“I would rather spend a few years figuring everything out and trying new things; as I get older and have gained experience, I would want to settle down and possibly be self-employed.”
This is a typical point of view among “Millennials,” the generation born roughly between 1983-2001 and soon to dominate our workforce. In fact, Millennials will account for more than half of worldwide employment by 2020. So how are organisations going to manage this vastly different group?
To understand the work expectations of Millennials, we must first understand what makes them different from previous generations. A common stereotype is to associate Millennials with a sense of entitlement and laziness. While this may be true in some cases, it’s important to look at how the generation was influenced differently as opposed to just looking at the differences on the surface. The rise of globalized technology has drastically changed the way we interact with the world around us. While previous generations viewed technology as an additional tool to be appreciated, Millennials have come to expect it as a fundamental aspect of daily life. The world is at their fingertips, and they have access to more information and products worldwide than any generation before them. Now, you could argue that Generation X also have the same technology in their grasp, so why are Millennials’ expectations any different? It comes down to perspective. Gen X grew up without these technologies, so they may view them and appreciate them in a different way. For Millennials, technology is a baseline of how they live their lives, and is literally something that many of them would be lost without.
Pontoon’s Australian Country Manager, Michael Gauci, knows that catering for Millennials is a new, challenging prospect:
“Very quickly, Millennials are going to surpass Generation X’s ability to digest and support change, especially as it relates to technology. I believe we have to cater to a Millennial need to have rapid-fire change in their role and work experiences. Are we globally nimble and also suitably compliant to support employees working remotely, and working flexible hours?”
While technology may give Millennials a fast-paced life or a sense of entitlement, it is a double-edged sword. Growing up with these technologies means interacting with them is innate, and can be used for an employers advantage. In a forward-moving world with more jobs focused on developing technology and it’s uses, it helps that the rising workforce has been accustomed to it throughout their whole life. It means employers can check the technology experience box as a given, and focus on the candidate’s traits, as opposed to sacrificing one for the other.
We know that Millennials are used to a faster, more proactive lifestyle, but how does that really change their job preferences? The primary example is how more emphasis is being put into work-life balance and work environment. While those aspects have always been important factors, Millennials are looking for their job to bring a real purpose to their life. They don’t just want to be one piece to a giant company working a job that feels insignificant, even if they are earning an attractive salary. Mike Wachholz, Global President of Pontoon, touched on this in his recent interview with Yahoo Finance:
“They are really demanding in seeking authenticity; Millennials want to see the brand behind the brand, who are the people and the body of work that’s going on behind companies.”
More and more we hear Millennials saying they are loyal to their job, as opposed to the employer. They are dedicated to the work they do because it feels meaningful and not just because they are employeed by “reputable company X.” The greater expectation and motivation requires employers to change their strategy. It is more common for Millennials to drop a job or bounce around longer than previous generations. This uneasiness is due to Millennials ideology in pursuit for a meaningful job. Without proper communication and direction, Millennials won’t be happy with their work environment and will therefore seek change.
Michael Gauci additionally acknowledges the need for Millennials to be recognized and to feel connected to their work.
“We also know that Millennials are seeking deeper meaning from their work, so are we regularly and effectively communicating to them? Are we aligning workers to their immediate team, department and company’s goals? Do we have a diverse workforce that is also, by nature, inclusive and allowing our talent to act as a sense check for these goals and ambitions?”
As an employer, it is crucial to find a balance that can be accepted and altered depending on an employee’s needs- otherwise; the system won’t cater for this new generation.
So, before judging Millennials as the generation of “entitlement,” the most successful organizations will adapt, foster the right environment, and thus benefit from their strengths. Companies that provide work-life balance, creative/meaningful work and focus on regularly re-charging their staff with new opportunities will not only attract this new generation, but also have a much higher chance in retaining them.