Millennials, also known as Generation Y, were born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s. They now form over 50% of the global workforce, bringing with them a fresh approach that is both healthy and a major challenge for employers.
At Commitment we want to support employers and millennials to work in harmony and deliver organisational success. While training and coaching millennials, and observing them in the workplace, this is what we have noticed:
- having grown up with information and communication technology as part of their daily lives, Millennials expect their employer to make full use of it. They are significantly changing workplace communications, for example their use of team communication apps such as Slack is rapidly overtaking use of email. With technology to support remote working, they also have expectations of flexible work patterns, including virtual participation in meetings and regular working from home;
- work-life balance is very important to them. Previous generations of workers stay late in the office to show their dedication, and answer calls and emails into the evening and at weekends. By contrast, millennials highly value their ‘down time’ and will guard it closely to help maintain good physical and mental health;
- Millennials grew up in the glare of social media and in an education system that rewarded participation as much as winning, all of which has a bad impact on their self-esteem and self-worth when they encounter the realities of the workplace. It is unsurprising that at work they seek regular acknowledgement and reward;
- they want to develop. One of the most common reasons for Millennials leaving a job is that they feel they are stagnating. They often speak of being unable to access interesting new projects or being unable to get onto skills/knowledge training courses;
- Millennials are often impatient and blunt. As children they were told that they could do anything they wanted and get anything they wanted. Whilst empowering in some ways, that message also means that many Millennials struggle with having to wait for a promotion or pay rise, and are irritated by the slow building of relationships with colleagues and customers, asking ‘Why does all this take so long?!’;
- in terms of diversity, Millennials are by far the most inclusive and tolerant generation at work. They have strong beliefs in equality of opportunity and fair treatment, as well as a strong desire for corporate social responsibility.
So what are our top tips for employers to motivate and engage millennials?
Based on the observations above, here’s what we recommend:
1. review the tools, technology and opportunities that you offer, to make sure these are modern, effective and support innovation. And consider using reverse-mentoring: the younger members of your team can often suggest better, fast and cheap digital tools, and show older team members how to implement them;
2. offer flexibility in working patterns, including the location of work, start and finish times, holiday dates. Find ways to break down any long hours culture;
3. ensure that managers communicate clear expectations and goals, and give regular feedback (much more frequently than the usual annual appraisal process). And what are you doing to build Millennials’ confidence?
4. Whilst acknowledging that Millennials tend to change jobs every year or two, investing properly in their development is still key. What developmental opportunities and training can they access, and how soon after joining your organisation? What key skills and experience should they be building and why?
5. Be patient in the face of impatience. Understand that many millennials are inexperienced in building face-to-face relationships and have little sympathy for, or understanding of, office politics and courtesies. Help them to understand why face-to-face relationship building is worth their time and effort, and show them how to do it;
6. use their sense of fairness and social responsibility to make work a better place to be. Get their suggestions for improvement initiatives on these themes and give them support, encouragement and time to implement the best suggestions.
Millennials are forcing us to look again at the way we do things at work and to re-evaluate the effectiveness of our approaches. Rather than resisting the suggested changes, let’s work together to explore how we can make best use of their talents and ideas, and improve the workplace for everyone.