There is no shortage of stereotypes about millennials, but are they all true? Below Stephanie Knapp explores how generations of workers are different (and the same), how to best manage millennials, and what each generation can learn from the other.
When it comes to millennials in the workplace, there are a few keys ways in which they are different from previous generations:
They like to be rewarded or recognized—often.
This plays right into the stereotype of the “everybody gets a trophy” generation, but the data backs this up. Forty-one percent of millennials would prefer to be recognized or rewarded at least monthly (if not more often), while only 30% of non-millennials expect such frequent praise.
They value flexibility.
Not only do millennials think workplace flexibility is a nice feature but they believe it enhances the entire working experience. From productivity to employee engagement and financial performance, Deloitte’s 2017 Millennial Survey found that millennials think options such as flexible working hours and locations help the business as a whole. Overall, Millennials view work as a “thing” and not a “place.”
They feel accountable for issues in the world.
Millennials feel a sense of accountability to address issues such as climate change, social equality, the direction of their country, and the behaviors of large companies. However, they often feel that they have little influence over change. One area in which they feel the most influential is the workplace, where they hope to impact their peers, customers, and suppliers.
They may not stay at one company for long.
Although 38% of millennials worldwide still consider leaving their current job in two years, the number of young workers planning on leaving “soon” is decreasing. Instability in their country and the world has led more millennials to value workplace security. In fact, the number of U.S. millennials that plan on staying in their position more than five years from now slightly surpasses the number planning on leaving in just two years.
They prefer teamwork.
Millennials prefer interactive work environments, team orientation, and giving great care to the growth and development of networks. On the other hand, Generation X-ers tend to prefer independence in the workplace.
Although there are marked differences between employees from different generations, there are a few things they all can agree on.
For example, PwC’s NextGen study states that 96% of millennials want to talk face to face about their career plans and progress, which is nearly identical to the 95% of non-millennials who prefer the same. When it comes to work–life balance, baby boomers may feel they “work to live,” while Generation X-ers and Millennials are united in their outlook of “live to work.”
How to Be a Better Millennial Manager
Millennials may have different attitudes about their careers and preferences for their workplaces, but there are a few different ways a manager can better relate to their young team. The good news is that these adjustments will often be well received by your older employees as well. Some steps to be a better millennial manager involve the following:
Creating an environment focused on mentorship: Millennials are focused on career development and therefore value mentorships. They want to be challenged to constantly improve and seek to create goals within a plan customized just for them.
Offering flexible work options, where applicable: Sixty-four percent of millennials would like to occasionally work from home, and 66% would like to shift their work hours. It won’t just be your Millennials that welcome this change either. Non-millennial workers desire this flexibility in nearly equal percentages.
Encouraging ongoing education and training: Millennials state that training is important to them and that they want to enhance their work skills through continuing education. Whereas Millennials may prefer modern learning methods through interactive technology, the Wall Street Journal predicts that your older employees will gravitate toward static formats, such as PowerPoint.
Developing a recognition program: Employees from different generations may prefer recognition in different forms and frequencies, but positive reinforcement and recognition of achievements are good for everybody. Baby boomers may prefer their praise in the form of a status-boosting company-wide email, while millennials will be excited by increased responsibility and positive reviews.
Implementing technology for collaboration: Millennials are comfortable with technology, and access to tools that improve collaboration are a must-have. Additionally, West Midland Family Center’s Generational Differences chart points out that baby boomers value collaboration and Generation X-ers have assimilated with tech. This means that a common ground can be found across the entire team.
What Cross-Generational Teams Can Teach Each Other
Despite the fact that millennials have different communication and work styles than their older peers, they’re presented with the opportunity to learn from the generations before them. According to Monster, some of the lessons millennials learn from previous generations include the following:
Millennials are still less likely to stay with a single company for an extended period of time than other generations. However, their peers may be able to show them the benefits of a long-lasting employer–employee relationship.
Although millennials enjoy collaboration and teamwork, older employees can teach them how to depend on themselves for a greater sense of independence and control over their own work.
General Workplace Experience
Simply put, older generations have worked longer and naturally have valuable advice to pass on. Especially if they’ve been at the same company awhile, older employees can teach Millennials about workplace procedures, company policies, or general industry knowledge.
Teamwork is a two-way street, and the same goes for learning. Millennials can teach older generations in these areas:
Millennials are entrepreneurial, love to think outside of the box, and are open to exploring new avenues by breaking the rules. Older generations can adopt a greater risk-taking attitude to innovation, especially if they have been in the same hierarchy or status quo for a while.
Balancing Work and Life
Younger generations can demonstrate what it’s like to strive for (and achieve) work–life balance, especially to the “work to live” baby boomers.
This seems like an obvious choice, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Comfort levels with new technology may vary, especially between your oldest and youngest employees. Older employees may prefer to stick with their tried-and-true processes, but Millennials can teach them how to use technology to improve their work.
Finding Workplace Harmony
When working across generations, Fortune.com notes that millennials should keep in mind that older workers may be more individualistic, skeptical, and scarce with praise than they are. Furthermore, non-millennials should be open to the new ideas and processes that millennials bring to the table. With open communication and understanding, a cross-generational team can work together with ease.