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How To Work With The Millennial Generation

March 10th, 2015 by

Millennials may not be so different from their older colleagues after all, but one thing is certain: the under-30s are motivated by different things in the workplace.

The millennials generation (that’s people born between 1980 and 1995) isn’t like the previous generation. Businesses are constantly told this, as one article after another warns that Generation Y are looking for different things from the world of work. Just look at this article from the Washington Post suggesting that millennials are both community-oriented and self-centered at the same time, or this one from The Guardian, which outlines how millennials are “hard to motivate, but more engaged”.

Confusion seems to be the main theme judging from the examples above, as summed up by The New York Times: “No one truly understands millennials.”. But are the millennials  really all that different from the older generation?

Not necessarily, according to a large study from Fusion. They may have been raised on the internet, but life in digital still comes with morals and manners: 80% of Gen-Y’ers said they don’t download illegal music and film, while 79% said it’s not OK to break up with someone via text message. And perhaps surprisingly, only 35% think it’s OK to use the occasional emoji in work communication.

This is good news for companies: it turns out millennials are just regular folk after all, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get along with them. For companies working on getting a foothold in the world of social media, bringing in a digital native to ease the introduction to Snapchat is probably the way to go. But while young people are proving they can fit into the workplace by not peppering every email with inappropriate kisses, there’s a good amount of research suggesting that millennials are motivated by different factors than the previous generation.

Millennials are not convinced that work is worth the sacrifice of their personal lives. This was the conclusion of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ global study which polled 44,000 people in conjunction with the London Business School and the University of Southern California in 2013. In part because technology has enabled location flexibility, millennials see work changing from a place to be, into something to do. PwC delivered a conclusion which may seem surprising to members of older generations: millennials are often willing to give up some of their pay and slow the pace of promotion in exchange for more free time.

This doesn’t mean that millennials don’t care about their jobs though – quite the opposite. Millennials are more keen than anyone to work for companies which not only provide a nurturing work environment but also act as a force of social good. “Millennials are every bit as committed to the success of the firm and to delivering on their project, but it might take a bigger leap of faith to allow them some freedom in how they get there,” concluded PwC. “Give them some say in how they work and where they work, and they will deliver.”.

The message to businesses is this: to continue to attract star talent you’ll need to deliver what the millennials want, that is remote working, overseas consignments, being valued in the office and opportunities for training. This shift in attitude can be challenging for businesses as this flexibility brings with it a new approach to supervision. After all, if people work partially from home, it’s no longer enough to keep track of who arrives first and leaves last every day to figure out how works the hardest.

So how should companies communicate with millennials?

  •     Get creative about employee perks. Millennials like the idea of customising their work environment, and it’s not just about money.
  •     Let them roam! Millennials were raised on technology that makes location irrelevant, and they will relish the opportunity to work for someone who lets them take advantage of this.
  •     Make sure a flexible policy actually works the way it’s supposed to. It’s pointless allowing  people to work from home if you get passed over for the good assignments by doing this.
  •     Millennials are eager to learn and consider results to be more important than work history. Help millennials grow by offering rotational assignments to provide a variety of experiences and a sense of progress. This will benefit the team too, by adding fresh perspectives.
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