Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S., and more of them are entering the workforce every day — there’s no avoiding them. This generation is hungry, impatient, and they’ll turn your company upside down with their sense of rebellion …
… Or at least, that’s the hype.
Born between 1980 and 2000, millennials grew up in a digital age with constant access to information. This upbringing shapes their perspective, and soon it’s going to shape the workplace as a whole.
Attract Millennials With Development
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If you think millennials are driven by salary, think again. Organizations need to realize that money alone won’t sway this generation to accept a job offer. In fact, a survey by Cap Strat found that 72% of Gen Y are willing to sacrifice a higher salary for a more personally and professionally fulfilling career.
So if you want to attract millennials, you’ll need to enhance their work experience beyond a paycheck. This is a generation that’s always looking to learn. Check out what the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC found out about millennials:
Tuition reimbursement was a powerful attraction and retention tool for them
65% said the opportunity for personal development was the most influential factor for retention in their current job
22% saw training and development as the most valued benefit from any employer
One of the most common characteristics from this generation is that they're looking to learn. And it’s clear that they want to be in a company that will nurture their development. So take this to heart and find ways to help educate them and strengthen their skills:
Consider funding classes related to their field so they can gain more knowledge to support their position at work. Certain industries, such as finance, require exams in order to progress professionally. Covering these classes will help employees advance, especially if they’re still in a junior-level position and don’t have the funds for the courses.
2. Seminars and conferences
Digital marketing strategies. Latest trends in nanotechnology. Whatever industry you’re in, there are tons of these events out there. Send employees to learn about specific topics from industry leaders and experts.
3. Rotational programs
Have employees spend a few months at a time in different sectors of the company. They’ll learn valuable skills that they would not have gotten had they stayed in the same position for years.
4. Training sessions
Bring an instructor to the company. Not everyone can make time to take after-work classes, so having in-house sessions ensures all employees get the same training.
This affects how they decide which job to take, too. The Kenan-Flagler Business School found that over half of millennials say that opportunities for career progression make an employer attractive.
Millennials expect swift career progression — along the lines of every 12 to 24 months, according to a recent Deloitte study. So if you don’t give them chances for professional development, you can count on a solid majority of them to have one foot out the door.
And don’t forget, you benefit too. While millennials are building up their skills, you’re getting a more engaged, highly trained workforce. Not a bad way to build up the strength of your team, is it?
Attract Them With a Fun Workplace
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But also don’t forget that work isn’t all about producing. According to PGi, 88% of millennials are actively looking for a fun work environment. Think about ways you can help relieve the everyday stresses of work for employees and help them connect with their peers:
1. Breaking bread
Have lunch catered to the workplace and gather your team to sit and eat together. No one can say no to free food, and it provides a great opportunity for people to socialize and get to know their peers.
2. Happy hour
Having fun doesn’t always have to take place in the workplace. Happy hours are a great chance for employees to unwind after work. And the change of scenery can make it more comfortable for people to start socializing.3
3. Creative work
Set aside some time or even a few days for employees to work on their own projects. Let them get creative! You’ll be surprised at the ideas they come up with. And hey, it’s a great way to inspire innovative ideas for the company.
Millennials aren’t attracted to paychecks or ping-pong tables — they’re drawn to simple perks that will develop them professionally and also let them have fun at work. Include these perks in your company, and you’ll be able to easily reel in top talent.
Millennials Crave Collaboration
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This generation grew up with collaboration and expects that in their workplace. It’s time to think of redesigning your workplace to encourage brainstorming, teamwork, and creative thinking. And yes, that means saying “rest in peace” to cubicles.
The first step to indulging them is tearing down those cubes. A study by Knoll found these advantages of moving from cubicles to an open floor plan:
Performance increased by an average of 440%
There was a 5.5% reduction in business process time and cost
Walls are an obstacle for communication, so don’t keep them up. Instead, try grouping desks together or creating rows where employees can face each other. Whatever your decision, make sure your workers can talk to their colleagues without having to shout or move too far.
