How to Work With Millennials
Millennials (also known as Gen-Y) are the generation born between 1980 and 1995.This generation is comprised of about 75 million people in the US.They are known to be tech savvy, social, optimistic, and good multi-taskers but they also often get a bad reputation for being entitled and having a poor work ethic. In reality, Millennials as varied and multifaceted as any other generation. If you are struggling to work with Millennials in your workspace, try connecting with them about their values, trusting them with their own projects, and communicating openly.
Relating to Their Goals
Recognize the way Millennials want to balance their work life with their personal life.Millennials generally don’t want to delay happiness in return for career advancement, and as such are not willing to sacrifice their personal lives for their work lives.
- This does not mean that they’re not willing to work hard - rather, Millennials will work extremely hard during their defined work hours, but they expect to have their “off” times (such as weekends and nights) free from work.
Gauge how Millennials measure productivity.In general, Millennials believe that their productivity should not be measured by the number of hours they work, since someone can work for 8 hours and accomplish next to nothing of significance for the company. Instead, Millennials measure their productivity levels by the quality of the work they perform.
- For example, a Millennial worker might feel better having finished a huge project in 6 hours than having spent an 8 hour day doing “busy work” or answering emails.
Legitimize their work.Millennials are often stereotyped as “entitled” workers and such a perspective can be hard to debunk from the outside. However, in reality, Millennials simply want to feel like more than a “cog in a massive machine.” Instead, Millennial workers want to work on projects that matter to themselves, the company, or the world at large.
- Give Millennials their own projects or a small piece of ownership over a larger project.
Provide work that matters.Millennials are joining the workforce when there are countless companies and newly-forming startup jobs available daily, so they don’t feel the need to stay working at a company whose values don’t align with their own. Focus on being ethical and fair, and creating a mission that works to make the world a better place.
- This won’t just help your Millennial workers, but all company employees!
Creating a Successful Workplace
Curate a collaborative workplace culture.Create a sense of community by encouraging employees to work on teams, discuss work with one another, and take small breaks together for coffee or a walk.Millennials prefer collaboration to competition, but they can also work well alone, provided they’re bolstered by a collaborative work culture.
Allow flexible work hours.One common misconception is that Millennials want to work fewer hours. This isn’t quite true, but it is true that Millennials would like to be afforded the opportunity to be a little more flexible at work. However, this preference doesn’t just come from Millennials - there are equal numbers of non-Millennials in favor of flexible work hours as well!
- Consider allowing your employees to come in early and leave early, or to come into work a little later and then stay an extra hour or two.
- You could also employ flexible work hours by creating a day where your employees can work from home.
Don’t try to incentivize them with bonuses.It’s a common misconception that Millennials prioritize companies that offer free breakfast or a gym membership, and while these bonuses are an incentive for any employee, Millennials have been documented to prefer things like an ethical workplace or a community-oriented company.
Communicating with Millennials
Practice responding quickly.Oftentimes, Millennials will ask for advice or for an opinion. Respond to email quickly, even if it’s just to give a brief answer or inform them that their question is part of a larger discussion you are planning to have later in the day or workweek.
Set expectations.Millennials might have expectations that seem unreasonable or strange to you, but the first step in communicating with them is recognizing that these expectations come from pressures they have in their current lives. The best thing to do is to talk to them and try to understand their expectations while simultaneously setting boundaries about what is reasonable.
- For example, struggles like paying off massive student loans or trying to find a place to live in increasingly unstable housing markets can manifest themselves in the workplace through the desire to get promoted quickly.
- Respond to such worries by explaining that, while they can’t be promoted within a month, or become a Director of something within a year, there are opportunities for career advancement.
Provide regular feedback.You don’t need to schedule a formal employee review every month, but what you can do is to provide small, informal responses weekly or even daily. Millennials value transparency, and helping them know what your expectations are (and how they’re doing in regards to those expectations) help them meet and even exceed those expectations.
Don’t feel the need to only provide positive feedback.While Millennials do value frequent praise and transparency, not all of the praise has to be positive. In general, a Millennial would rather you recognize they’ve accomplished something (a neutral recognition is fine) and then give them honest, precise feedback about what they’ve accomplished, even if that feedback is negative.
Establish mentoring chains.Millennials are the generation that’s most open to mentoring and coaching. They value advice from more “experienced” team members, and enjoy having someone to talk to about work. A mentor should be someone who is willing to answer questions about the job and the company as a whole, and who isn’t afraid to take some time out of their week to check in.
Leverage technology in your workspace.Integrate technology like Slack or Skype to help your employees increase efficiency. These tools serve as forces for collaboration and execution, and can help cut down on long meetings, excessive emailing, or other unproductive workplace habits.
Connecting Across Generations
Recognize that many stereotypes about Millennials are untrue.Despite the stereotypes and common misconceptions, there are no real meaningful differences among generations in the workplace.In fact, Millennials have many of the same career goals than any other generation.
Debunk the belief that Millennials job hop at an abnormal rate.Many people have the notion that Millennials jump from job to job more quickly than the average worker. While Millennial’s aren’t as stagnant in their jobs as Boomers, the fact is that Millennials usually tend to stay longer at one job than their Gen-X counterparts.
Help fight against harmful Millennial stereotypes.Remember that no generation can be summed up by blanket statements. Just because you meet a lazy or ineffective worker that is of Millennial age doesn’t mean that all Millennials are like that one person. Keep an open mind and remember that, when it comes down to it, Millennials are basically the same as you!
Sources and Citations
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Video: How to Make Millennials Want to Work for You | Keevin O'Rourke | TEDxUNI
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