While plenty of time has been spent discussing what millennials lack and why employers are afraid to hire them, perhaps taking a look at the root of common stereotypes and how to most effectively utilize these professionals will allow organizations with multi-generational workforces to move forward in harmony.
After all, by 2020, this generation will be nearly half of all working professionals.
One of the most common stereotypes regarding the Millennial generation is laziness. While we hear this stereotype thrown around easily, the reasoning behind it isn’t quite so black and white.
Millennials’ work habits tend to differ significantly from their professional predecessors. Because of this shift, “traditional” workplace rules simply do not make sense to this generation. The Millennial generation does not generally embrace, for instance, antiquated dress codes, steadfast 9-5 business hours, and meetings for the sake of meetings. “It’s always been done this way” makes little sense as a point of reason to the Millennial colleague.
Because Millennials place more value in flexibility and autonomy over rigid schedules, this is often misinterpreted as laziness or a weak work ethic.
“They’re not loyal!”
The Millennial generation is infamous for a lack of loyalty to today’s employers. In fact, according to Inc., today’s 20-24 year-olds’ median employment lasts less than 16 months. Although a lack of loyalty is undoubtedly significant in the lives of Millennials, there are distinct reasons for this shift.
Research has consistently shown that Millennials’ priorities differ when it comes to workplace satisfaction. While previous generations emphasize traditional components such as compensation and health benefits, Millennials worry more about whether they are making a contribution to the common good of society.
This generation loves to feel that their work matters in the long run, that their work will benefit the world, the future, or the industry. They are more concerned with a sense of purpose than they are with longevity.
Therefore, if an employer does not fill that need, they will find one that does.
“They don’t want to work very hard!”
Millennials prioritize efficiency more than they emphasize the traditional definition of hard work. Because Millennials take alternative approaches to completing projects, such as setting their own hours, taking brief breaks to visit social channels or go outdoors, older generations of workers who are unaccustomed to such work strategies may misinterpret what they say.
While these tactics stem from a desire to prioritize innovation and creativity over rigidity, one might argue that it reaffirms stereotypes about not working hard enough.
“They want a promotion too quickly!”
Many members of the Millennial generation have entered the workforce with new, unique, niche technological skillsets that are often difficult to find as employers, particularly among older generations of workers. Because of this, some professionals within this generation may have unrealistic expectations regarding upward mobility and their right to management in the workplace.
Setting expectations with this generation about the need to earn their spot in the company will be key to avoid and misunderstandings down the road.
Despite their increasing presence in the workforce, many organizations are still wary of hiring Millennial talent. But as the worldview of Millennials shifts, some employers and recruiters are placing a heightened emphasis on focusing on the positives of hiring fresh talent:
They Want to Prove Themselves
Because Millennials are new to the field, they often bring the energy, excitement, and focus that it takes to prove oneself. If they plan to stay in a field for the duration of their career, Millennials especially desire to make a positive impression on the employer, prove to be worthwhile, and succeed in the field.
They are Eager to Learn
Millennials are coming from an academic environment that emphasizes exercising a variety of knowledge, the importance of learning, and its direct effect on success. This environment has given Millennials motivation and ability to learn new things to drive growth. This carries over into employment and often produces enthusiastic employees.
They Bring Fresh Perspective
Simply put, Millennials bring new ideas to the field. They often view problems differently than their counterparts due to generational differences and educational shifts, thereby allowing them to solve problems differently. In addition, they can add value to an organization that is otherwise stagnant due to their excitement and energy.
They Are Tech Savvy
Some resent the ways in which Millennials (and young individuals in general) use technology “every second of the day.” Because they grew up in the age of smart phones and advanced technology, however, they have the ability to adapt to and suggest new technologies in the corporate world. The frequent use of technology also translates into the ability to multi-task and take on many projects at once.
Employers have criticized the Millennial generation on numerous occasions while failing to offer any productive alternatives or solutions. If these criticisms can be harnessed and transformed into suggestions and instruction, perhaps Millennials can be given the chance to excel in the workplace in a more productive manner.
Rather than assuming that Millennials present no value to a company simply due to their age, employers must weigh the pros and cons of each individual candidate based on their skills, attitude, cultural fit and competencies.