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Business Observer Friday, Apr. 22, 2016 4 years ago

How to think like a millennial

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They may not sound like you or want the same things, but that doesn't mean they're not valuable.
by: Denise Federer Bottom-line Behavior

It seems like everywhere you turn, people are talking and writing about millennials as employees. However, much of the rhetoric out there is conjecture and isn't based on real, qualitative research.

Time and again I have heard clients bemoan how frustrating it is for them to understand the behavior of their millennial workers and knowing “what motivates them.” Often these feelings are based on the values they perceive this group of workers to possess.

Whether it's having difficulty staying focused on tasks they may not enjoy, wanting to be promoted quickly and not being willing to “pay their dues,” or not appearing committed to the job; very few of these same bosses have taken the time to have the type of conversation that would lead to a better understanding of what millennials actually want from work.

While certainly there are general patterns in behavior that resonant with many employers, a lot of inaccurate conclusions about this particular generation's behavior have been made as well. One of the biggest inaccuracies about this generation — made up of people born between 1982 and 1994 — is that they don't believe in working hard, or that they are lazy.

Millennials value different things than older employees, especially baby boomers. Many of this generation are skeptical and dubious about what their parents sacrificed and the hours they worked to achieve career success. In many cases, they want to manage their careers and their personal lives differently than their parents and grandparents.

What do millennials value?
Let's take a look at what millennials have to say about their work ethic and career goals. A Bentley University study of working, college-educated millennials found that members of this generation hold a unique set of professional values and are motivated by different factors than their predecessors. Traditionally held values, according to this study, aren't relevant to millennials. A major mistake that managers can make is evaluating millennials by the values of previous generations. It's time to change the rules and how employees are evaluated.

Top need of millennials: accommodation
Millennials place a lot of value on their time and personal relationships. This recent study found that one of the top things millennials look for in a workplace is a company that will respect and accommodate their personal values: time and relationships. Essentially, they want to work for employers who actually care about them. A company that allows them to live by their true personal and family values will produce fiercely loyal millennial employees.

I have seen this fierce loyalty of millennials in the daughter of a client. This particular individual had a difficult pregnancy with several medical challenges that made being in the office difficult. However, she was able to continue working at home and stay on top of all her projects. Her employer didn't actively track the number of hours she clocked and instead valued that she completed her projects and stayed on top of all her duties. After the pregnancy, my client's daughter was recruited by other firms — many offering a higher salary — but she remained loyal to her employer because of the flexibility her current employer offered her.

Flexibility is a top priority for millennials. They are looking for organizations that value the quality of work over the quantity of hours worked. They are driven to career success like their colleagues, but culture is more essential to them than it is for other, older generations. In fact, according to the Bentley study, nearly three out of four (70%) of millennials will seek another opportunity rather than endure unpleasant work conditions.

Management Tips
The main point here is that millennials do care, but they value different things than baby boomers and other older generations. For example, they don't subscribe to the hierarchy of an organization, something that people may consider insubordinate. Instead, they have the few that “we're all in this together” and that everyone must earn respect — rather than just have it.

There are three things that affect everyone's motivation (including millennials):
Strength and constancy of needs
Expectations
A reward's value (as perceived by the recipient)

Understanding what millennials value can enable an organization to avoid disaster by closing the gap between what the millennials value and what the company values. By meeting the expectations of millennials and not judging what they value, managers can often see an improvement in performance and loyalty.

The Bentley study also uncovered that millennials don't go to their bosses or colleagues for advice or perspective, choosing instead to bounce ideas off their parents or spouses. Offering true mentorship to a millennial worker can make a big different to him or her and can positively impact the entire company.

Despite much of the rhetoric floating around out there, millennials can be highly valuable members of an organization. Learn what they value and provide leadership to effectively integrate them into your existing workforce.

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