Getting Ready for Millennials: What Younger Workers Really Want

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Feb 8, 2013

One of the biggest transitions in my journey from college student to working professional has been adjusting to the generational gap.

In college, I most often worked among other Millennials. My new peers are not only Millennials, but also more experienced co-workers and supervisors from the Baby Boomer and Gen X generations.

I know employing a mix of employees from a variety of age groups can be highly valuable to an organization. However, some generational differences are so glaring that breaking down the walls can be challenging.

Preparing for Millennials

We Millennials have an entirely different set of skills as well as workplace expectations – ones that may surprise and perhaps even put off Baby Boomers and Gen Xers – but the reality is that employees of any generation must learn to work together and be willing to walk a few steps in the other generation’s shoes.

If we look at this issue from an HR perspective, it’s important to consider how HR professionals can prepare for Millennial workers and also how Millennials can prepare to work on teams that may consist of colleagues several decades older than we are.

Here are some challenges that I’ve faced and my thoughts on how both HR and Millennials can accommodate each other’s generation-specific characteristics.

We want meaningful work

Millennials want our work to be meaningful and productive. I am concerned with finding a career that I will feel good about.

If I don’t feel as if my job is making a positive difference, I am willing to step away from it. If I don’t feel like a workplace can accommodate my needs, I will continue searching until I find one that does.

We want creativity

HR teams want to focus on creative incentives, workspaces and flexibility that will encourage Millennials to stay with the company without compromising already established policies and procedures. But, we are less likely to stay at a company that is unchanging and rigid.

For Millennials, it’s important that we voice any specific desires to our HR team right from the start so that both sides can develop a mutually beneficial work environment.

We want opportunity

Millennials are eager to learn our way around and become an active part of the workforce. I want a job that affords me the opportunity to advance.

My generation doesn’t stop when the day is over. I constantly spend time outside of work doing more research and practicing the skills I need to get better.

Millennials realize that work and technology is always evolving, and we are adept at keeping abreast of the latest trends. Millennials adapt easily and want our careers to grow with us.

We want diversity

Millennials understand, probably more than any other generation, that we live in a global society. Our college experience is more diverse than any generation before us, so we have a better sense of how the world is connected.

We are more willing to develop skills and attitudes that enable people to work together toward a more sustainable world because we are more comfortable and confident navigating technology. HR should consider recruiting talent beyond their local area and search internationally for the most qualified hires.

We want flexibility

One important step that HR can take is work with Millennials on workplace flexibility, such as telecommuting options and social media use. Having established social media policies may be better than banning it altogether.

Creating options for telecommuting may allow us to work even longer. Working on the connection between flexibility and retention allows both sides can end up with a satisfactory contract in place.

However, it’s not the responsibility of the HR team to cater or give in to any demands that seem unreasonable or requested simply to make the Millennial’s workday easier. We get that.

With such a wide array of generations working together, HR has the exciting opportunity to seek out Millennials who can make a positive change in the workplace.

Most Millennials fully understand new media; this knowledge can be a learning experience for everyone, as we teach these skills to our older coworkers. Moreover, we are ready to learn from Gen Xers and Baby Boomers as well.

I look forward to seeing how each generation can influence the other to create the ideal workplace.