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Millennials Are People Too

Millennials Are People Too

Monday, 9 July 2018

Last week a baby boomer asked me to explain millennials to her. Later, I was invited to two separate networking events with the word millennial in the title. I’ve read repeatedly that by 2020, 50% of the workforce will be made up of millennials. It seems that the obsession with millennials and how to handle them won’t be going away any time soon.

I get it, we’re human and humans like boxes, categorisations that (we believe) help us understand others better. The problem is I don’t believe this categorisation is helping us manage people. At all.

The geek in me loves reading generational research, seeing how the world and people in it have changed. What that shows me is that whilst society does change from one generation to the next, people’s needs, wants and motivations aren’t as wildly different as the media leads us to believe. In fact, the last three generations have all been dubbed ‘Generation me’.

There’s a perception that millennials are entitled. They don’t want to work hard but want progression anyway and have no loyalty to companies, job hopping to get ahead. In 2014 millennials did in fact work shorter days on average than their Gen X counterparts did when they were the same age. All of 13 minutes per day less. In 2014 Gen X actually worked less per week than millennials. In fact, working hours for everyone have decreased in recent years as we focus on work-life balance and well being. Research by Gallup indicates the tenure in a job for 25-34 year olds in 1983 was 3.5 years and now for the same age group is 3 years. People under 30 are 11% more motivated at work than those over 30 according to self report measures. Ten years ago the same pattern of motivation was found in the generation before. In short, the differences really aren’t that great and many appear to be age or stage of life rather than generation based.

There are some differences, although research comparing the psychological profile of millennials with their predecessors indicates the popular view might not be right. Deloitte’s 2017 workplace styles research suggested that contrary to the stereotypes more millennials identified as methodical and risk averse (‘Guardians’ - 32%) than any other profile and than the generation before them (24%). The research is interesting but that doesn’t always make it useful. When applied at macro level, to market and develop products to large markets, an 8% difference between populations can make a big difference. But defining your management strategy based on an 8% difference in psychological profiles isn’t going to have the same impact.

The main qualities of an ideal company to work for remain consistent for Millennials and Gen X, so when looking at how you manage your staff day-to-day, focusing on your employees’ average birth year is just a distraction.

So what can you do instead to help you manage your millennials…and everyone else as well? Well just to start:

  • Talk to them. Develop your managers’ behaviours so they can focus on how they are going to get to know staff better, including millennials. Motivate them based on who they are.

  • Trust them. If you want a productive workforce you must build trust. You need employees who respect and value one another’s opinions, ideas and experience.

  • Provide direction and clarity. Help them understand their role in delivering the broader team and organisational goals.

  • Coach and give them feedback. To everyone, not just those who ask for it or those you like (maybe get a little help on the core habits that will help make this effective).

  • Recognise that they have lives outside work. Develop comprehensive flexible working approaches. Allowing your people to choose whether they work 8-5pm or 9-6pm isn’t sufficient, it’s a token gesture.

  • Reward everyone fairly. Ensure everyone is genuinely fairly rewarded for the work they do and maybe let them choose the benefits that will work for them.

These may seem like obvious solutions, like things you’ve heard many times before, but that doesn’t mean they are happening. And if they are, have you made sure that your approach works for ALL your staff?

If you need help with doing any of that let me know…

For further reading…
MILLENNIAL Myths and Realities from Ipsos MORI
Millennials in the workplace: Myth meets reality from Deloitte