5 Truths About Millennials in the Workplace

5 Truths About Millennials in the Workplace

Managers and HR leaders often grumble about the trouble with younger workers, particularly Millennials, in the workplace.

But much of the frustration is based on stereotypes about younger workers, partial truths, and Millennial mythology, rather than fact.

Our book, What Millennials Want From Work, presents a complete and complex picture of Millennials in the workplace. The book is based on survey data from more than 25,000 Millennials from 22 countries and more than 300 organizations, plus 29,000 people from other generations from the same organizations.

As the book notes, you can provide an environment where Millennials can be both happy and effective — if you focus on what actually is important to them.

HR leaders, executives, and line managers looking to do a better job of leading multigenerational teams should take note of these findings and recommendations, which will help with attracting and retaining Millennials in the workplace:

Millennials in the Workplace Are Both Entitled and Hardworking

Millennials want to have a say and contribute their ideas. They resist doing repetitive or boring work. They want to have a life outside of work, and expect enough flexibility to allow them to fulfill both their personal and professional commitments. But entitled doesn’t mean lazy. Millennials work long hours, don’t expect work to stop when they leave the office, and are quite motivated. They want to contribute beyond their job descriptions and move up in the organization.

  • Minimize repetitive work and engage Millennials in the workplace to improve processes so everyone’s work is more efficient.
  • Make use of their willingness to work long hours, but don’t take advantage of them.
  • Encourage employees’ desire to contribute ideas, and appreciate their willingness to speak up. Promote a psychologically safe culture at work.

Millennials in the Workplace Are Both Needy and Independent

Younger workers are often scorned for being needy — hanging on to parents and seeking constant praise and approval. While Millennials in the workplace do want support, feedback, mentoring, and to feel appreciated, that doesn’t make them dependent. They actually are being quite strategic. They think about what they need to be successful, and that’s what they ask for.

  • Let them know how they are doing — frequently. Provide them with mentors and frequent feedback.
  • Provide support when things get tough.
  • Let them control as much as possible. Don’t micromanage.

Millennials in the Workplace Are Both Determined to Do Good and Do Well

Do Millennials want to save the world? Yes. But doing good isn’t a higher priority than doing well. Millennials in the workplace want work that both enables them to contribute to society in positive ways and that rewards them appropriately. One isn’t a substitute for the other.

  • Be a good corporate citizen.
  • Make sure Millennials understand how your business is having a positive impact and how their work directly contributes. Younger workers in particular care about corporate social responsibility initiatives.
  • Pay them what they are worth. Millennials in the workplace know what standard compensation is — so don’t try to hide pay information from them.

Get practical advice for managing, leading, and working with Millennials to improve teamwork, increase productivity, strengthen organizational culture, and build a robust talent pipeline.

Millennials in the Workplace Are High Tech and High Touch 

Millennials are comfortable with technology. They have grown up with it and it’s woven into their friendships and everyday activities. Millennials love technology at work because it reduces drudgery and saves them time. But just because they spend so much time attached to their devices doesn’t mean that other people aren’t essential. In fact, feeling like they have a community at work is a determining factor in Millennials’ organization commitment, job satisfaction, engagement, and retention.

  • Let Millennials use their preferred technology to support their work, if possible.
  • Consider setting up reverse mentoring programs so your digital native Millennials can help more experienced, but less tech-savvy, workers.
  • Communicate with them in person and often, especially for anything related to compensation, development, or performance.

Millennials in the Workplace Are Both Committed and Leaving

The research shows that Millennials are committed — they’re mostly getting what they need; they don’t want to leave; they want to move up in the organization. But being committed isn’t blind loyalty or staying no matter what. At least 1 in 3 Millennials are assessing the environment for better options.

  • Help Millennials in the workplace get development, especially if they’re new to management roles. Provide them support and training to help them develop the critical skills frontline managers need.
  • Give good reasons for them to stay. People don’t leave — Millennials included — if they don’t believe they can get a better combination of pay, responsibility, development and advancement potential, and work-life control.
  • Reduce overload and work-life imbalance — they are real issues that will drive Millennials away.

What This Means About Millennials in the Workplace

Fundamentally, Millennials want to do interesting work, with people they enjoy, for which they are well paid — and still have enough time to live their lives.

Which makes them pretty much like everyone else.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Many Millennials in the workplace are new leaders. Show them support and equip them to succeed with Frontline Leader Impact, an online training program specifically designed to develop large populations of new managers.

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November 17, 2020
Leading Effectively Staff
About the Author(s)
Leading Effectively Staff
This article was written by our Leading Effectively staff, who analyze our decades of pioneering, expert research and experiences in the field to share content that will help leaders at every level. Subscribe to our emails to get the latest research-based leadership articles and insights sent straight to your inbox.

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