For years, millennials have been characterized as irresponsible, uncommitted workers who are more focused on their phones than doing real work. But while previous generations may want to make fun of millennials, the Pew Research Center notes that they became the largest share of the workforce in 2015 and will only grow larger for the near future.
The size of the millennial generation means that every business wants to figure out how to engage them, and it is true that millennials have some differences from other generations. But if there is anything millennials hate, it is being viewed as a giant group of young people who all have the same interests and hobbies.
Millennials are individuals too. Businesses should think about how to use their talents most effectively, but also understand that a one size fits all approach for young people is inferior to treating them as individuals with their own concerns. The methods which employers should use to attract millennials are just basic concepts which should be used for everyone regardless of age.
What do Millennials actually want?
One thing which older generations do not seem to understand about millennials is that many of their stereotypes are the results of circumstances as opposed to some innate quality of millennials.
A big example of this is the idea that millennials job hop a lot. This is somewhat true, as Gallup points out that “60% of millennials say they are open to a different job opportunity — 15 percentage points higher than the percentage of non-millennial workers who say the same.” Many businesses look at this data, assume that this means that their millennial workers will be disloyal, and thus attempt to extract as much value out of them as they can over a short time.
But millennials do not job hop because we want to. As someone who has done it myself, looking for jobs while you have a job sucks. Millennials job hunt because in this globalized economy, getting a reliable job where you know you will be secure for the next decade or two is harder than ever. This is just as true for older generations as it is for millennials. Look at the older people who turned to Trump precisely because he promised to bring back those sorts of secure factory jobs.
If millennials are leaving your job, a business owner should not just assume that the millennial is disloyal. Instead, they should assume that there was some sort of conflict between the employee and employer, and seek to address it. Millennials say they want a strong company culture. If many of them are leaving your business, something may be wrong with your company culture. That is a problem regardless of the age of your workforce.
Not so Different
Job hopping is merely one example of how things millennials want are things which employees want in general. Another stereotype is how millennials are know it all hotshots who feel aggrieved when their oh-so-special opinions are ignored.
But one millennial’s know it all arrogance can from a different perspective be an innovative new idea. Everyone wants to feel like they make a difference in their lives. If millennials want it to come from their work, a company can take advantage of it by encouraging creative thinking. By empowering millennials and granting them fulfillment, the result will be a harder-working employee compared to someone who is just in it for the money and doing only what he is told to do.
A good company should thus try to empower millennials and let them have a role in the decision making process, as examples such as Acuity or Workday demonstrate. But a good company should try to empower everyone, whether we talking about a millennial, Generation X-er, or Baby Boomer. Only asking millennials for their opinions is just as bad as only asking Baby Boomers for theirs.
Young people throughout history have come up with innovative new ideas, only to encounter friction from older generation who prefer the way things are. This is not unique to millennials. A good business will be able to accommodate everyone’s viewpoint and draw the best decisions, understanding that no one group possesses the sole fountain of wisdom.
Looking out for Employees
Older generations may think that millennials are a special snowflake generation, but most of us understand that we are just as ordinary as everyone else. It is precisely because of that understanding that millennials want stability, a corporate culture which promotes good values and looks out for their employees, and a strong work-life balance. But these are things which every employee wants. A millennial workplace should not be a substantially different environment from everywhere else, and millennials do not want to be treated differently. A business will get the most out of their young workers not by trying to appeal to “millennials”, but by listening to the actual individuals in their office and empowering them.