stressed than previous generations. Employers prioritizing their employees’ mental health will be more likely to retain Gen Zers.
Constructive feedback: millennials frequently need recognition and feedback. For example, Quiet Quitting became a global trend in part due to the perception by millennials that their organizations did not value them. However, this does not mean they require hourly or daily gratitude and reassurance. Moreover, it is essential to talk openly with your employees about their weekly progress.
Generation Y does not particularly want job security because they know it doesn’t exist; they saw their parents getting laid off growing up.
- 65 % of Millennials said personal development was the most influential factor in their current job (Millennial Marketing)
Instead, they know that recessions are inevitable; thus, they need to train and develop their skills and knowledge to prepare for the next business cycle or economic correction.
Interest and Support for Social Causes
Millennials believe in the power of activism; they consider activism to be the most effective way to bring about change. They challenge barriers, even if this puts their jobs at risk. They believe that all sectors have a role in addressing societal challenges, including businesses.
“The Millennials, a generation born digital, will have a much stronger impact on social behaviour than we currently assume. Global climate change and resource security will influence our lives in substantial ways.” – Klaus Schwab.
To compete for the best and brightest young people, businesses must appeal to them. Keep in mind the values and attitudes of Millennials when creating policies and taking action – they are a generation that wants to feel heard and appreciated. Comparing or judging the work attitudes and values of older generations versus younger ones is unproductive and will only serve to frustrate both groups. Do what you can to make them feel like a valuable part of your team, and you will be rewarded for their hard work and dedication.
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