I was recently observing my daughter when it occurred to me just how different we are.  I can work quickly, but she multitasks at a phenomenal rate. Like many of the young people of her generation, it’s not unusual for her to be writing a report, whilst texting, listening to music and watching a YouTube video —all at the same time. I used to wonder, how on Earth she could possibly do her homework with all of those distractions. Maybe it’s because she was brought up in a different environment to me, and has been combining tasks from an early age. After all she is a Millennial whilst I am Gen X. 

Millennials are generally described as those people born between early 1980s and 1996 – so 22-38 years old – and whether you are managing them, working with them, trying to sell to them, or being led by them, chances are you have given some thought to how this generation really works and how it impacts you.

So Gen X, it’s time to move over because – Surprise! – the Millennials are now the largest generation in the U.S workplace.

Millennials have a (maybe undeserved) reputation for being entitled, difficult to manage, narcissistic, stubborn, and consequently they confound (Gen X) leadership.

So let’s explore, why they are the way there are, and find out how we can deal with them. As always, when we are characterizing a particular group that is based on a specific age group (22-38 years old), some people will fit this profile, whilst some will not. So please bear in mind that this is a generalization and not all Millennials actually are “Millennials” as described here.

Due to their upbringing at home and treatment in school Millennials are often viewed as entitled. At home we gave them whatever they wanted, just because they wanted it. In school they received awards not because they won, or did well, but just because they participated. All their lives they have been told they can be anything they want to be and  that they are special. But, now they are in the workplace, they are finding out that they are not so special and that Mom isn’t there to argue with the teacher (or boss) about why they should be moved in to AP classes (or get a promotion). Many of them have a hard time at work because they lack the ability to communicate face to face, preferring to interact through texting or social media which provides instant (albeit “shallow”) communication.  But job’s and relationships both take time, and Millennials are having to learn that.

Because they are only accustomed to “success”, many Millennials are afraid of failure and actively avoid taking risks – and consequently they are the least entrepreneurial generation since The Second World War.

This risk aversion also means that many of them are uncomfortable having to make difficult choices, because they fear making a mistake.  Because humans only learn through the mistakes we make, the reticence Millennials have for making difficult decisions has actually caused them to mature a lot later than previous generations.

Jobs are important to Millennials, but for different reasons than for previous generations. They obviously need money, but Millennials expect a lot more from an employer than just a paycheck. They need to be able to “agree” with an employers Mission and Vision.

Millennials like variety and experiences. This applies just as much to their work life as it does to their social life, so expect Millennials to change jobs three times more often than Gen X – so on average you only get to keep them at your company for between 2 and 3 years.

Millennials aren’t motivated as much by money. Gone are the days when employees only cared about how big a paycheck was. Now, young professionals prioritize work flexibility, living a healthy life, going on vacations, and making a difference in the world over accumulation of personal wealth.

Millennials value flexibility and personal time. Millennials love to work on projects from home whenever possible, or hours that are are better suited to their lifestyle or productivity. Thanks to mobile devices and the internet, they can essentially work whenever and wherever they prefer.

They need frequent feedback. From the outside it may appear that Millennials crave freedom. But the fact of the matter is, that even more than previous generations, they need to know how they’re performing – remember they don’t like making mistakes.

Millennials enjoy multiple ways to collaborate. Don’t forget, this generation loves their devices. It makes sense. They grew up with technology at their fingertips and they have no qualms with harnessing its power if it makes them more productive. Their use of technology also means that they are probably better connected with millennials in other parts of the world more than with older generations in their own hometown.

They enjoy office perks. Find that “something” that your employees would enjoy. You could have a pizza party when a weekly goal has been met or allow them to bring in their dogs on certain days of the month. The monetary value doesn’t matter, it’s the “fun” or “cool” element that counts.

How to win them over. Communicating effectively with your employees, understanding what their interests are and how you can help them achieve their goals will go a long way in helping you to lead them. Remember this generation of people are here to stay and very soon will not only be the majority of workers, but also the majority of managers. Once that happens they will set the rules, and the face of the workplace will change forever.

Why your company needs millennials

Although Millennials don’t work for the same reasons as Gen X do, having them in your company gives you new perspectives and helps you grow. They are full of enthusiasm, which makes life easier in the workplace, and due to their close relationships with parents, Millennials are also very approachable and not scared to ask questions. While they are not afraid to work hard, they also want to enjoy their life outside of work – but there’s nothing wrong with that.

When it comes to a Millennials, I respect our differences and, personally, I am looking forward to learning from them how to grow.

If you work place is struggling how to embrace Millennials into the workforce, give Jager Consulting a call on (440) 385-6737 to see how we may be able to help.