Millennials occupy an increasingly prominent segment of today’s workforce. Savvy talent managers must strategize how best to leverage their contributions.
Just like music that seems to get louder and louder with each generation, so too does the rancor over the challenges each generation brings when it enters the workforce.
Talent leaders often hear about 20-somethings failing to launch and returning home to their parents, or impatient and impertinent young associates who clamor for a voice in every decision. This group also has a tendency to move from one employer to the next. Some managers also have encountered the added challenge of helicopter parents who accompany their child on job interviews and question performance appraisals.
Perceived differences between generations are not new: Research reporting older workers’ skeptical views of their younger co-workers has appeared consistently since the 1970s. But young workers today are different from their forebears in a few specific and notable ways — differences that present clear challenges for employers. Employers who are slow to address millennials’ oft-observed desires for feedback, work variety and work-life balance will struggle to retain their best young workers.Generational Gaps in Work Attitudes
Generally recognized as the cohort born after 1980, millennials differ from baby boomers and Gen X in the workplace in three primary ways.
Probably the most striking difference is the role work occupies in their lives. Work isn’t as important to millennials as it was to previous generations at the same point in their careers. Today’s younger workers are more covetous of leisure time and describe work as less central to their lives. Some employers lament that while their younger employees aren’t as keen to get in the ditch and dig, those same employees remain desirous of the benefits — including status and compensation — that coincide with sustained efforts.
Millennials also interact socially with the world in a different way. They generally are more outgoing and assertive than previous generations, and they thrive on immediate feedback. Sometimes called “trophy kids,” they have both higher self-esteem and a greater need for positive reinforcement; they excel in environments that are low in ambiguity, with tasks that are well specified.