Working with Millennials
A few days ago I spoke at the Mumbai Global Shapers event on Youth Culture and Being a Millennial in Young India. It sparked interesting conversations, especially given that most of us who are not Millennials but are their employers, colleagues and parents are struggling to understand them and channel their energies.
Millennials is a term for people born roughly between 1982 and 2004. They are also known as Generation Y, Generation Me, Echo Boomers and the Peter Pan Generation. Quite frankly they are the generation that has always had a phone and often don’t know what a landline is or was.
This generation of people is characterised by their supreme confidence, willingness to take risks, dislike of authority, a sense of entitlement in many cases and the need to experience everything without being tied down. They have incredible energy, are willing to think out of the box, experiment and innovate and have a sense of purpose. Whilst these maybe the positives, they also do not want to adhere to rules, standards and protocols, do not like to be “managed” or supervised, do not want to be governed by fixed hours or places of work and definitely do not want to spend time in one area of work or competence to find depth and experience.
Research suggests that in their professional lives and goals differ from previous generations. Baby Boomers resonate primarily with loyalty, work ethic, steady career paths and compensation and Generation X want improved work-life balance, a heightened focus on individualistic advancement, job satisfaction and stability. Millennials, however, want meaningful work, a creative outlet and immediate feedback.
So how does one deal with the Millennial generation as an employer given that they may constitute most of the workforce? Here are some ideas that were sparked during the Mumbai event:
- Link purpose to the work they do. This generation is very socially conscious of issues that plague our times. Make them aware about how their work is changing the world and how they are making a difference. Purpose, agency and meaningfulness is core to their value system.
- Design the work portfolio. Gone are the days of standard job descriptions. As an employer, it might serve you well to ask a millennial to design his/her own job. Often it helps to understand the interests and personal goals of the individual and identify linkages in the job description. This will be seen as collaborating and co-creating rather than imposing and rigid.
- Flexibility. This extends to not just flexibility in timings and work places but also a more shared environment. Whilst it is hard for an organisation to tailor make their policies to meet individual needs, a balance can be struck where the workplace does not seem stiff and boring. For example, having a late start and late finish as these employees may not have to rush back to families. Work from home could also be a good option or creating work spaces that are open and friendly.
- Work culture. Millennials expect a work culture that has a work life balance, is friendly and fun, and fosters meaningful relationships and a sense of accomplishment. Give them regular feedback rather than year end performance appraisals. Recognise their need to do many things rather than just one thing and incorporate it into their role.
- Currencies that attract. Money is not the only thing that attracts Millennials. Capitalise on their entrepreneurial mindset, give them challenging and meaningful work, creative expression and motivated co-workers.