It’s a tradition passed down from generation to generation. No, we’re not referring to a favorite sports team or recipe for chicken soup or even whether an adult in today’s society needs to know how to change a tire. We’re referring to the tendency of older generations to grumble about, and often form myths regarding, a newer generation.
There’s been no disruption to the custom when it comes to Millennials, those born between the late 1970s and early 2000s. They often find themselves put in the role of the “bad guys” by Baby Boomers (born between the mid-1940s and mid-1960s) and Generation X (born between the mid-1960s and early 1980s).
But Millennials aren’t the bad guys. They are, by and large, hard-working and innovative. So if your organization is suffering from the aforementioned grumbling, here are some Millennial myths to confront and dispel.
Millennials are lazy
Millennials are the least engaged population in the workplace. That’s not a myth but, rather, the results of a 2016 Gallup poll that found only 29% of Millennials are engaged in their jobs. Older employees often interpret disengagement as laziness. Sometimes they’re right but, more often than not, a disengaged employee isn’t so much lazy as disconnected from his or her job. This is a fixable problem.
When it comes to Millennials, perhaps the most obvious step toward boosting engagement is by embracing (or further embracing) technology. Millennials grew up with advanced technological innovations exploding all around them. They integrate it seamlessly into their work and personal lives. For example, that same Gallup poll found 71% of Millennials cite the Internet as their primary news source.
Make clear that you intend to keep your organization’s technology as updated as possible. Inform Millennial employees that you’re willing to enlist their help in finding and implementing the best new hardware and software. Engagement can flourish with the right technological infrastructure in place.
Millennials need constant, undeserved praise
Baby Boomers and even many Gen Xers were raised and entered the workforce during times of less frequent feedback. Sure, they had teacher conferences and job reviews, but the emphasis was often on past performance rather than future development. So they see Millennials seeking out more regular feedback and some frown on it as “attention-seeking behavior.”
But Millennials have had a different experience. Schools and many of their employers had much more robust feedback systems in place. They’re used to constant feedback and, indeed, expect it. For instance, a 2015 survey by software providers Achievers found that 71% of Millennials said they expect immediate, rather than annual or semiannual, feedback.
Now that may sound daunting and unrealistic in the context of formal performance reviews. But you can teach managers and team leaders to provide more regular feedback in a variety of simple formats. Quick emails, friendly instant messages or brief hallway conversations can all fill the need.
Remember the technology angle, too. Millennials came of age playing sophisticated video games and using well-developed software. These things provide constant, immediate feedback and data.
Millennials are directionless and unattached
Older generations lived in times when job loyalty was much different. With pension plans in place and regional populations relatively less mobile, it wasn’t unusual to see someone work most of his or her adult life with one employer. As such, these older generations can grow frustrated watching Millennials come and go from an organization so rapidly.
But the current pace of job mobility didn’t start with Millennials. Recent Department of Labor data, compiled by the Pew Research Center, shows that people aged 18 to 35 in February 2016 (that is, Millennials) and those in February 2000 (that is, Gen Xers) both reported an average employment tenure of about 13 months. Thus, little has apparently changed for almost 20 years now in terms of how long many workers stay with an organization. Millennials aren’t any more or less loyal.
What’s important is, per the Gallup poll mentioned above, 87% of Millennials say professional development is important to them. So an employer that offers a strong performance management and development platform stands a stronger chance of keeping employees of this age group on staff.
In addition, it’s important to remember that Millennials aspire to succeed both at work and home. Work-life balance, like more regular feedback, is an expectation. For instance, nearly 20% of fathers surveyed in a 2014 study by Bentley University said an ideal career would provide time off to be with their children. Creating varying paths and time frames for advancement may help retain these workers. This might mean allowing parents to reduce their hours while their children are young, yet remain eligible for promotions.
Develop your talent
Yes, every new generation faces scrutiny from the generations that came before. It’s not necessarily a bad thing if we use the conversation productively to learn about our history and improve our future. Performance Dimensions Group can help you assess, train and develop all of your Millennial talent — and everyone else as well. Please contact us to get started.