We keep hearing about Millennials and how they are so different from previous generations, but why does this matter to us? Probably because lack of understanding of this generation can cause problems in how to manage them and how teach and develop them. If you’re a non-millennial manager, consultant, or trainer this is for you!
In this article, we seek to dig deeper into who exactly they are, what are the characteristics that make them distinct from other Generations and why. We then go on to think about what that means and how to work with Millennials to get the most harmonious and best outcomes for all.
Who are they?
Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are people who were born between 1980 and 1995 so reached adulthood around the turn of the millennium. Generation Y are sometimes described as the Baby Boom Echo as they are typically the children of those born during the Baby Boom from 1945 to 1960. In 2017 these Millennials are in their 20’s and 30’s and make up 29% of the British workforce and are estimated to become 50% of the workforce by 2020.
Millennials are the digital natives of society and heavily rely on all forms of technology for activities like: communication, dating, organisation and relaxation. It has been recorded in a survey designed by Future Cast* that 46% of Generation Y have over 200 Facebook friends compared to only 19% of non-Millennials. This statistic illustrates the pervasive relationship with technology and social media.
Generation Y are the most ethnically diverse group in history with more freedom of expression and opportunities than previous generations. Most parents will tell you even within a family no child is the same: they all have unique personality traits and mind-sets; be that as it may, there are some key and reoccurring traits social scientists and other generations have observed of Generation Y. **
- Technologically Savvy
- Success/Results Oriented
- Team Oriented
The world has changed dramatically in the time of Generation Y. Other generations before Generation Y did not have portable computers in their pockets. Generation X had desk based personal computers and the Baby Boomers had the television. You could not just text someone on the other side of the world and instantly get a reply. This has made Millennials more global and tech savvy people because of all the new technology developments happening all the time.
The world is now constantly changing at such a fast pace that many older generations struggle to keep up; the speed of change has made Generation Y flexible, agile, quick thinking and able to multitask to a reasonable degree.
Slowly but surely the world is also becoming a more tolerant place for those with different sexual, religious and lifestyle preferences. As the Millennials are growing up in this more liberal society it is leading them down a path of natural acceptance of other beliefs and opinions. They are more liberal and accepting as well as more confident to be expressive and open.
- Politically Disengaged
- Unable to problem solve
Even though the world seems to be getting better and easier to navigate for young people growing up, some parts of their development get left out or made redundant. For example many young people don’t have to be patient or hardworking because technology has made everything so easy and fast. Sadly this has instilled some traits of laziness and impatience in Generation Y.
The root of every person’s personality comes from their experience of life as a child or the way they were brought up. Simon Sinek (***) says ‘they [Millennials] were told that they were special…that they could have anything they want in life just because they want it and they can have it whenever and don’t have to wait’. For example you want something and all it takes is one click on Amazon and it’s there within a day. It is called instant gratification. This creates high expectations, a sense of entitlement and narcissism with which others now label Millennials today. It’s great to love and cherish ones children, however instilling these unrealistic messages when they’re young sets them up for a massive shock when ‘they find out they’re not special…[and] you can’t just have it when you want it’ and don’t get something for nothing. The realisation of this causes all they know to be shattered and they lose confidence and have low self-esteem. This leads to rapid job disappointment and a tendency to miss opportunities by moving on very quickly.
Also many Millennials are becoming less and less able to problem solve independently because they now rely on their phone/laptop to give them the answer. No battery, no Wi-Fi, no answers.
What does this mean for employers?
Employers need new techniques to interest, engage and develop Millennials in the work place. It doesn’t make sense to employ someone from Generation Y and expect them to work the same as other generations of employees. They’ve grown up in a completely different world with totally altered stimuli.
Overall, all employers need to do is keep their millennial employee engaged in their work because engaged employees work almost twice as well as those who are not engaged. ****
Here are my top ten tips for engaging a Millennial in the workplace.
- Give them the best technology for the job
81% of employees that are Generation Y said that having access to state of the art technology at work was the biggest office perk. As digital natives it’s what they know best.
- Give them recognition for the work they do
Many Millennials want to feel that their work is valuable to the company and this is conveyed by the employer’s interest in their work. If they have worked hard on something and an employer recognises them for it; the employer can start to replace the instant gratification complex with the ideology of diligence and persistence equalling success.
