What is it with Generation Y? The stereotypical joke goes that Millennials are called Generation Y because they ask “Y should I get a job?”; “Y should I get my own place?”; “Y should I buy food since Mom does?”
The truth is that Millennials do want answers, but their questions might surprise you: Why should I work the same 9-to-5 job for the next 40 years? Why should I have to climb a corporate ladder? Why can’t I work from home? Most importantly: Why isn’t there a better, faster, more flexible business model for my generation?
Millennials: Who They Are and Why You Should Care About Them
The Millennials are legion. There are currently about 80 million of them in the United States alone. By 2030, they’ll make up 50% of the workforce. They’re coming to your workplace whether you like it or not, and your ability to attract, develop, and retain these future young leaders will make or break your company in the coming years.
Sure, they’re flawed. They’ve been called “The Me Me Me Generation”, the “Peter Pan Generation”, and “The Entitlement Generation”. They’ve been labeled lazy, arrogant, shallow, and selfish. But they were raised in a time of economic prosperity by indulgent parents who gave them the best of everything, who constantly told them how special they were, and who promised that anything they sought was attainable.
The upside is that Millennials are also innovative, open-minded, confident, self-expressive, collaborative, upbeat, liberal, altruistic and receptive to new ideas. They’re not disruptive (except creatively) and above all, they’re the future. Your future.
Give Them Mentors, Not Managers
Because they began their careers during one of the worst economic downturns in history, it’s not surprising that Millennials demand liberation from the classic constraints of their parents’ jobs.
Dan Schawbel, Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm, says, “Among other things, Millennials (those in their 20s and early 30s) want flexible work schedules, more ‘Me time’ on the job, and nearly nonstop feedback and career advice from managers… Oh, and they really want to be able to wear jeans at work”.
It’s understandable: their Baby Boomer parents behaved more like mentors to them, and they expect their higher-ups to behave the same way, making themselves available for feedback, input, and advice. It’s not simply the impatience of youth: it’s the new world order, where job satisfaction has replaced job security.
They know they’re not yet ready for leadership, but they want to be trained to lead. The difficulty is getting employers to recognize their talents, understand their value, and be willing to adapt their old-school workplaces for them. Fact is, the days of the corner office are numbered.
Provide Millennials with the Tools to Become Great
The first “digitally native” generation, Gen Y cut their teeth on technology their parents never dreamed of. From smartphones to tablets to laptops, they switch from one device to another twenty times an hour. They operate at the speed of a tweet. And they expect their work environment to be just as connected as they are.
Face it: they know more about new technology than you. So include them in your company’s technology conversation. And don’t take flex-time off the table: Millennials know they can get more done when they’re comfortable, and that includes telecommuting, flexible hours and even casual dress codes. After all, a tie never made anyone more productive.
But remember: Millennials want their careers to move fast too. Though they’re not particularly disloyal, they’ll leave a company in a heartbeat if they feel excluded or dead-ended. Study after study shows that millennials would rather take lower-paying positions with small companies that give them a sense of community and a chance to be heard, over better-paying jobs in large companies with rigid, multi-layered bureaucracies.
Employers must prepare their traditional organizations for the arrival of this nontraditional workforce today. Because the Millennials are coming, and they’re going to rule the world.