All Millenials are not the same

Search on the word “Millennials” and you might see claims that they aren’t as entrepreneurial, they love socialism, and they drink a ton of wine.  So, what’s an employer to do with that?

There is a lot that has been written about the Millennial generation that is somewhat unfair.  They are sometimes painted as spoiled, too sensitive, too quick to quit a job, idealistic.  I find these descriptors about as helpful as streams of passive-aggressive posts comparing stay-at-home moms to working moms. That is to say, it’s a lot of unproductive name-calling.  Just read some of the negative Boomer comments that follow Millennial-related posts.

As a Gen Xer, I can look around me and find significant differences between my approach to work and life and that of my peers. I am confident that any person can look among their demographic and note differences.  Heck, I have two siblings from whom I am vastly different although we are in the same generation and grew up in the exact same circumstances—same parents, same geographic location, same socio-economic circumstances.  I am called part of the “latch key” generation, but I never came home to an empty house.  We are supposed to be the first generation that experienced wide spread divorce in our parents.  Nope on that one too.  Frankly, I would find it insulting to be placed in a box with all the 40ish people around me because of an opinion that we all want the same things.

The Millennials are the most racially diverse generation ever, so I have to believe that they are diverse in many other ways too.

Love them or hate them, but don’t ignore them.  They are your future.  By 2025, they could account for 75% of the workforce.  They are your digital natives, and the most educated generation.  And, they happen to want many of the same things your other employees want.  They may just be more likely to speak up and ask for them.

Recruiters’ ability to attract someone to your company is only as good as the company—and how it matches or doesn’t the desires of your recruits.  So, the bigger question isn’t “How do we attract and retain Millennials?” but rather, “How do we create a culture where someone of any generation wants to work?”

Here are a few cultural attributes that are appealing, regardless of generation:

Purpose.  Are your employees able to describe your company’s purpose?  What or how it contributes to the world, or at a minimum, its customers?  Do you have a mission that is well-communicated? Employees understanding how their role fits into the bigger picture of the company and its purpose is a key driver of engagement, and therefore, retention.

Meaningful work.  Are you careful to ensure cultural fit and job fit before hiring someone?  Do you listen to people when they provide input on how to make things better?  Don’t alienate people who may look for different qualities in a company and in a job.  Listen to your people when they express what they want.  Not everything is possible, but knowing what is important to your whole organization can help you create or refine your culture.

Diversity.  Do your potential recruits see themselves reflected in the recruiting process and your workforce?  Do you include a spectrum of people in your recruiting efforts and in your job fairs? Since Millennials are the most diverse generation ever, this will continue to be an important area of focus.

Good management.  Do your managers try to understand any of the unique characteristics of all of their team members?  Understanding individual differences can help managers be more effective.  Help your Boomer and Gen X managers better understand the Millennials on their team, rather than stereotyping.  People want to be treated like individuals.

Flexibility.  More and more, people want to have some control over their schedules.  Do you have polices that enable flexible schedules and alternative work locations?  Do you focus more on people’s ability to physically show up or their ability to deliver results?  This trend has been around for some time, but again, Millennials may just be more apt to speak up about it.

Rather than looking for ways to stereotype the generations in your workforce, look for what they have in common, and listen to what they are telling you rather than brushing them off as too needy and too outspoken.  You might learn a lot if you are willing to listen.

Do you agree? Disagree? I would love to hear your thoughts.  Comment in a civil manner to add to the discussion.

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