I am in no way an expert on millennials, but I do know they represent a different way of thinking. The 2015 U.S. Census identified millennials as the 75.4 million people in the 18-34 age group. Various surveys and industry articles point out the unique ideas and principles this group represents. Information readily available on the internet suggests that the vast majority of millennials are looking for job development, a chance to do some thing special, have a strong desire to fit in and want to feel part of a collaborative effort.
We can complain that millennials were raised with poor work ethic and unrealistic work expectations. However, they are what we have and not too many 50-year-old people are actively looking for contracting jobs. What do we expect from a generation that was given participation trophies and coddled? But the situation is a lot more complicated than that. Even kids know winning is more important than a participation trophy. It seems to me the millennials grew up with a strong desire to fit in. Lots of soccer, youth groups and other group activities. Employers need to give them a chance to belong.
Research shows that millennials want to participate and be part of something. They also grew up in a household where they could readily express their opinion, so it can be tough for them to understand why they can’t always express an opinion in the workplace. Yes, some are lazy but all generations have had lazy people. In many ways, the problems facing contractors are just a continuation of being stuck with outdated school depression-era ways of managing employees. Here’s some philosophies that won’t work:
“Do what you are told. Because I said so.” Today’s younger workers are highly social and merely telling them to “shut up and do something” rarely works. They want to know why doing something a certain way is so important. The “why” is critical.
“If I wanted your opinion, I’d ask you.” Millennials grew up communicating their opinion and want to participate and collaborate. Their parents allowed them to express an opinion. They don’t understand why they can’t do so at work without taking a risk.
“You gotta pay your dues to work here.” Millennials are impatient and want to move forward. Remember, they were always told they can be anything they want to be. They need to see a path to follow and are sometimes impatient to get to the end of the path. Ambition is not a bad thing. Don’t interpret this as disrespect. It’s simply how their values were developed and how they see the world. Remember, this is the generation that grew up with technology and instant information. Why would they be patient? Much of their world is instantaneous.
Smartphones and the internet are part of their DNA. You will not separate them from their phone and they may see many of your systems as archaic and outdated. Paper, what’s paper? They use screens and keyboards. Email? They text everyone. If your company isn’t up to a certain tech standard, don’t be surprised when millennials don’t see it as a good place to work. Tech is the norm to them. They’re good at it and have no fear of it.
Young people are good for any organization. They can be enthusiastic and a breath of fresh air. Having someone that wants to improve, participate and be part of your company is not a bad thing.
Millennials want to be part of something. What does your company do to include them?
They want a career path. Are you clearly laying out steps for advancement and what they have to do to advance?
They want feedback. Do you have a system that regularly offers feedback?
Millennials want to give feedback. What systems do you have in place for them to offer feedback?
I know what you are thinking. Why should the company change? Why should millennials dictate your culture and what you do? Because there are 75 million of them and they represent the prime hiring target for your company. You are a contractor and contractors need labor.
Everywhere you look, businesses are looking for employees. The labor market is very competitive. Contractors must change their ways and be more progressive. Contracting profits are driven by a contractor’s labor force. Contractors make things and you need employees to make things. Ignoring millennials just does not make any sense. You have to hire from the pool available and change your culture. Don’t be surprised if you enjoy working with young people. It’s not all bad.