In their book Generations, historians Neil Howe and William Strauss coined the term "Millennials" to refer to the generation graduating high school at the end of the millennium (i.e. around 2000). Nowadays, millennials or “Gen Y” arguably refer to those born between the early '80s and 1994. In the workplace, millennials are stereotyped as being lazy, entitled or contemptuous of authority. However, these characterisations are generally ill-conceived.
While misconceptions swirl, there is one undeniable fact about millennials in the workplace that you need to know — they can be tremendously valuable to the future of your organisation if you understand how to manage their considerable skills.
“It is crucial for firms and leaders to understand differences in generations so that they can make better decisions about training, leadership development and culture-building for a diverse workforce,” says Henrik Bresman, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD, who also teaches in the Global Executive MBA.
With that in mind, here are five tips on how to leverage the growing millennial workforce.
“Build a culture of development in your workplace.”
Tip #1: Don't let millennials get bored.
More than half of millennials surveyed said that they value opportunities for career growth over salary and other benefits when weighing prospective employers, according to PwC. Not surprisingly, millennials in the workplace are looking for leaders who are willing to support their career trajectory with clear guidance and goal-setting.
To nurture this need to avoid a career plateau, build a culture of development in your workplace. Provide opportunities to train millennials in new skills, encourage them to take initiative on new projects, learn where they excel and give them the chance to innovate in those areas.
Tip #2: Ditch the 9-to-5 cubicle mentality.
One definite advantage of hiring millennials is that they often lack the shift mentality of previous generations. They want to work faster and more efficiently — but they also want to be able to do their work from anywhere. INSEAD research has shown that more than 70% of millennials place great value on having flexible working arrangements. A 2016 report by Fidelity even assigned a monetary value to work-life balance for millennials. The research showed that millennials are willing to give up an average of $7,600 from their annual salary if it means better flexibility in their work arrangements.
But this does not mean that millennials are looking to slack off. In fact, millennials are less likely to use all of their vacation days than previous generations. Still, knowing the great value they place on flexibility, you can easily motivate this millennial workforce by giving them telecommute options. This will empower them to put in their best efforts in an arrangement that suits their lifestyle without compromising productivity.
Tip #3: Go dark.
This tip might seem counterintuitive when managing the most technology-inundated employees in history. However, keep in mind that millennials are one of the first generations ever who are choosing to check their work emails in bed at night. With this consideration, it’s easy to see how fatigue builds up even when millennials are not sitting at their desks.
Encourage these workers to take their vacations without logging into their work emails or without turning on their work phones. It may seem silly to have to tell your millennial workers to do so but it can go a long way toward relieving burnout and retaining these employees in the future.
Tip #4: Pay them well.
Yes, the majority of millennials say they value flexibility over salary. And yes, millennials are willing to forfeit their vacation days and check their work emails in the middle of the night. However, they still want to be paid fairly. In this case, what’s fair might not necessarily mean negotiating a salary based on seniority. Instead, pay your millennial employees based on an evaluation of the projected impact they will have on your business, and be transparent with them on how you arrived at these figures.
Keep in mind that your millennial employees are saddled with a financial burden that previous generations have not felt. The average 2016 graduate in the US took home more than $37,000 in debt along with their diploma. By offering access to platforms that can help your millennial employees pay off their considerable debt, you will go a long way toward offering them the financial security that frees them to remain with your company and fully commit to doing their best work.
“Understanding the nuance between being a coach and a boss can make for a more successful relationship with your millennial employees.”
Tip #5: Show them the path to success.
According to a 2014 global survey from INSEAD, Universum, and the Head Foundation, millennials overwhelmingly said that they are happy to be coached and mentored by their managers but would prefer not to be bossed around. Understanding the nuance between being a coach and a boss can make for a more successful relationship with your millennial employees.
At the end of the day, remember that millennials are not really that different from their workplace predecessors. Just like everyone else, they want to feel invested in the future success of the businesses where they work. Bring them to the table and share the vision and a snapshot of the road ahead for the company. This type of transparency motivates millennials and appeals to their desire for workplace authenticity.