Of course, getting rid of walls was step one. The second step is to create spaces for collaboration. While meeting rooms are ideal, they’re not always readily available. Here are some ideas for informal and formal meeting spaces:
1. Meeting tables
Scatter tables around the office where employees can quickly come together. Put up a whiteboard on the wall, and you’ve got a faux meeting room. Having these tables promotes and encourages spontaneous ideation.
2. Break rooms
Draw employees from their desks by giving them a space where they can interact spontaneously. Idle chitchat around the watercooler mainly revolves around work-related subjects, and you never know when a brilliant idea might pop up.
3. Formal meeting rooms
Don’t forget to still have rooms that can be scheduled. Having enclosed rooms is great for sensitive topics or when you need to gather a large party.
According to an IdeaPaint survey, millennials reported that only 30.8% of their ideation meetings are planned. So make sure your workplace has designated spaces where employees can quickly gather.
Managing Millennials in the Workplace
Millennials’ wants and needs are creating a seismic shift in the workplace. And if you’re not ready to adjust your workplace and management style, then there’s no way you’re going to keep this well-educated workforce around at your organization. Here are seven tips for managing millennials the right way:
1. Experiment with responsibilities
Millennials dream big — they just don’t know how they’ll get there or what they’re best at. So let them take a shot at different responsibilities so they can find out where they true passion lies. Who knows, someone who wanted to do graphic designing might be better off as a production artist.
2. Try “reverse mentoring”
Sure, as a manager you have many more years of experience than a Gen Yer. But they have plenty to teach you. Leverage their knowledge of technology and have them assist you with social media or online collaboration.
3. Give purpose, not perks
Free this, free that — companies are using trendy perks to reel people in. But really, millennials want a sense of purpose at their job. Give them opportunities to volunteer and develop within your organization so they know they’re doing more than just pounding the keyboard.
4. Communicate everything
This generation grew up in a very supportive and reassuring environment. And as a result, they need to know about everything — right away. Have regular one-on-one meetings, provide feedback, and give them recognition. Make sure you’re transparent with information.
5. Be patient
Remember, this young crowd is new to the professional world. They might now have all of the soft skills down, but they’re ready and willing to learn. Give them time and guidance to absorb the new information, and soon they’ll thrive at your workplace.
6. Focus on results, not hours
Millennials don’t see a point in being forced to stay at the office from 9 to 5. So let them go home after they’re done with their daily tasks. There are no financial or real benefits for the organization if their brain is fried from a day’s work, and they’re only sticking around to kill hours.
7. Give them a “why”
Want to make company changes? Or maybe you want to reinforce certain behaviors? Give them a reason, and of course, that reason should be tied to your organization’s values.
Managing millennials in the workplace might be intimidating because of all the rumors you’ve heard about them. But they’re actually an easy bunch to please. Just give them some guidance, help them grow, and communicate to keep them satisfied on the job.
They Need Feedback
Unlike their older counterparts who are comfortable letting months go by without feedback, this generation wants it right away. Maybe it’s their deep, intrinsic drive to get ahead and make real contributions. Or maybe it’s because they grew up with helicopter parents. Whatever the case, millennials in the workplace are hooked on feedback.
Older generations think this young crowd expects themselves to get ahead before they’re even ready. However, millennials themselves have a different take on it all. For them, it’s about having an impact on the company and knowing that they’re doing it in the right way. A study by Viacom found that:
8 out of 10 want regular feedback on their performance
Like it or not, millennials are hungry for feedback. It’s not just about boosting their ego or receiving a pat on the back. It’s about making sure that at work, they’re the best they can be.
As juvenile as it seems, millennials want you to hold their hand. Yes, they’re well educated, but they also lack a lot of professional skills due to their inexperience in the working world. Going back to the Viacom study:
61% of millennials say they need specific directions in order to do their best work
Two-thirds of them want to be included in a mentorship program
Simply put, Gen Y is career driven. They want to make sure they are headed in the right direction. Because in reality, we don’t know we’re actually doing something the wrong way until an outsider points it out.
