A close friend of mine, a Millennial, has spent the last four months seeking and securing an official ‘grown up’ job. While the process of her navigating uncharted waters was thoroughly nerve-wrecking, as it would be for any first timer, it was nonetheless very exciting for me. As a member of Generation X, here was my chance to see someone from Generation Y try to pair their lofty ideals about workplace expectations with the reality of work. It was the proverbial square peg in a round hole.
What followed over the next few months surprised both of us.
As a more seasoned member of the workforce, I saw how this Gen. Y gal had greater freedom in job opportunities. A fresh evolving market meant that, unlike the limited options I had ten years ago, she had more opportunity to pursue start-ups and other creative roles that weren’t available to me in the years before – in fact, that market didn’t exist. Four months well into her new career, I see this worker bee enjoy workplace flexibility, increased telecommuting opportunity, and the chance to really get her ideas heard and used. For all that creative freedom, she’s thriving (as are her employers, eager to have her youthful creative trendy eye).
However, this Generation Y gal hadn’t expected work would be quite so difficult. The waking up early everyday, the commute, the having to actually wash your face and comb your hair part – these were all “grown up” responsibilities that her laissez-faire life hadn’t quite prepared her for. Here she fell into the Millennial stereotypes, best highlighted by Strategy+Business in a post called “Five Millennial Myths” – which at the end of the day isn’t a deal breaker; it’s just something Millennials need to adapt to like the rest of us.
Her experience got me thinking about other Millennials and their employers – many of whom might find a disconnect in the generational gap. If there are three things you need to know about Millennials, this is it:
The Millennial Employee
Millennials are people-driven rather than title-driven. They are care about who they’ll be working with than the titles they have. In part, this works out perfectly for you: you’ll gain an employee that leans toward successful collaboration. They know how to be a team player and get the job done. On the down side, you’ve got an employee that might also only excel in team environments (and worse yet, only be capable of working with people they’re friendly with).
So how do you go about allocating the immensely resourceful perspectives of Millennial should depend on what job you need them done? Start by assessing their disposition and preferences and then guiding them toward a role that best suits their needs. Millennials are worth the consideration.
Millennials are also more likely to push for work-place change. They like efficiency and streamlined communications. A Millennial is likely to come in and see what could be rearranged so that you have a more effective business. However, Millennials also lack the grace and patience to work with older colleagues, which means that not everyone might be quite so eager for the changes. An article by Jeff Ousbourne, titled “Bad Reputation: Exploring Millennial Stereotypes” points out, the key is to push for evolution rather than revolution. This means rather than going after a complete workplace coup, Millenials should be encouraged to work with HR and trusted mentors to determine the best course of action their ideas.
The Millennial Dress Code
Previous generations believed in dressing for success. This meant a suit and tie for the gents and a skirt and blouse for the ladies. Some companies still think this way (add to it the ever-stuffy requirement to wear stockings). These companies are on their way out because how you dress (or require your employees to dress) is a reflection of where you’re at. If you’re still holding onto primitive dress codes, you haven’t looked up long enough to realize that today’s youngest start-up successes wear sneakers and a hoodie. Millennials get this. For Millennial thinkers, a suit and tie are symbols of a business environment that didn’t welcome out-of-the-box thinking. A more conservative dress code also means you’re probably not as experienced with a core demographic – meaning not only are you likely not a Millennial, but you also probably don’t understand this target market.
So you don’t have to give a green light to sneakers and hoodies, but you do have to try and be a little more flexible in what you consider appropriate attire.
The Millennial Smoke-Signal
Millenials love to communicate. As avid tech users (with over 50% rather giving up their sense of smell than their smartphones), they’re on the go, accessible, and ready to engage. This means you can expect late night emails (working beyond just the 9-5), increased expectation of flexible work accommodations (because they do work beyond just 9-5), and alternate methods of communication. So instead of just a call or email, Millennials will also consider Facebook, text messages, and impromptu Face Time calls part of their core communications strategies.
What this essentially means aside from the just-stated benefits, is that Millennials see their work as part of their lifestyle. There’s no clocking in or out for them, which means that you’re likely to have a more integrated and committed employee for the long haul.
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