You've heard it everywhere — by 2020, millennials will overtake the workforce. And managers, this is only four short years away. It’s time to put aside the myths and get real about hiring and supporting members of the millennial generation, or it’s your company that will fall behind. In particular, there are five myths about millennials in the workplace that should be dispelled.
The millennial generation is an ambitious one — but since when is that a bad thing in the workforce?
What this ambition does not mean is that millennials aren’t willing to work their way up the ladder. In fact, they would be more than happy to — once they actually have the job opportunities afforded to older generations.
To put it simply: The Great Recession brutalized the millennial generation at work. And statistics show that the recession is still having after effects on the generation’s ability to find solid jobs they can grow into. According to the U.S. Labor Department data:
63% of millennials are working in 2012
70% of similarly aged 18- to 31-year-olds in 1990 were working
Despite making up the largest generation in the laborforce, millennials make up only 33% of employed Americans
48% of the unemployed population is millennials
Clearly millennials would be willing to pay their dues if the opportunity was there. And the recession has caused for massive student loan debt, delaying entering the housing market, and putting off having a family. It’s dismissive to think that millennials only want to escalate up the job market for entitlement when the market has never afforded them any.
Despite this economic situation, millennials are shown to be no more motivated by high pay than any other generation, and in fact, their career goals are almost the exact same as Generation X and Baby Boomers, according to IBM. Moreover, according to Forbes, high pay came in second of “job factors valued as important”:
30% of millennials called meaningful work the most important job factor
23% called high pay the most important
25% said a sense of accomplishment was the most important
1 in 3 millennials would prioritize social media freedom, device flexibility, and work mobility over salary in accepting a job offer
When it comes down to it, millennials are more motivated by a company’s culture and values — preferably including freedom and flexibility — than they are by a higher salary. Money matters, of course, but no more than any other generation. So don’t chase millennials with a fat paycheck and think that’s all you have to do to appease the generation battered by the recession.
There’s an age-old millennial stereotype: the soccer team that wins no games but still demands trophies for participation. It’s similar to the entitlement stereotype present in No. 1. However, studies show that, similar to No. 1, this stereotype is far from accurate.
According to IBM, millennials would prefer a boss who is fair than one that constantly praises:
35% of millennials report wanting a boss who is “ethical and fair”
35% of millennials report wanting a boss who is “transparent and readily shares information”
29% want a boss who “recognizes my accomplishments”
Don’t mistake looking for feedback as looking for constant praise. As CEO of Twilio Jeff Lawson told Forbes:
“[Millennials] are not looking for constant praise, but rather they want to ‘keep score’ on how they’re doing in all aspects of their career. [They] never want to have a surprise.”
While the Great Recession may have put them in the position to have to jump from one job to the next to get by, millennials actually report themselves to be motivated by learning and advancing with one company — meaning it’s the company’s duty to cultivate this environment for them.
According to Forbes:
52% of millennials said the opportunity for career progression made a company attractive
65% said the opportunity for personal development was the most influential factor in their current job
22% see training and development as the most valued benefit a company can offer
It goes back to the old movie saying, “If you build it, they will come.” Provide opportunities for career progression. Implement training and mentorship programs for employees. If you build a culture where you respect employees and they know you want to keep them around, chances are millennials will stick with you as they move up the ladder.
Millennials might sleep with their smartphones within arm’s reach, but that doesn’t mean they’re ignorant of social media etiquette. In fact, the generation that has grown up using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine has far more insight about what not to do than older generations.
While the stereotype is that millennials are posting pictures of everything, even of drinking and partying on their professional accounts, the truth is millennials are social media savvy enough to understand their audience.
According to IBM:
27% of millennials say they “never” use personal social media accounts for business purposes
Only 7% of Baby Boomers say they “never” use personal social media accounts for business purposes
Moreover, the same study shows that millennials are far more likely to help their company on social media, not hurt it, by selling organizational offerings, promoting positive company news, and helping find job candidates.
Giving into generational myths is a mistake that will only hurt your company. By passing over qualified millennial candidates because of stereotypes, you could be missing out on the best person for the job — and one who could ultimately push your company forward.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.