Do you still talk about Millennials like you just don't get them at your organization? Who are they? What motivates them? Why are their expectations and approaches so different? Millennials are rewriting the rules of the workplace and, like the end of the dinosaur age, the corporate world is struggling to catch on. There are corporate organizations that do understand but are now in the uncharted territory where new structure is invented, reinvented, and reinvented again until something sticks. They are on a whole new playing field. If your organization isn't on that playing field yet, here are 3 concepts to help make the leap.
Understand the Impact of Formative Year Events
Millennials had a drastically different childhood and coming of age experience than previous generations due to the wealth of information available to them due to technology. Put yourself in their shoes and understand the drivers behind the traits often named of Millennials: self-entitled, disloyal, indecisive, among others. For example, have you ever considered that the appearance of being entitled is driven instead by a need for immediacy from growing up with technology? Not just the need for immediate response, but the expectation for immediate growth as evidenced by the rapid rate of technology evolution in their childhood. Earlier promotions? Why wouldn't you expect your employees to grow at the rate of today's innovative cycle vs. yesterday's slower paced world?
See the Future from a Millennial's Eyes
Many Millennial career expectations and behaviors are linked to the way they see their future shaping up. Older generations are more accustomed to the idea of long-term financial security and innovation geared towards making life easier. While Millennials also have benefited from the advances in society, we see a future that is very unpredictable. The immense challenges we face in the future with financial stability, global markets and demographics, environmental catastrophe potential, and other challenges create a shorter term outlook, rely and look out for yourself, YOLO mentality (You Only Live Once).
Some of this mentality is also due to our young age. Consider that most Millennials heavily distrust both corporate organizations and government to take care of their long term future. For example, the PEW Research Center reported in March 2014 that only 6% of Millennials believe Social Security will be able to provide for them at the same level as today's retirees. The inability to rely on companies or the government to help take care of one's financial future is an alarming concept and truly drives this generation to look to alternative means to secure their long term future. This is just one example of the many immense concerns in the Millennial generation's outlook for the future.
Talk to a Millennial
Set aside your assumptions of this generation for a moment and go talk to them. You'll find that yes, there are Millennials who grew up heavily influenced by helicopter parents and the Self Esteem Movement, but you will also discover the wide diversity within the Millennial generation. In the U.S., this is the most diverse generation of all previous generations. The better practice is to not assume the background of a Millennial. For example, the perception of entitled could be because a Millennial had helicopter parents, but equivalently could be because a Millennial had divorced parents, low income background and has a strong drive to make it to the next level. These vastly different backgrounds can still lead to the same external behavior, but point towards different ways of managing the individual.
If you and your organization take the time to truly discover this generation, you'll find that Millennials are much more like yourself than you thought. You'll also find that they have real concerns and desires that, if understood can, not only drive increased engagement and retention of this generation, but help design businesses that will survive the disruptions and innovations coming in the next century.