Millennials, those born between the 1980’s and early 2000’s, will make up half of the workforce by 2020.
They are sometimes stereotyped as being a shallow, social media obsessed generation who are impatient, self-entitled and love nothing more than visiting Starbucks and taking selfies.
As companies form their strategies for the future, an understanding of millennials is increasingly important if they want to build themselves a reliable, loyal workforce. I work in HR, and I am a millennial, so I feel it is particularly important to truly understand this generation.
Millennials are not willing to work hard.
This isn’t true; we actually just want flexible working. The future concept of what it means to go to work is more flexible than sitting at one desk from nine to five, Monday to Friday. This doesn’t mean we won’t be working as hard or that we will be working less hours, but instead we can utilise the abundance of technology now at our fingertips in order to fit our work around our lifestyle. A recent survey by PwC showed that 21% of millennials look for flexible working arrangements when considering what makes an attractive employer; it is therefore essential that companies think through how they can offer flexible working in order to attract and retain the best talent.
Millennials think they know it all.
This isn’t true; we just enjoy collaboration and want to share our knowledge as much as we want to learn. More and more employers are adopting ‘reverse mentoring schemes’ to harness the skills and knowledge which millennials have and want to share with the rest of the workforce. The schemes are designed so that less experienced employees guide their more experienced colleagues on topics such as technology and social media usage. Forbes has put together their take on setting up reverse mentoring, including their tips for ensuring this scheme works for everyone (including those who may be a little more reluctant to take advice from their junior colleagues).
Millennials are self-entitled.
This isn’t true; we are just primed to do well. From primary school through to university we receive feedback, praise and we are awarded with certificates of achievement and participation. From this, we build aspirations of how great we can become one day. We are part of a digital world, which is full of immediacy so we naturally come to expect immediate results too. When we enter the workplace for the first time, this approach can be misinterpreted as self-entitlement. Employers should not satisfy our need for an immediate sense of achievement by promoting us up the ranks too quickly though. Instead, employers should set clear expectations from day one to help form personalised progression routes for each of us. Rather than looking for a promotion, we can review where we are now, where we are aiming to be in the future and the steps we need to take in order to get there. Employers can then continually refer back to this plan to demonstrate progression in order to give us that sense of achievement we need and are used to.
Millennials are money obsessed.
This isn’t true; money isn’t the only thing important to us, as proven by PwC whose study revealed millennials rank opportunities for progression, training and development amongst the top things which make an employer attractive. Further to this, we place high importance on working for a company whose values are in line with our own. Employers must therefore communicate their values from the beginning in order to increase their chances of attracting millennials who are compatible. Millennials are less likely to look elsewhere if they feel they are compatible with their current employer and retention will improve. Many organisations are now including a ‘values interview’ in their recruitment process; these are example-based interviews which assess the way the interviewee approaches the answers. For example, do they take ownership of consequences, do they take time to consider different perspectives.
Is it too much to ask an employer to allow millennials to share knowledge and ideas (they might actually be good!) in a flexible working environment where clear expectations are set, as well as offering progression and development as an employer who lives by its values? As a millennial and a HR professional I think these are very reasonable requests and something all employers should be aspiring to. Perhaps it’s about time some employers look at millennials as the gateway to the future and not a hindrance of the present.
Maria Wall, Venn Group Human Resources