James T. Krupienski, CPA
Every 20 years or so, there is a generational shift in the workplace. The most recent generation – the millennial – is currently integrating itself into the workplace. And by integrating, they are making a seismic statement. Recent studies show that millennials now make up approximately 25% of the total workforce and that by the year 2020 they will comprise almost 50% of the same. Given that this generation is generally defined as those born between 1980 and 2000, they are now at a point in their careers where they are taking on leadership roles.
If your leadership and management group, like many businesses, is made up of Baby Boomers and Gen X’rs, it is imperative that you understand what drives this next generation, as they will be the workforce and customer base that carries your business into the future. Millennials are different in so many ways from the Baby Boomers and Gen X’rs that came before them, which will require a shift in the way that your business is managed. This article will help by focusing on the motivational factors and differences that set this generation apart and the impact that the millennials will have on your workforce and their interaction with other employees.
At first glance, some of the more experienced generations may have certain negative perceptions about the millennial generation. Specifically, that they are entitled, require a lot of hand-holding, need constant encouragement and don’t want to put in long hours. Stepping back, these are really just misconceptions due to a lack of understanding of what is driving them and how they grew up differently.
While the Boomers and Gen X’rs tend to value compensation and the need to work long hours to affirm their loyalty, this was born as a result of growing up in a period of limited resources and technology, with the need to focus on sweat equity as a result. Through this hard work, parents of millennials were able to offer things to their children that were not available previously. As such, in a changing effort to push their children, parents tended to help them along the way, focusing on the social aspect of their value to society. The so called “Everyone gets a trophy” mentality was created.
With this shift in how millennials were raised, so too came a shift in what they value most and what they are looking for in a career. First and foremost, work-life balance is generally regarded as more important than how much they are making. They saw how hard and how many hours their parents and grandparents had to work to get to where they are and would like to avoid getting burned out over time. Additionally, they feel that with the way technology has improved, that it can help them better manage their time and complete tasks in a more time-efficient manner.
Other motivating factors include buy-in to the culture and mission of their employer, as well as the ability to receive continuous training and development. They also want to be heard. They are often not content with just coming to work and punching a clock. They are looking to provide ideas and be part of the solution.
How will this affect your workforce?
With a shift in these motivational factors, the way that you hired and retained employees in the past may not work going forward. Millennials don’t look at a job, even one early in their career, as one where they will need to ‘pay their dues’. They know their value and want to be treated as a valued member of the organization – part of the team. This holds true whether it is your new front-desk receptionist or your newest design team member. Where this can become difficult is in a company’s ability to influence the interaction between those Gen X’rs that have worked at a location for some time and those millennials that were recently hired. Often the ability to manage these interactions can make all the difference in what makes a successful business.
Additionally, it is important to always remember that millennials keep a pulse on social media, and as a result have networking skills exceeding those of many seasoned professionals. This leads to two different forces that need to be managed. First, it is imperative to have a documented social media policy of the practice. The speed in which words and thoughts can spread on the internet cannot be overlooked. Second, other business opportunities do arise. And millennials are aware that they are out there. If they feel that they’re in a place where personal values aren’t being met, they are more apt to move to the next job than older generations would have been. A recent survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers found that 25% of millennials expect 6 or more employers during their career. And that 38% feel that senior management doesn’t relate to them. These statistics must not be ignored.
So, what is a business owner or manager to do in order to retain top talent? Some suggestions include providing them with regular training and holding frequent staff meetings. The creation of group idea sharing sessions would afford them the opportunity to suggest ways the business or processes can be improved. At work, millennials want to have ‘fun’. This doesn’t mean that there needs to be a pizza party every Friday afternoon, but the work environment needs to be lively with a sense of comradery. Finally, you need to listen – meet with them, seek feedback, mentor them. And take what they have to say seriously. While an idea or suggestion may seem off the wall to you, the fresh perspective may just be what your business needs.
The Millennials are here and they are here to stay. As their numbers continue to grow and they continue to take on additional leadership positions within your business, it is important to not take them for granted. They are, after all, going to become your succession plan.
This material is generic in nature. Before relying on the material in any important matter, users should note date of publication and carefully evaluate its accuracy, currency, completeness, and relevance for their purposes, and should obtain any appropriate professional advice relevant to their particular circumstances.