The Millennials generation (also named Generation Y) is the largest group today and will influence the corporate culture significantly in the nearby future. Born between the 80’s and 90’s, they grew up with mobile communication and the internet. There is no doubt that employers need to offer an attractive work environment to win the war for talents amongst the Millennials (http://scn.sap.com/people/bert.schulze/blog/2013/02/26/war-for-talent-requires-talent-for-war).
Most people are aware that they will have significant influence on software user interfaces, service and workspace design. But it is much more. The next generation’s motivation and behavior is substantially different than the one of Generation X who has put its stamp on today´s corporate culture which is marked by working towards long term goals, well planned career paths and strong commitments to the employer. A good pension plan and hardworking towards an early retirement sound like desirable goals for Gen X. Don’t expect Millennials to agree.
Let´s have a look into Millennial’s point of view - how they behave and how employers and managers should be prepared for an emerging demographic trend of their workforce.
(1) Don´t take authority and leadership for granted
A 20th-century megatrend was the urbanization and led to smaller families in developed countries and to a generation of helicopter-style parents. Well suited, always present and granting the right to jointly discuss everything, have branded Gen Y. Gaining first business experience becomes challenging for people who are not used to accept the boss as the boss. Due to their imprint, they have less hierarchical understanding and are more skeptical and ingenuous towards authorities. With the rise of the internet and later of Web 2.0/ Social Media the machinations of the powerful people in this world are measured by social profiles and social influence. Millennials are critical , they scrutinize fundamentals and established procedures. Management based on “advantage of superior knowledge” - as we saw it in the old days - is no longer an option. Millennials are used to gain knowledge via a various range of information sources. Business leaders can’t overlook and manage that any longer and shouldn´t consider this as a way to lead anyway. This puts managers on fire as well to proof their position on a daily base. Not everybody is comfortable with it.
Be a leader rather than a supervisor! Be transparent, motivating and comprehensible in your explanations! You have to earn the team´s respect every day!
(2) Management of information is different
I had some “strange” experiences when interviewing candidates for new hires or when running project meetings. Gen Y people simply don’t note down information. Initially it drove me mad. How can anyone memorize everything from a project meeting without taking any notes? Talking to them, I understood that availability of information drives this issue. Where as Gen X people are used to research information and manage to put it together for themselves. Gen Y people are used to have access to any kind of information anywhere and every time. This is exactly the Web 2.0 experience. Sharing information on open sources like Wikipedia is like riding a bike for them– no need to take notes, information is simply expected to be available.
As an interesting observation the general availability of information and similar search patterns lead to repeatable results with different groups of Millennials around the globe. People of former generations start working on a blank sheet of paper and develop ideas from their direct environment. They share and ask for support when they stuck within the project. Millennials start a project by posting information and searching google. Project results come faster but less creative. Depending on the business you are in, this might be an advantage or disadvantage – and we haven´t touched the correct usage of Intellectual property at all.
Deliver information in an open and consumable way! Create open sources within your organization and share information actively with applicants!
(3) Communication is different
Millennials have many virtual conversations every day but are not used to talk to people face-to-face and speak in complete context (as much as Gen X does). I experienced that our working students and interns send around mails or start chats to clarify topics with people next door or 20 meters down the floor.
If you follow the email or chat threats, you observe mid 40s people´s resistance of being pinged and asked to deliver as they expect somebody to pass by or pick the phone and introduce himself/herself first. In most cases it would have been easier and much more resource effective to simply ask over the phone or face-to-face. In many cases I appreciate asynchrony media to communicate myself but I’m pretty sure that Millennials way of using Social Media and smart phones to drop a message or post something overshoots the mark. Posting is often not only inefficient but also leads to a shorthand conversation style which is missing at the latest, when Millennials start to become managers and leaders.
Help the diverse teams to better understand each other and offer ways to engage with each other in their own way! Communication coaching will be a significant piece of the curriculum of future leaders!
(4) Motivation is different
I’m sure that all of us, no matter if we belong to Gen Y or X, like to see our bank account statement at the beginning of the month - for Millennials it’s not all about the money. They don’t seek for a company car, fully loaded with all options. What they want is balance and time – for friends, family and private interests.
