January 15, 2017

Millennial Work Ethic and Advice for Employers

Yael Morowati

There’s a stack of literature and research characterizing millennial employees (born between 1980-1994) as needy, narcissistic, job-hopping, and the worst possible to hire. Personally, I’d disagree since millennials represent some of the best-educated (highest SAT scores and advanced degrees) and most thoughtfully-raised group in American history.  As of today, one-third of millennials are in management roles, and it’s predicted that by 2050, they will comprise half of the global workforce.

According to Pew Research, millennials hold a more negative view of their generation than that of Generation X or baby boomers. In a recent poll, 59% of millennials described their generation as self-absorbed, 49% said they were wasteful, and 43% said they were greedy. More so, only 36% of millennials see themselves as hardworking, and 24% see themselves as responsible.  So, if you happen to be a member of Generation Y or an employer, here are some alternative themes we’ve uncovered, most of which are positive.

1. Value quality of life

More than any preceding generation, millennials are unwilling to sacrifice their personal time or lifestyle compromises in return for financial compensation. While we can’t know exactly the root cause of this perspective, one can assume that it’s correlated to them having watched their parents delay happiness in return for career advancement.  This is not something they are willing to take on for themselves.  Millennials are unwilling to settle for unsatisfying jobs that will barely allow them to get by, but at the same time, they’re willing to take certain jobs so they can afford to pursue their true passions.

Advice for employers: There is something admirable about their desire for work-life balance, and any adjustment you make in this regard will also benefit your overall workforce and morale.  Think about incorporating yoga classes into the weekly schedule.

2. Expect to advance, early on

Since millennials grew up under a style of parenting that supported individual empowerment, this mindset naturally spills over into the workforce. After all, they haven’t been pegged the entitled generation without reason.  In Time Magazine, Joel Stein, writes, “Millennials got so many participation trophies growing up that a recent study showed that 40% believe they should be promoted every two years, regardless of performance.”  With regard to career advancement, managers view millennial expectations as unrealistic.  Perhaps, they’re correct but when did realism inspire innovation?

Advice for employers: Set benchmarks for your millennial employees and remind them that if they choose to make a commitment to their current position or team they will be rewarded with additional opportunities for growth.  Also, include them in the overall decision making of the company. It will pay off.

3. Value altruism

Millennials are masters of the digital age and communication, and thus, they are primed to do well in life by doing good. According to Deloitte’s millennial survey, half of millennials have shunned work and potential employers that conflict with their beliefs.  Nearly 70% say that giving back and being civically engaged are their highest priorities. 

Millennials and recent graduates are concerned with organizational ethics and social responsibility.  Generation Y wants to know your company’s stance on the environment, community involvement and social responsibility.  All of this plays a large role in whether or not they’d like to work for you. The extent to which you can satisfy these concerns will determine a significant part of your success in recruiting and employee retention.  On the flip side, this attitude is suggestive that millennials don’t have a problem with standing their ground when asked to do something that goes against their values.

Advice for employers:  Engage in civic minded activities, such as weekend volunteering activities.  Inquire about your employees values and brainstorm how they can be implemented in the company culture.

4. Think out-of-the box

Millennials naturally see things differently, since they came of age during a severe financial crisis and have been both the pioneers and guinea pigs of a massive technological change.  Thus, they are more tapped into the global network than their predecessors. Generation Y thinks entirely out of the box, and companies actually need this in order to survive and adapt in an ever-changing world.

Millennials prize working smarter and demand a different kind of work life. They are not ones to work in a cubicle or be anchored to their desks for eight hours straight.   They’d much rather reply to emails in a cafe or brainstorming while commuting to work.  Also, so many employees speak to clients and teams around the world at all hours of the day that a typical 9-5 schedule doesn’t apply.

Advice for employers:  Give your employees one day to work from home or a remote location. Change it up so each team takes “off” the same day.  Test out the best methodology. You should see an increase in energy and overall morale.

5. Survival-driven

According to a Deloitte survey, two of every three millennials hope to move on from their current employer by 2020.  Job-hopping is actually a common feature of being a young worker and not specific to this particular generation.  While it would appear that many may have one foot out the door, looking for greener grass isn’t exceptional to Generation Y.  Figures demonstrate that today’s job tenure for Americans in their 20’s is exactly the same as it was in the 1980s.

Millennials understand that nothing lasts forever, and being that they are constantly connected and can see see what everyone else is doing, they are always comparing themselves to their colleagues, friends and family. It’s not in their mental DNA to sit back and watch life happen; they prefer to take the bull by the horns and invent possibilities wherever they go.

Advice for employers:  While you can’t commit to ensuring that your millennials will stay at your firm for the next 10 years, studies indicate that if you give your employees buying power or options, you’re more likely to inspire deeper and long-lasting mutual trust.

6. Crave feedback

Generation Y craves constant feedback.  Of the millennials who said they planned to leave their company in the next two years, 70% said it was because their leadership skills were not being fully developed.  Keep in mind that most have received adult feedback throughout their earlier years from parents, teachers, and mentors.  Upon entering their first professional position, they’re met with a stark realization that nobody is interested in telling them how they’re doing.  This can be demoralizing and baffling to put it mildly. 

Advice for employers: Provide more input. Not just via formal, periodic performance reviews, but through informal responses daily, or weekly.  Your employees will appreciate this, and you’ll get more out of them.

7. Love to teach

Millennials value reverse mentoring, the opportunity to teach skills to older colleagues as well as learn from them.  They also love to spend more time discussing new ways of working, mentoring and developing leadership skills.  Many come with their own set of personal skills which they’ve cultivated their entire youth, enabling them to offer coaching to older colleagues.  Remember, this generation evolved with social media, apps and the iPhone.

Advice for employers:  Pair older employees with millennials and set up time where they can co-mentor and exchange experience for modern technology.  It’s a win-win for everyone.

On a final note, Generation Y will continue to put pressure on companies to transform the culture, office space, flexibility, and align itself with a cause. Companies interested in survival have no choice but to evolve with the needs and wants of their employees.

Facebook Comments
Simple Share Buttons