Dear Corporate America: Stop Whining and Give Millennials What They Want

10/31/2014 05:18 pm ET Updated Dec 31, 2014

Let me start off by saying even as a Millennial myself, I am sick of hearing about Millennials. It seems like it is almost impossible these days to pick up a newspaper, read a blog or even watch the news without hearing about the loved and hated Generation Y: what they want, what they don't want, why they suck, why they are awesome, and why their yoga class is more important than your business meeting. You get my drift.

I also understand that the majority of articles (including this one) tend to stereotype a vastly varied group of people. However, as a member of the Millennial generation who has spoken to audiences and worked with groups across the country, I think it is fair to say that many of the stereotypes are there for a reason. That includes both the good and the bad.

Regardless of your feelings about this so-called "Me Generation," there are irrefutable statistics that show if you want your business to be successful in the next decade, or even to stay in business, you better not only take notice, but take action. According to the 2014 Deloitte Millennial Survey, Generation Y will comprise 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that in 2012 there were approximately 60 million Baby Boomers in the U.S. workforce, but only 50 million Generation X'ers. It doesn't take a math whiz to see that in a few short years when those Baby Boomers start to retire, there will be a 10 million worker deficit that will need to be filled by us Millennials. So, love us or hate us, you are going to need us.

Although there are a lot of changes Millennials would ideally like to see in the workplace, I have narrowed it down to the top three that I think would be easy to implement and extremely beneficial for both your organization and your emerging Millennial leaders.

What We Want

Continued Professional Development - For the first 18 to 25 years of our life, Millennials were surrounded by structure, coaching and learning. We are the most formally educated generation to enter the workforce. Sadly, for many Millennials, when we entered the workforce that training and structured continuous learning stopped. Studies have shown that many Millennials are willing to trade other previously revered perks such as high salary for factors including opportunity for career progression and top notch training and development programs. The PwC Millennials at Work survey showed that the third highest quality that made an organization attractive to Millennials was having an excellent development program. When ranking the top three benefits that they found to be most valuable, training and development came in first, followed by flexible work hours and cash bonuses. Despite these findings, many employers are reluctant to spend top dollar to train these emerging leaders in fear that they will take the knowledge and shortly leave for another organization. I think there are two points to bring up against this argument. First, if your organization doesn't provide high quality, structured training, in the very near future your organization won't even come close to being in the running to attract young talent, let alone retain them. Second, there is a popular cartoon that shows a manager saying "What if we train them and they leave?!" and another manager saying, "What if we don't and they stay?!" Ultimately, choice is yours, but my bet is that although top performing Millennials might not stay with your organization for their entire career, if you help train and develop them the return to your organization will be much more than your investment.

Positive Social Impact - According to the 2014 Deloitte Millennial Survey, 63 percent of Millennial respondents donated to charities, 43 percent actively volunteered or were a member of a community organization and 52 percent signed petitions to support local causes. We are looking to be a part of organizations that also value making a positive social impact. Millennials believe that business success should be measured by more than just financials, but also by the businesses' focus on improving society and giving back to good causes. Not only do Millennials want to work for organizations that are making a positive impact, it is also where we are investing our money. The term "Impact Investing" was coined in 2007 and is the idea that private capital can be used to help contribute to causes like access to clean water, preventative healthcare and affordable housing, all while returning a financial profit. According to the Harvard Business Review, "Millennials consistently cite social impact as one of the most important roles of business." Sixty-seven percent of Millennials agreed that their investment decisions are a way to express their social, political and environmental values. In summary, ensuring your business does all it can to make a positive impact on local and global causes will pay back returns in the form of top talent recruitment and retention, additional interest from future investors and of course the goodwill that doing the right thing provides.

A Flexible Work Schedule - A common stereotype of Millennials is that we aren't willing to work hard for what we want and that we have a sense of entitlement. I could go on a rant of a possible source of where that entitlement came from (cough... Baby Boomer parents), but instead I'll tell you why I think the stereotype of being lazy is wrong. Some of the most hardworking people I know are Millennials. They are driven and motivated to succeed, even after graduating into one of the worst job markets in history. However, according to the PwC 2013 Global Generational Study, 64 percent of Millennials would like to occasionally work from home and 66 percent said they would like to be able to adjust their work hours. Notice, they didn't say they wanted to work less, they wanted to shift how and when they work to be most successful and happy in their work and life. Surprisingly, the same study found that a significant number of employees from all generations were interested in moving to a more flexible work schedule and were willing to give up pay and delay promotions in order to get it. Overall, Millennials surveyed believed that productivity should not be measured by and rewarded based on number of hours in the office, but rather the actual output and quality of work performed. Sounds like a pretty reasonable request to me!

Don't give us these things just because we want them. Make these changes to have a more successful business, to create a more positive culture and empower your employees to live their best life all while making them effective staff members and advocates for your company. Create a culture that accepts this new generation and provides a work environment that allows them to be happy, make a difference in the world and, of course, do work that makes your business more successful than ever. Let's face it - you need us. But, we also need you. Find ways to create mutually beneficial relationships. Coach us on how to have a difficult conversation with a co-worker and we will show you how to create a killer social media strategy. If we find ways to work together maybe we can change the headlines. Instead of "Millennials Love Selfies and Baby Boomers Hate Them" we can start to see things like "Collaboration between Generations Leads to Wildly Successful Businesses." I like the sound of that. Don't you? It doesn't have to be about what generations way is "right" or "better". Times are changing and so should the way businesses work -- regardless of whose idea it was.

Try out our views that work life balance isn't just possible, it is a priority and that having a purpose is just as important as making a profit. Who knows... you (and your bottom line) might just like it.

I'd love to hear from you. Shoot me an email at Jenna@JennaAtkinsonConsulting.com to let me know what your business doing to embrace the values of the next generation of workers? How has it affected your business?

About Jenna: Jenna is the President of Jenna Atkinson Consulting, a firm that specializes in creating actionable strategies for organizations to develop and engage their emerging leaders. She was recognized as one of InBusiness magazine's 40 Under 40 in 2014. She speaks, trains and consults with a wide range of organizations to help their employees reach the next level of success. For more tips on success, check out JennaAtkinsonConsulting.com.