Our workplaces are a complex mix of ages, ethnicities, management styles and personal needs. There are now 5 generations at work, each of them bringing their own values, skills and education to the job. We have Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials (or GenY) and the youngest, not yet named generation that I think should be labelled “Generation Text”.
The most misunderstood generation seems to be the Millennials. These are folks born between 1981 and 2000, and there are approximately 9.5 million of them in our workforce. They are the largest cohort at work, and in the next federal election, they will be the biggest voting block. So it is important to understand them and to adapt our corporate practices to their preferences and values, where appropriate. Instead of criticizing them, as the other generations usually do, we need to tap into their strengths and include them in our drive for success and prosperity. Clearly, we also need to continue to influence them to work in a way that meets the needs of our businesses as well. As more and more Boomers retire, attracting and retaining Millennials will be important.
Millennials have unjustly been labelled as lazy. They are not lazy, they are global citizens and, as such, they are interested in many different things. They make time for all of their interests and work is relegated to a certain number of hours each day. They work to live, they do not live to work.
Millennials do not respond well to authoritarian or hierarchical management styles. They are accustomed to collaboration and teamwork, and they want to make friends at work. Use this to your advantage. Coach them in teams and train them as groups.
Forget the annual performance review. Millennials want frequent feedback in informal settings. They are positive and confident and they will expect you to respect their ideas and value their contributions. They want to use all of their technology to get the job done, and would prefer you to text them, use instant messaging and the Internet.
Tell them clearly what the goals are. Millennials want to be on the inside, and to know what to strive for. Vague job descriptions or mandates are frustrating to them. Plan to spend time coaching and training them. They expect you to invest in their success.
Don’t entice them only with money. Open opportunities and pathways to them, recognize them, reward them. Millennials always keep their options open – always. To retain them, you need to understand them. Use the full range of their strengths to contribute to your success.