- Give them feedback on the work they do
It is not enough to merely recognise their work. A Millennial constantly craves feedback on what they have done. This is created from a social media generation that thrives on ‘likes’ and frequent endorsement. It isn’t just because they want an ego boost or to show off but actually they want to know that they are doing well.
- Ensure that they are aware of/have career advancement opportunities
Generation Y are ambitious. This is because many of their parents told them they could be anything they want to be. That has led to a determined generation who often have high levels of self-belief and respond well to being given opportunities.
- Be flexible
Because of an ever changing world, Generation Y have developed fluidity and adaptability to constant change. They are so used to moving and changing that they despise rigidity and immutable rules. If employers allow their Millennial employees to work flexibly and have a say then they are more likely be happy and engaged at work.
- Encourage team work and out of office socialisation
Millennials love to connect with their colleagues both in and out of work. This can be face to face or via technology because they are the social networking generation. If they feel comfortable and friendly with those they work with they will be more engaged and interested in work.
- Share business success with them
Millennials are ambitious and love recognition so if something is successful within the company/ business it should be widely communicated because it will inspire and motivate them. They are motivated by outcomes and success.
- Allow flexible work environments
Generation Y have grown up into a world of freedom, where you can research, chat and work on the move due to mobile phones. We have so much choice for everything, for example there are over 40 types of coffee to choose from! When going into a 9 to 5 job in the same office or room they may feel trapped and unable to be themselves. An unhappy Millennial like most others is not engaged or very productive. By allowing them to work from home or telecommute where possible, employees can feel empowered and engaged so they’re not trapped in an office.
9. Show the social impact that your company has on the world
Generation Y may have been called narcissistic, however many of them do care about the greater good because of their increasing globalism and contact around the world. According to a Business Insider article 63% of Millennials expect their employer to contribute to a social cause. If they feel like they’re helping people they’re more likely to engage with their job.
- Give them opportunities to shine
To stay engaged many of Generation Y want to feel like their job is making full use of their skill set, however studies show that only 28% feel as though this is happening for them. This maybe because of unrealistic experience however it needs to be managed. For Millennials one of the best ways to make them feel engaged and useful is to give them opportunities to succeed. These are mental milestones that can be celebrated and used to train persistence and hard work into people. It boosts their confidence and motivates them further.
Teaching Generation Y
As I have established so far, Millennials’ brains work differently to Generation X and the Baby Boomers. Due to the change in requirements of the students but lack of change in the teaching methodology a gap has formed between the expectation of teachers and the performance of Generation Y.
In 2009, a lady named Christy Price saw this gap and sought to bridge it. Her idea was the 5 R’s to engage Millennials*****. These are:
Millennials prefer a diverse and interactive education with more freedom to choose how they work. Generation Y love co-operation more than any other generation so group projects are ideal.
Few people like doing something just for the sake of it. This is especially true for Generation Y; they don’t value information for its own sake but for its relevance to their lives. They respond to on-demand work, live circumstances and practical application.
Generations like the Baby Boomers and Gen X respond well to authority however this is not the case for Generation Y. This is believed to be because they have grown up in a more liberal, collaborative maybe even permissive society. When told to do something they prefer to know why before they are willing to engage in it.
Millennials dislike a lot of pressure and formality during learning because it suppresses creativity and personal expression. If a teacher is relaxed and empathetic to their Generation Y students, they’re more likely to be engaged.
As I have mentioned already; Millennials love to gain recognition and feedback on their work whether it be at school or as a job. Generation Y feel inspired and engaged once given recognition. Connection with the teacher/trainer is key.
Generation Y are different to any group that came before them. They live in a different world to the one the Baby Boomers or Generation X grew up in. This doesn’t make them wrong, because society is always changing and always evolving. Without changing generations, society stagnates and will never progress.
Some may say that Millennials are different and hard to teach or work with but it’s not just them that needs to change. The changes needed to optimise effectiveness are on all sides. One thing that employers and educators from previous generations need to change is the expectation that every generation is the same and can be treated that way. For Millennials, they need to adjust their paradigms around entitlement and instant gratification. It’s a brave new world that all generations are having to deal with, adapt to and embrace new ideas. As David Bowie said we all have to ‘turn and face the strange’.
By P Sollis & P Seabright
** Not all Millennials conform to every one of these qualities