Millennials, the latest generation to come of age and enter the workforce, have also become the largest generation in U.S. history, at 92 million in 2015, overtaking even the Baby Boomers’ showing at 77 million-strong. Based on these numbers, it’s safe to say that employers can expect to see many Millennials cross their thresholds and be seated across their interview tables in the coming years. Therefore, it only makes sense for employers and managers to learn as much as they can about this unique generation of U.S. workers and understand the many ways they differ from the generations that preceded them.
1. Differences between Millennials & Other Generations
Some of the differences between Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000), also known as Generation Y, and the generations that came before them are inherent, while others are the result of outside factors that have influenced their personalities, choices, viewpoints, and values. It’s important to differentiate between these somewhat new forms of “nature and nurture” for a better understanding of Gen Y and what truly matters to them. It’s also important to get a clear understanding of how to successfully engage Millennials and help them become more successful members of the workforce.
Millennials are marked by different behaviors, experiences, and values than those of their parents, grandparents, or much older siblings. Some of the major characteristics that differentiate Millennials from their Gen X, Baby Boomer and earlier counterparts are listed below.
General Traits & Tendencies:
- Many still live with their parents in their 20s and 30s.
- Many are putting off marriage longer than other generations did.
- They are the “renter generation” since home ownership is often unattainable.
- Many don’t own a vehicle or consider vehicle ownership important.
- They actively pursue health and wellness via diet, exercise, and other healthy habits.
- They are the first generation of digital natives, born in the technological era.
- They are highly social and digitally connected.
- They have a strong sense of fairness.
- They are inveterate multi-taskers, to an unprecedented extent.
- They are comfortable with and adept at e-networking.
- They are efficient problem solvers and critical thinkers due to technology.
- They lack patience for tedious processes that can be easily automated.
- They embrace and are very comfortable with change.
- They are more idealistic and socially conscious than earlier generations.
- They are comfortable in groups and function well as part of a team.
- They prefer to work hard rather than long and seek merit-based advancement.
- They have less work experience but often more varied life experience.
- They need work-life balance to pursue the many things they value outside of work.
- They respect and value leaders who earn their respect by respecting and valuing them.
- They are very loyal to the leaders they respect.
All these differences need to be taken into account when dealing with Millennials in the workplace in order to determine the best ways to make the most of their vast potential. These differences are also critical for employers and managers who hope to keep Millennials on their payrolls long-term to understand since they require certain alterations in workplace environment and management style
2. Forces & Factors that Have Shaped Millennials
Life in the 21st century has brought many influences to bear on the lives of Millennials, shaping them into the unique generation of fascinating individuals that they’ve become. The following are several of these factors, which, again, are crucial to understand in knowing what makes Millennials tick:
- The sharing economy has groomed them for an “access and not ownership” mindset.
- They’ve literally grown up with social media, which has given them a more global perspective.
- Rapid change in technology and many other areas has affected their entire paradigm.
- Globalization has influenced their ideals, their outlook, and their views on business.
- The economic disruption of The Great Recession has given them a different reality for living and a somewhat altered view of “The American Dream.”
- They have the largest student debt load of any generation before them.
- Their parents have typically sheltered them and put them at the center of their lives, helping them avoid having to fend for themselves longer and giving them a certain sense of self-importance and entitlement.
3. Millennials’ Ethics & Ideals
There are many things that working Millennials value—and a number of things they hate—all of which can give their employers greater insight into how to best relate to them in the workplace.
Things Millennials Value:
- Change, growth and advancement
- Coaching and not “bossing”
- Working “with” and not “for” their bosses
- Positive reinforcement and not “trophies”
- Autonomy, balance, and democracy
- Productivity and not simply putting in x amount of hours on the job
- Automation of tedious processes
- A challenge or a project that requires a creative approach
- Being listened to, valued, and appreciated
- Freedom to use their talents in a meaningful way
- Fun, enjoyment, and a positive work environment
- Humanity, civility, and fairness
Things Millennials Hate:
- Putting in meaningless hours
- Being looked down on
- Lack of respect for their talents
- Being treated as a number
4. Hiring & Retaining Millennials
Based on all of the above influences and characteristics that are more-or-less unique to Millennial workers, forward-thinking companies that are willing to be innovative and flexible in their approach to hiring and retaining them might want to consider providing some of the following benefits to attract them to the job initially and, once they’ve been hired, implementing the following norms to hold their interest and inspire their loyalty over time:
Benefits to consider offering Millennial job candidates/employees who need them:
- Loan-repayment assistance programs
- Debt counseling
- Tuition assistance
- Housing purchase assistance programs
- Home ownership counseling
- Alternative transportation programs
Norms to implement to keep employees motivated and invested in the company:
- Multiple growth and advancement opportunities
- Meaningful, challenging work
- Work-life balance in its various forms
- A fun, enjoyable, and employee-centered workplace
- Unconventional (aka, flexible) work arrangements
- Definite, shorter-term goals and milestones
- Opportunities to be involved with good causes locally
- Health and fitness programs
5. Tips for Managing Millennials
While managing Millennials may require some out-of-the-box thinking, the unconventional ways you view and relate to your Gen Y employees will make a huge difference in your workplace. Consider implementing the following tips for helping your Millennial workers do their best for the company, for you, and for themselves:
- Provide structure and accountability.
- Offer guidance and frequent feedback.
- Reward milestones.
- Set goals but offer autonomy on how to complete a task.
- Be a mentor or coach rather than a “boss.”
- Use teams to take advantage of Gen Y’s affinity for collaboration..
- Offer flexible scheduling.
- Reward accomplishments with paid time off.
- Offer positive reinforcement and recognition.
- Respect their ideas and contributions.
- Show appreciation for their ingenuity.
Millennials have incredible potential. If an employer can figure out how to effectively harness their extensive creativity, ingenuity, and passion, there’s virtually no limit to how much they can accomplish. When Millennials are understood, respected, and valued for who they are, given the guidance they need, allowed to use their strengths and talents, and not put into a box, they can not only succeed in the workplace, but they are the generation that can change the world!
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