Millennials: the shiftless, social-media obsessives who reject authority and simply will not grow up? Or millennials: the can-do, vibrant, tech-savvy youths who want to change the world? What is your viewpoint? At Cooper Lomaz, we decided to examine the issue that’s becoming the topic of conversation in many workplaces…
Who are ‘Millennials’?
If you haven’t heard the expression before, a little explanation may be in order. Put simply, millennials are generation Y, the millennial generation, born after 1980 into a world where technology was so commonplace and all-encompassing, that they simply cannot imagine a world without it.
They are the ones in a position to look back at the past and reject those things with which they do not agree, while taking ideas and concepts with which they do forward into a brighter future for us all. They reject outdated modes of working, old-fashioned stereotypical notions about how society should look or behave and preconceptions about individual conformity.
This can be both intimidating and frustrating for employers who, today, mainly hail from generation X – those born after the WWII population boom (1965 -1980) whose classification into social groups is difficult but whose common perceptions of society and culture lead them to crave both individualism and stability.
Millennials were born into an altogether different world and present challenges to their generation X employers in terms of attitude, expectations and behaviour. By understanding and overcoming these differences and learning to work together, not only can understanding be achieved but progress actively made.
What can millennials bring?
If you are an employer, you may already be aware of the many positive attributes of this group of young people. Let’s take a look at what they can bring to the workplace and what employers can do to bring out the very best in them.
Millennials are by their very nature, enthusiastic – they have highly positive feelings about themselves and what they can offer and it’s this enthusiasm which needs to be nurtured. They need encouragement to be the best they can and with the right support, they will shine.
Leadership and guidance are very important to millennials – they understand that they have much to learn and are willing to do so. By keeping them ‘in the loop’ regarding all aspects of their role and responsibilities, as well as their place in the wider structure, you will reap the investment of your time and effort.
A defined place in a team structure will do wonders to bring out the best in your millennial employees. Millennials are good team players and respond well to team activities in which their individual efforts contribute towards the success of the whole.
Structure is also important to millennials – deadlines, regular working hours, tight schedules, clearly stated objectives and documented progress are the stepping stones to a focused and happy millennial employee.
Millennials thrive on being listened to – they believe they have opinions which matter and, like most young people, will happily share their thoughts with those willing to listen.
Variety certainly is the spice of life for a millennial – boring, repetitive tasks will do nothing to encourage them or bring out their full capabilities. A diet of varied challenge is the key to their fulfilment.
They are also excellent multi-taskers – this is what they have known since they had their first smart phone, tablet or computer and their brains are able to deal with more than one thing at once, processing a variety of information in a way that an older employee may find daunting or simply impossible. To them, it is not hard – it is just another way of working. Above, all, do not let your millennial employee get bored.
Make the most of your millennials’ instinctive understanding of technology by finding new ways to work in which they can use their gadgetry in a positive and productive way. Do not insist that all mobile phones are turned off during working hours; it is simply not going to work. Provide them with a company phone and watch them synchronise their technology.
Social media is not just about videos of cats or photos of people’s food. It’s a vital resource which your millennial employee knows how to utilise to its full effect. If you have not got a fully-developed social media presence on sites such as Twitter or LinkedIn you are missing an opportunity which your millennial will instinctively know how to rectify and improve upon.
Millennials, as we have already discovered, think and operate differently to the previous generation and do not understand why a work/life balance should not be top of an employee’s priorities. They seek to work to live, not live to work and their social life is as important to them as their career. Understand and encourage this and your workplace will be a more productive place.
Finally, millennials enjoy having fun. Encourage them to socialise with their colleagues at lunch time or after work, promote a happy atmosphere with laughter and camaraderie.
Nearly three quarters of a million young people fit into this, albeit generalised, categorisation and are about to join or have already joined the workforce. By actively encouraging them in achieving their work-goals and by setting a work ethic in place which enables them to fulfil themselves, your organisation, of whatever size, will reap the rewards in terms of both increased profits and happier, more loyal employees.