Smart phones and laptops transform workspaces into mobile offices, driven by megatrends like Connectivity, Mobility and Cloud. Almost every job can be done from any device with internet connection- everywhere and every time. Starting early to finish late is not an option for them anymore. They want to be the master of their time, taking off an afternoon to do different things is the new status symbol. At least, the result is what it’s all about not the time they have spent with it.
Don´t only think of classical incentives like salary, bonuses or share packages. Also Restructure your team setup and rethink workspace presence! Self-determination is the status symbol of the new generation and will drive creativity, efficiency and productivity!
(5) Self-confidence and delivery are not necessarily in sync
Turning back the wheel of time by one decade, I experienced that young professionals were too shy to speak up in front of a group in our trainee programs. In the first few weeks the mission was to pump their self-confidence up to a level which allowed them to present themselves as business professionals in front of the teams and customers. When they finished university they were full of knowledge but not able to spread the word proper.
This has turned into the opposite.
Driven by Social Media and a behavior to post whatever comes on mind, Millennials are used to be “on stage” and share their opinion whenever and wherever they feel to - sometimes regardless of the intellectual context. From the helicopter-style parents’ approach, they are in addition not used to be criticized as much as the older generations. This is influencing their self-confidence at an early stage already. Millennials are not shy at all but reflectiveness is often missing.
Coach them to self-reflection and be concrete and to the point with your feedback!
(6) Loyalty is different - explore different roles every few years
In the consumer market we see a shrinking brand loyalty. You have to win customers’ loyalty again and again, every single time they consume your service or buy your products. This is what companies will face with their employees, too. “I’ll contribute as much to my job as my employer is investing in me,” a Millennial colleague within our neighborhood organization told me. The relationship between Millennials and their employer is based on a reciprocal contract that needs to be continuously renewed on both sides – for as long as it lasts. Don’t expect them swearing loyalty for their whole life after you offered them all your training possibilities.
“To complete my apprenticeship in a company and stay there until retirement”, might have been a career plan for people of prior generations but not for Millennials. They prefer to stay in one job for an average very few years. Employers need to make the most of it. Larger organizations have the advantage to retain these employees in a long-term with programs to encourage and support frequent lateral transfers, job rotations and cross-functional training opportunities.
Create a win-win situation every single day by investing in them! Give them the opportunity to develop their career and their personality. Show them their perspectives but grant them choice!
(7) All at once
During the end of the last century, when most Millennials have been given birth, half of all families have been one-child affairs. Children growing up without siblings don’t learn to resign, share or simply to be patient. They got what they wanted: electronic gadgets, expensive travels, checks for university or trips around the world.
With that background Millennials are not used to put things in sequence: first start small, grow experience and reputation and succeed after 15 years of hard work – nothing for Millennials. They want everything right away – even their performance review. Why waiting for feedback a whole year if it’s not sure if they are still doing this job at that time. Millennials want to receive their feedback like their feeds and tweets – in real-time.
Reduce assessment cycles and give feedback on the fly as projects are finished. They might not stay for too long (in this role) anyway!
(8) Job seeking is different
In the past, young graduates applied for a job by post or web application directly. A prepared file with resume, letter of application and several certificates has been sent to the HR department of the desired employer. Still, even with Web 2.0 a lot of companies handle their recruiting like this, waiting for applications to fly in, although it has never been so easy to find new talents. Where to search? In social networks like LinkedIn for instance. Users have created digital profiles with all necessary information for recruiters and you can take one thing for granted: Talents want to be found! If employers don’t change their role from passively waiting to proactively searching, they will not have access to future talents pools and will lose the war for talents.
Take networks serious and pull out the information for your HR department. If you don’t do it, your competitors will definitely do it!
Millennials will change the life at work significantly and will have a deep impact on companies’ cultures. It’s nothing employers should be concerned about but prepared for – diversity will be the key to future success.
Any remarks? Let us know. We are looking forward engaging on comments.