With personal growth at such a prominent position on their workplace wish list, it’s easy to see why these factors contribute to their decision to stay or go.
They Want to Lead
Are you looking to your millennial talent base for your next leaders? If you’re not, you’re missing out. Not nearly enough companies are investing the time and energy into bringing Gen Y into leadership positions. That’s a mistake.
Only 28% of millennials believe their current company is making full use of their skills
Only 6% of companies report they have “excellent” programs to develop this generation
However, 53% of these young employees aspire to leadership positions in their current organization
95% of them believe it’s important for companies to offer leadership development activities
Companies are failing their employees — their millennial workforce is more than willing to put in the time and effort to train and develop their skills to become leaders. We need to be doing much better in supporting their careers, because it’s a win-win situation: offering leadership opportunities will engage them, meaning you’ll have far less turnover.
1. Definition of leadership
The #FOMO, or fear of missing out, culture means that this generation is chasing the next great experience. In fact, according to the Virtuali study, 78% of them say they value experience over possessions. You as a company need to give them those experiences. This means instead of boosting salary, boost their exciting opportunities. They want to build relationships, take on a driving force in innovative projects, and interact with customers or other employee teams, depending on the nature of your business.
2. The training method
Take a two-pronged approach: experience based and individualized. Gen Y respondents to the Virtuali study reported that they thought the leadership training was inadequate, and that it placed too much emphasis on e-learning instead of on actual on-the-job experiences. Look back at what these young employees think leadership means and attack training from that perspective. There should be job rotations, shadowing, externships, special job assignments, and helming new projects.
3. Valuable training
One of the most highly sought-after opportunities for them is the opportunity to work abroad. Global business environments should capitalize on this to engage future leaders of their company. In the Virtuali study, 87% of millennial respondents reported that the opportunity to work abroad would increase their desire to join a company, 80% would be highly engaged, and 81% said it would make them want to remain at their company. Don’t miss out on this opportunity if it’s available to your company.
This generation is the future of companies. Invest in their leadership training with on-the-job experiences and you’ll win their loyalty.
Be Socially Responsible
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78% of millennials think companies have an obligation to be socially responsible, according to this study by Cone Communications. This socially conscious generation isn’t going to leave saving the world to big charities. They’re going to do it themselves — and they expect you to join them. And whether a company lives up to it or not is a big factor in where these respondents choose to work.
79% want to work for a company that cares about its impact on society
Nearly two-thirds say their company’s contributions to society make them loyal
Companies worry about how to retain employees, especially those from this generation. These responses send a clear message about what the answer is for a sizeable majority. There’s passion behind these answers, and a company that knows how to leverage it will be rewarded with passionate employees.
1. Give more
According to the Cone study, 70% of millennials think companies aren’t doing enough. They can’t really be blamed for their opinion. For instance, when it comes to charitable donations, corporations aren’t giving as much as they used to. Since 1986, the percent of profits being donated has dropped from 2.1% to 0.8%. And sure, the total dollar amount of donations has gone up — but ultimately corporations are dishing out a smaller and smaller piece of their overall pie. This isn’t living the mission the way that Gen Y wants.
2. Tapping into the energy
The rewards of engaging millennials can be huge, and not just during the employee’s workday. There’s a particular group, which the Cone study calls the “Doers,” with strong participation in social activism. These Doers are particularly invested in their causes, to the point where 68% would refuse to work for a socially irresponsible employer.
There’s no doubt that this generation has high expectations. But companies that take social responsibility seriously can win their loyalty and support, as both employees and consumers.
In actuallity, the expectations that millennials are looking for in the workplace aren't completely absurd. Development, feedback, recognition — these are all things that workers from any generation can enjoy. So if you implement these changes, you'll be creating an engaging environment not just for millennials but all employees.
Share Your Experience
Who doesn't have a millennial coworker? What has your experience been like working with them? Or maybe you're a millennial yourself — what stereotypes do you think are plaguing the millennial name?
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in May 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.