Millennials in the workplace: How to get the best out of them
MANILA, Philippines – The millennials – those who are born between the 1980s and 2000s – are now in their mid 20s and early 30s. They are in their peak career years, and therefore occupying a significant part of the workforce, not just as employees, but also increasingly as leaders.
The PwC estimates that by 2020, at least half of the global workforce will come from this generation. This means that millennials will transform workplace cultures and values – if they aren’t already doing so.
Millennials have been dubbed as the “look at me” generation, described as “overly self-confident and self-absorbed.” In white-collar workplaces, they're perceived as highly entitled, hungry for constant praise and coaching, and unwilling to do the hard work.
Older employees valued career progression and financial stability, according to a published review on millennials in the workplace by Karen Myers and Kamyab Sadaghiani. They expected to stay within a company for a long time. In contrast, millennials don’t mind job-hopping to seek career growth: 6 out of 10 will leave their current job in the next four years, according to Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial Survey which included participants from the Philippines.
This seeming lack of loyalty and perseverance may worry managers and CEOs. The key to getting the best out of millennials is to look at their context: what kind of world they grew in, what values they prioritize. With a nuanced approach, their perceived traits can become opportunities to drive them – and the company – to be better.
Decoding the need for ‘instant success’
Millennials are widely reported to be driven by instant gratification – whether it’s in their purchases, their entertainment options, and yes, their careers.
In the workplace, millennials want immediate growth. Those fresh out of college seek jobs that offer good pay upfront. The 2016 JobStreet Fresh Graduates Report said that the top satisfaction driver of fresh graduates is salary company benefits and incentives.
According to Abi Lomboy, an HR manager for JobStreet Philippines, millennials crave big roles and opportunities, even if managers feel that their experience does not render them “fit” for the task yet.
These demands might seem unthinkable for older, more established employees. Generation X – those in their 40s and 50s today – had bosses who taught them that in order to go higher in their career, they had to gain experience first.
For millennials who had full access to education and opportunities, it’s a different story. They were digital natives who did everything faster, had better access to information, and a more expansive worldview. They’re frequently exposed to “30 under 30” stories about global achievers. So it’s no surprise that millennials feel pressured to succeed immediately.
If financial benefits are not part of the equation, millennials prioritize work-life balance, the Deloitte survey also indicated. They also crave more flexibility, such as the ability to work from home occasionally. “Millennials are very restless. You can’t box them into an office,” Lomboy said.
Millennials also grew up under heavy supervision and were constantly praised by family and mentors. Raised in a very supportive environment, they developed strong personal values and a deep desire to make meaningful change. The Deloitte survey revealed that at work, millennials are ready to leave their company if they don’t feel motivated to lead, or if their skills aren’t being fully utilized.
“Because the options are accessible, larger, and global now, it’s easier [for millennials] to find an alternative,” Lomboy said.
How to help millennials be better at work
Contrary to the prevailing stereotypes, millennials are actually hardwired to be achievers: they’re founding their own startups, proving Einstein’s theory of relativity, and are generally inspired to make the world a better place for others.
Employers can learn to harness the millennials’ positive force in the workplace, too. Their desire to succeed immediately means that millennials are constantly on their feet. They push the workplace standards high and don’t settle for good enough practices.
To nurture work-life balance, companies should create a flexible work environment. Millennials are natural multi-taskers because they know how to use technology to get things done faster and with less resources. Managers just need to be very clear about deadlines and objectives so that millennials don’t lose track.
To match the millennials’ hunger for growth, companies can also adjust their workflows, said Lomboy. Millennials thrive when they can conceptualize and learn from their mistakes on the go. They are also great team players. In the office, experiment with collaborative set-ups for certain tasks. In the big picture, the company benefits if employees can innovate and produce output faster.
If the millennials are provided with an opportunity to align their personal goals with the company’s, then they will be motivated to help the company grow along with them. According to Myers and Sadaghiani, millennials will see involvement in big projects as a means of gaining more career experience; thus, they will contribute well.
Just like older and future generations, millennials will succeed with the right mix of guidance, mentorship, and open-mindedness from their superiors. Contrary to what some may believe, they are driven to be better in everything they do, especially in their career.
“Millennials are the new breed. We need them for their energy and their creativity,” Lomboy said. “I think this adjustment to millennials is making companies better. It forces companies to think out of the box and it makes [them] more mobile and dynamic.” – Rappler.com