Recent travels have taken me to Latin America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. When asking business leaders in each region about their current issues, the challenge of recruiting and managing Millennials has been expressed again and again. While intergenerational differences in the workplace are nothing new, it seems that the current group of new professionals has perplexed many seasoned managers around the world. These digital natives, shaped by helicopter parents and financial crises, often demonstrate a mixture of workplace attitudes that older workers find contradictory or unreasonable. If they want to retain their young employees under conditions in which they can thrive, supervisors will need to modify some approaches and policies. Given that Millennials have demonstrated a ready willingness to leave organizations when they lose interest or feel frustrated, such accommodation may be of increasing importance as firms compete for the best talent.
What are these characteristics? Research has shown these groups tends to be more confident, narcissistic and anxious than previous generations. Some hiring companies claim they have unrealistic expectations about the variety of tasks they might be assigned or how quickly they will advance in the organization. Employee perceptions play an important role in the outcomes of human resource practices, therefore effectively managing inflated expectations is crucial for success. Sometimes referred to as “Generation We”, they also gravitate more heavily towards meaningful work, volunteer activities, and greater work-life balance. In particular, the Millennials tend to remain in positions that afford them clear opportunities to make a difference while growing professionally
So, what kinds of approaches have been effective with Millennials? There are many opinions, but here are some possibilities to consider:
- Structured Flexibility – It may seem counterintuitive at first, but these employees want flexibility in how and when they work (they are, after all, always digitally connected), but they also want structure, guidance, and clear goals. Having been raised in an achievement culture, they desire clear planning that indicates how their careers will develop when they hit their objectives. Frequent, short-term goals work best with this group.
- Mentoring and Growth – Millennials are unlikely to respect a boss just because of hierarchical position alone. They crave leadership, but would prefer a coach or mentor rather than a boss. Interestingly, research has shown that Millennials will show fierce loyalty to a leader who respects them, helps them grow, and recognizes their talents and contributions. Giving them a chance to demonstrate their capabilities in front of top executives is typically a great idea. It is most effective to create an atmosphere in which they can contribute to the team and take risks without fear of direct criticism.
- Compensation and Incentives – This is not a group that is motivated by more money alone, although higher salaries will entice them to switch jobs if other conditions are not to their liking. They also want opportunities to learn, mobility and choice among assignments, and networking prospects. Structuring assignments to provide the flexibility to manage their work-life balance as they wish can be more important to guaranteeing long-term tenure.
- The Nature of Work – This generation is accustomed to multitasking and collaborating in team situations. Provided they have clear direction and deadlines, they are also very comfortable working together towards a common goal. While some research has shown that they may not be as quite good at multitasking as they think, allowing them to do so will prevent perceptions of boredom. Employ clear communication about requirements and roles to avoid any downsides of their preferred work style.
- Certainly, cultural differences can be difficult to navigate, and the divergent assumptions and values among generations are no exception. However, with over 75 million Millennials entering the workforce, firms will be well served if you can adapt your human capital management practices to the newest generation without compromising on strategic goals or overall corporate morale.
Jeffrey A. Kappen, PhD Bâton Global LLC