When It Comes to Managing Millennials, Don’t Believe the Myths

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One of the enduring myths about Millennials in the workplace (employees aged 18-30) is they are overly entitled, needing feedback and praise at every turn and exhibiting little loyalty to their employers.

This myth in particular irritates me because I believe these traits are not related to any particular generation, but rather, are indicative of a person’s place in their career.

People in their first jobs naturally need and seek more feedback because they are unsure if they are doing the right thing. At that stage of life it’s also easier for many to jump jobs and more quickly increase experience levels (and salary). This was true of Gen X employees when they were at this stage of their careers, too.

They want to love their job, not make lots of money

That doesn’t mean we as managers and HR leaders can sit back and not take action to keep talented employees. To do so, we must better understand what Millennials are seeking to find – stability in a job they love that provides meaningful work.

Bersin by Deloitte released a summary of an extensive survey conducted by Telefonica consisting of 12,171 online quantitative interviews among Millennials aged 18-30 across 27 countries in six regions around the world. From the Bersin summary:

Organizations are concerned with Millennials’ turnover, and with good reason: consultancies’ research reports that a half to two-thirds of this group intend to leave their organization. Despite past research (that) I and colleagues have published which isolated generational differences (Kowske, Rasch, & Wiley, Journal of Business and Psychology) and showed this group as more satisfied at work as a generation, their age – their youth and career infancy – trumps. On job-hopping, Millennials are spilt with 53 percent preferring a steady job, and 47 percent feeling that it’s better to change jobs as opportunities arise…

Seventy-six (76) percent would rather love their job but make just a little money, and only 24 percent that wouldn’t mind hating their job if they made a lot of money.”

Looking for meaning

Research reported in SmartBlog shows similar findings:

They want their job to mean something. A study on millennial employee satisfaction hints at more than a few who say they’d rather work at a place where they can make a direct social and environmental impact. About 72 percent of young workers about to enter the job market feel that way. As for Millennials already working, 55 percent report working at a company where they can make a social and environmental impact. They are more likely to report job satisfaction (49 percent) that those who don’t work in a similar environment (24 percent).”

What does that mean for us in attracting and retaining Millennials?

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Remind them of their valued contributions

Yes, you need to create and clearly communicate an employee value proposition of how employees contribute to achieving a bigger mission that matters to them. But once on board, you need to continually reiterate and remind employees of the value and importance of their contributions.

Make it a point to recognize individuals when they contribute to achieving the mission – and do so in a specific, detailed meaningful way so they understand the connection. Make their “making a difference” contribution visible to them and to others.

How does your organization work to attract and retain Millennials?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.

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