The careers/workplace blogosphere is littered with rants and tirades about the generations at work, much of this content circling around Millennials (or Gen Y, as they are commonly called). It’s fascinating, really, the bipolar takes that have been published. Let’s explore the contrasting views:
Millennials are Entitled, Lazy and Untrustworthy.
Millennials are perhaps disloyal (Forbes), spoiled brats (CNN) who feel they are entitled to six-figure salaries (Los Angeles Times). Or, they simply want to wear flip flops while at work (TIME magazine) and care more about having the freedom to surf Facebook than get paid well (Silicon ANGLE). A less sugar-coated, more blunt view from an award-winning author paints Millennials as The Dumbest Generation (It makes me so happy that a book with this title has received such terrible reviews).
Millennials are Innovative, Perhaps the “Greatest Generation” Yet.
Conversely, others believe Millennials are a tech savvy generation with an entrepreneurial spirit (Entrepreneur magazine); they will somehow reshape the stagnant U.S. economy and usher us into the future, global economy. In journalist Joel Stein’s piece (published in Time magazine), The Me Me Me Generation – Why Millennials will save us all, he spends the majority of his exposé slamming Millennials, but then goes on to explore how and why Millennials will “save us all” and “just might be the new ‘Greatest Generation.’” Heck, Tom Brokaw (who coined the term the Greatest Generation) loves Generation Y—going so far as to refer to them as the Wary Generation, which he means as a whole-hearted compliment.
Regardless, Millennials are Reshaping How Organizations Recruit and Retain Talent.
I’ve dug through the data, and Millennials are not what they have been cast to be. If you’re interested in the facts and quality research, I recommend a few sources; PwC has conducted some great research on the topic, while Gallup and Pew each have done fairly extensive polling on the topic as well. You can find other studies and research across the web, but fair warning—there is a lot of garbage out there on the topic of Millennials.
Let’s start with the foundation. Right now, there are three generations in a typical workplace—I apologize to any members of the Silent Generation (born between 1295-1942) who may still be active in the workforce; each generation provides unique characteristics, qualities and soft skills learned through the environment they grew up in. Together, these experiences should create an effective and dynamic workforce. Judging from much of the literature on the topic, however, this isn’t usually the case. Instead, the time-honored tradition of older generations labeling the younger generation as lazy, spoiled, entitled and the root of all that’s wrong with the world is running rampant.
I have found one major difference in the Millennial generation that impacts how they are being recruited and how they are being managed in the work place. The difference isn’t their use of technology, because this isn’t a generational thing; sure, Millennials have technology embedded in their DNA, but technology is impacting everyone now regardless of age or generation. The difference isn’t even that they are job hoppers, as employees of all ages are having shorter tenures with employers, for a slew of different reasons.
The main difference in terms of employment is that Millennials care—more than any other generation—about company culture, brand, engagement and transparency.
Put simply, Millennials are more willing to pass on a job opportunity or quit a current career if an organization’s mission does not match their own. Pieces such as salary and career development, just as with previous generations, are non-negotiables (i.e., the articles claiming Millennials aren’t motivated by compensation are entirely false). But joining in the rank of non-negotiables for many is that organizations are good corporate citizens. This is not to say that previous generations didn’t have the same (or better) moral integrity, but rather that this generation is doing something about it because the world is becoming smaller and more connected than ever before. Ultimately, employees are no longer limited to accepting job offers from local or subpar employers, thus companies are being forced to evolve or risk missing out on top talent.
Proof of this can be seen in the struggles of the financial and insurance industries in recruiting the next generation of talent (The Griffith Insurance Education Foundation and the Ohio Insurance Institute have done extensive research on the topic, should you feel inclined to dig deeper). Essentially, these industries are struggling to replace retiring Baby Boomers with Millennial talent; not because they don’t pay well, but because the Millennial generation just isn’t all that interested working within an industry they view negatively (i.e., companies with high burn-out rates and poor corporate culture, among other components outside of compensation). In fact, many Generation Y-ers aren’t even considering careers in these industries.
So, what does this mean to employers and those across the talent landscape? If companies want to consistently compete for high-quality talent, they need to evolve:
Evolving and taking on strategies such as those bulleted above need to be much more than window dressing, especially as websites such as Glassdoor and LinkedIn, among others, make it remarkably easy for potential employees to see what life is like within the walls of a company before they even apply for an open position; today’s job seeker isn’t being fooled by flashy websites and well written mission statements. Furthermore, a lack of transparency is being translated as, “This organizations clearly has something to hide.” None of this was possible 10 years ago, but it is in today’s digital age—and organizations had better recognize the importance of being transparent and authentic.
At the end of the day, I imagine the increase and rise of mobile web-searching, social media, job-rating sites, and the ability to gain seemingly full transparency into an organization’s culture, will be viewed as positive changes for the workplace as a whole. Millennials are a large and fairly unified group of people that employers must figure out how to recruit, manage and retain. As the economy slowly begins to recover and thus provide more power and opportunity for job seekers, however, these organizations are losing Millennial talent in rapid fashion. As retention and recruiting costs increasingly pain these companies, we will see more evolution and adaptation take place—because the companies who resist will undoubtedly fall far behind their competition.