Any mention of the word ‘millennial’ (aka ‘’Generation Y’’ – born 1984 and after) can cause a fair number of employers to develop a jaundiced eye. Born between early eighties and late nineties, millennials have grown up with the development of the online age; computers, smart-phones and digital are part of the very essence of their understanding of the world. They are the largest generational inheritors of the baby-boomers’ working world – and they see things differently.

By as soon as 2020, half of the world’s working population will be made up of this ‘buck the system’ generation. And the reason employers tend to roll their eyes, are the three – perhaps unfairly perceived – issues associated with this working group, namely: impatience to get ahead, inability at times to handle criticism and take responsibility, and a genuine belief that a company should be as much about social transformation as profit.

In Simon Sinek’s riveting-gone-viral-talk about millennials, he focusses on the workplace, where this generational group often find themselves accused of being entitled. He then addresses the ‘’why’’ by addressing some key points, two of which can be summed up as follows:

Parenting – millennials were taught that they are ‘’special’’ and can have ‘’anything they want in life’’ (just because they want it). They are the ‘’participation medal generation’’ (receiving medals for coming in last – a practice which ultimately devalues those who deserve the medals and worked hard for it, and really makes the person who came in last feel embarrassed). Accordingly, this is a generation who enter the workforce with low self-esteems, because we all know that in reality, it doesn’t work this way.

Technology – connection with all things tech has exposed this age group to new ways of sourcing information, connecting, banking, buying and working. Social media presents a wider view of the world and events. As a consequence, they want to see change in this world for the better. They no longer accept ‘this is the way it’s always been done’. Technology has shown them that magical solutions are possible. They are the generation who expect life to truly have more meaning.

The remaining two factors (environment and impatience) are further addressed below.

So, what do millennials want?

Money is still a key motivator for millennials, but their fresh perspectives are highly pertinent and valuable for a changing world. After all, believing that there are better ways to do things is the innovation all companies need to nurture.

  • Millennials want to make the world an easier, faster-acting environment because that is what they have continually experienced growing up. Their focus is not solely on what can the job do for them – but on how the job can improve operations, product and customer satisfaction. And then some. Because millennials seek to make the world a more compassionate and progressive place.
  • Many say they would take a lower salary if they felt their work matched their values and skills, and they could contribute to genuine positive transformation in society. In other words, they need a purpose to motivate them; a vision that is not only attainable but also implementable within a reasonable time span that produces practical results and satisfaction.
  • Millennials gravitate towards organisations that use their technology and resources to make an impact socially, creating values beyond a simple turn of profit. Millennials will often check a potential employer’s commitment to social and environmental responsibilities, as well as programmes that uplift the less advantaged.
  • They are probably the first working generation who believe that a good work/life balance is not only possible, but an important factor of their engagement. Knitted to this belief is the desire to be less bound to the 9 – 5 mentality and to work flexibly either time-wise or place-wise. The new approach – particularly instituted by employers who identify with this group – is that where you work and how much time you work is way less important than the results you achieve.
  • Does career progression count? Surely. Millennials are said to be impatient for promotion – often unrealistically so because they are sometimes seen as not as diligent as their elders in applying the effort required for achieving a better position. Criticism is also not well-received because, as Simon Sinek says, they have been overly cushioned by their parents from the shocks of life and as a consequence have trouble in understanding that they cannot always have what they want, when they want it.

How to handle millennials in the workplace

With the advent of the millennial worker, life-long company loyalty has vanished. Most people in this age group intend to spend only three years in any particular job. Then they expect either promotion or new challenges in a new company. They expect a career of continuous learning, and unless this stimulation is provided by their current firm, they will move to broaden their skills elsewhere. “They shop around for the jobs that best align with their needs and life goals.”

For millennials, it’s not a matter of mere restlessness, but a clearer understanding of a rapidly developing world. They need to enrich their skills to ensure they remain employable in a continually changing market. In fact, they see this aspect as so vital, they will often spend their own money to ensure they are competitively up-skilled.

Skills enrichment is such a powerful draw that companies will have to think outside the box when planning training programmes. There’s a need to ‘life-coach’ staff, whether to retain them or prime them for other companies should not be a haggling point, because millennials will simply move when they feel the slightest sense of stagnation. For any company hoping to build a lasting bond, they need to be very clear on how their training will enhance careers and what opportunities can be provided within the company.

Transforming potential into performance

At Self Insights, we believe that all individuals have the desire to be meaningful, to contribute positively and make a difference. Our On-Boarding Programme is specifically designed to facilitate a quick and smooth integration of new hires into an organisation, ensuring that HR teams are not only able to understand the desires of their new recruits, but also work with them to release their potential and attain their goals.

Working closely with organisations, we co-create Graduate Development Programmes that respond to organisational strategies and needs by developing approaches and solutions to scarce skills, recruitment practices, development and training, and management. Our coaching and training engagements are geared to build individuals as leaders of their own lives in order to thrive in both their personal and professional capacities.

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