Managing Millennials

Findings from a recent study offer key ways to motivate the younger generation.

By Matt Rivera

With seemingly countless articles penned each day about the ways in which the millennial generation will ruin, enhance, destroy, or enrich our future, the only consensus appears to be that they’re quite the enigmatic bunch. Some say they’re too busy following their dreams to focus enough on reality while others argue that it’s specifically their lofty ambitions that will lead to some truly spectacular technological innovations for the future. So which is it?

As they move from place to place within a company, within an industry, or within the general workforce, it has become increasingly difficult to figure out what exactly they’re looking for both in life and in employment. According to a recent survey The Employment Well Being Study, conducted by HRO Today with Yoh Recruitment Process Outsourcing, Millennials feel they’re the most at risk of losing a job: 20.6 percent of 18- to 34-year-old respondents compared to just 9.2 percent for those 35 and older
in the fourth quarter of 2014. On the flip side, this group is the most trusting in company leadership with 59 percent of Millennials compared to 36.4 percent of everyone else. While during the past five years, the expectation has become that Millennials plan to stay with one company for less than three years, can we really say that this is the desire of Millennials and not the fault of employers? More likely, it’s a combination of both.

  • Millennials don’t stay long with employers, but they want to. They’re just too ambitious. Many employers and HR professionals may be in agreement that Millennials are constantly on the job hunt, forever searching for an opportunity that’s newer and better, but it’s beginning to seem less likely that this is the case. Young workers may not remain with the same employer for a long time, but it appears that this is not what they actually want.

The Employment Well Being Study found that Millennials are among the most trusting of company leadership of all age groups surveyed and also the most confident in an upcoming promotion and pay raise. In fact, 38 percent of Millennials expect to work at one job for more than nine years, finds PwC’s NextGen: A Global Generational Study. These survey results read like the feelings of a workforce that is not only content but excited about their employment future. So where’s the disconnect?

Though their desire to remain with a company for
a significant amount of time exists, it is often the ambition and desire to quickly grow within a company that leads these young workers to look at other companies for promotions. Perhaps to a fault, these young workers so strongly crave meaning and impact in their careers that they’re willing to quickly look elsewhere to find it, even if it means leaving a fairly satisfying job in the process. Millennials are more willing to take more risks to find that meaning.

This group also desires transparency and visibility about career paths and promotions, and companies owe it to not only Millennials, but all individuals to be clear with them about what it will take to advance their career.

  • Millennials want opportunities for lateral movement and diversity with the promise of meaningful, substantive work. Unlike previous generations who graduated, found a job that paid them a decent salary, and kept it for as long as they could, Millennials aren’t nearly as much “in it for the money” as they are “in it for the meaning.”

While the survey found they feel the most confident in an upcoming promotion than any other age group (40.3 percent of fourth quarter Millennial respondents versus just 12 percent for all other ages) and in an upcoming raise (42.9 percent of Millennials and 22.9 percent of older workers), more and more Millennials are looking instead for substance in the work they do rather than getting paid top dollar for work that isn’t as rewarding.

Even 20 years ago, it wasn’t nearly as important for employers to show employees the tangible effects of the work they do as it is today. A majority of employees were often satisfied enough with getting a paycheck. The solution many employers have found is offering more opportunity to move laterally within a company to find meaningful work that fits an individual’s personality and, in turn, showing how the work they are doing has an impact on their career, the business, and the greater good.

  • Millennials want to engage with leadership and collaborate with others. Perhaps it’s the advent of social media and the unprecedented access young people have been given to all kinds of public figures, from athletes, celebrities, politicians and CEOs, Millennials strive to engage with leadership earlier in their careers and more often.

According to The Employment Well Being Study, Millennials are the most trusting of leadership of
any age group—even though they often have the fewest touch points with senior leaders. This is equally surprising as it is promising. This generation trusts company leaders even more so than workers 55 and older—those workers who are expected to be company leaders themselves by that point in their careers.

Combining their strong workplace ambition with their desire to make a difference early in their careers, giving young workers access to company leaders
and the opportunity to collaborate with senior team members is a great step in making them passionate about the work they do, proving even the work of junior level team members is critical to business success.

In today’s employee marketplace, it’s clear that finding talent is no longer just about hiring quality workers, but making them feel valued as employees through mutual trust and positive company culture. It starts with the hiring process and applies no matter how long they work for a company, what age they are, or under what circumstances they were hired. Differing sentiment among generations on factors such as employee ambition and the desire to find meaningful work and collaborate with leaders means companies must give their hiring and engagement practices with Millennials increased attention right now and into the future.

Matt Rivera serves as vice president of marketing and communications for Yoh.

Posted June 12, 2015 in Engaged Workforce

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