Myth vs. Reality on Millennials

During many meetings that I’m in with Executives at different Higher Education Institutions, the topic of engaging and motivating their employees continually comes up. A lot of these Executives are in their 50-70’s and mention the generational gap they are dealing with when trying to work with others in their division. This conversation usually begins with a discussion about productivity and employee turnover, and then we inevitably get into a conversation about motivation and how the workforce is changing. Many of these leaders are aware that millennials are now the largest generation in the labor force, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data in 2016, so this is where their attention lies. Just to clarify, anyone ages 23 to 38 in 2019 is considered a millennial using this analysis. The current leaders understand that millennials are the future leaders of their organization and are eager to find ways to engage and motivate them. With that being said, as someone that is a millennial, has coached many millennials, and also done my fair share of research on the topic, I wanted to share six things that millennials want in the workplace.

  1. Quick growth and multiple options for growth

This stat floored me when I first saw it, but it speaks to how much millennials are willing to speak up about growth and a bump in pay. According to this recent report more than half of millennials have asked for a bump in pay in the last two years, and nearly 80% of those were told yes. Compared to previous generations, millennials are more willing to talk about money which is most likely due to the increased knowledge we have about salaries of comparable positions through companies like glassdoor. Additionally, millennials don’t typically have a set career path or goal when they enter a company. They want opportunities to figure out how they can test their different skills and have a more zig-zag career path than a straight up one.  

2. Ability to work in a non-structured way

Gone are the days of your typical 9-5 job where you get in and get out at the same time each day. The world doesn’t work like this anymore, and we can be connected 24/7, so we are. A stat from a Millennial Branding report found 45% of millennials will choose workplace flexibility over pay. Millennials are willing to work hard, but it just doesn’t have to be during the old normal workday hours. They are expecting to be on all the time, but also expecting to be able to come in an hour late because of the gym or leave an hour early to meet a friend who is visiting from out of town. Millennials want to be judged on the work they put out and not the hours that others see them sitting at their desk.

3. Opportunities to make an impact

Millennials want to make an impact in their career and to many, it’s no longer enough to just have a job that pays the bills. According to the Talent Report, 72% of millennials consider having “a job where I can make an impact,” to be very important or essential to their happiness. Money is important, but millennials need to know that the work they are doing is making a difference in the world. Most of your millennials are not just focused on improving the bottom line but are interested in the broader impact their work is having.

4. A diverse and inclusive environment

As the world is becoming more diverse, millennials need work environments that promote diversity and inclusion. According to this report, nearly half of millennials (47%) actively look for diversity and inclusion programs in prospective employers before making a final job decision. Millennials have grown up with instantaneous access to the internet, and because of that have seen a wide variety of perspectives shown and the success of organizations that promote ideas/thoughts from all different people. Millennials are comfortable with uncomfortable conversations and enjoy having conversations about sensitive topics such as diversity and biases in the workplace. Millennials have grown up with that idea that diversity and inclusion are vital and consider its importance to be an ethical imperative.

5. Organizations that say thank you

Companies and organizations need to move and innovate as fast as ever. Given this stress, that also means it’s more important than ever to stop and say thank you to your employees that are putting in the time to move your organization forward. Given the world we live in, millennials expect quick feedback and in fact this recent Gallup survey showed that employees are happiest when they receive some form of recognition every seven days. The constant hustle and focus on innovation and improving your product/services may seem important, but just as important is taking the time to honestly and appropriately thank your people.

6. Investments in their leadership and other “soft” skills

Companies today are smaller and growing fast, and as a result, they are typically more focused on building the business as opposed to their future leaders. Millennials were able to gain the technical skills while in college or on the job, but are now lacking and looking for “soft skills,” (I hate that term) development and training. According to a Deloitte study of 10,455 millennial workers, the top four things they wanted to improve on were: 1. Interpersonal skills, 2. Confidence and motivation, 3. Critical thinking, and 4. Innovation and creativity. It is the job of employers to provide their employees with the ability to work on these skills. These are areas that organizations sometimes ignore and assume people have, but the science shows that these are skills that can be trained and that our most successful leaders excel in.

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