Deriding millennials in the workplace has become something of a sport in recent years. Members of the so-called ‘me me me’ generation are generally thought of by their older colleagues as fragile, lazy job-hoppers with an apparent desire to subsist on smashed avocado alone.
This This image has recently been challenged by recent studies from the US and UK which suggest millennials aren’t the flakes they’ve been made out to be. Or at least, no more so than gen X’ers were at the same age and stage of their careers.
These studies tell us the obvious - that young people think about work differently to older people. But with millennials now comprising the most populous group in the workforce, attracting and retaining them has become a priority. And that require organisations to engage with what is really different - not just perceived to be different - about millennials and using it to offer an employee experience that resonates with them.
One element of truth in the job-hopper label is the fact that millennials don’t believe in blind loyalty to an organisation. Their loyalty is not a given, it’s earned based on shared values.
Culture is critical here. Offering insight into your unique culture from the earliest stages of the recruitment process will attract candidates who feel professionally and personally aligned to the organisation’s purpose and values.
More importantly, millennials want to see the organisation’s purpose being lived authentically by leaders in the organisation. Loyalty comes from seeing these shared values infused through all aspects of the workplace, from CEO communications, to reward structures and performance measures.
Millennials are known for choosing experiences over material goods; the overseas holiday over the house on the corner block. This translates to their working life as well. In addition to finding the right values fit, millennials seek new challenges and development opportunities to contribute to their professional experience. And this is far more important than a slick office fit out.
This doesn’t mean pay and perks aren’t important - they are, but they’re not everything. While these aspects are easy to communicate, attraction strategies need to go beyond this. Millennials won’t choose to join and stay with an organisation simply for the pay cheque and bean bags in the break-out area, they’ll look holistically at the experiences on offer and how this contributes to their personal and professional self.
One of the biggest challenges workplaces face today is in managing multiple generations. And as older workers delay retirement, different generations are sharing the workplace for longer than ever before.
Here again, stereotypes can create barriers to effective working relationships. While older workers look more favourably on the experience and authority of their peers, younger workers often prefer the communication methods and flexible, collaborative ways of working of their similarly-aged colleagues.
These differences can’t be dismissed. Instead, they need to be recognised and leveraged to build a diverse workforce that learns from each other. By cultivating a culture that respects difference and works with it to bring together the best that each generation has to offer, organisations will retain their best people of all ages. In practice, this means creating everyday opportunities for employees to learn from each other and share feedback.
Today’s workplace is now dominated by millennials; they are the greatest pool of talent and as such are inextricably linked to your organisation’s success. While many negative perceptions about millennials still abound, within them are the clues to honing your attraction and retention strategy and crafting an energising millennial - and multi-generational - workplace.