By Emily Holden
When it comes to Millennials in the workforce, one key word springs to mind: “misunderstood.” Members of my generation, also known as Gen Y and the Millennial generation, have picked up some negative labels from older employees who are perplexed by our behavior. We are often tagged as entitled, needy, selfish, and impatient in the workplace. Such descriptions, though partially true, present a half accurate picture of my generation. Millennials are also technologically savvy multi-taskers who want to collaborate, develop new skills, receive structured criticism and work for businesses that share our values of community giving and life-work balance.
With this multifaceted understanding of what Millennials are about it is not surprising that employers struggle to merge Gen Y into a traditional workforce. To do so first requires understanding the needs and motivations of Millennials to find new methods of recruiting and retaining them.
To begin with it is crucial to note that the recruiting process is a two-way operation. While you are trying to enlist young employees, they are observing the opportunities, group dynamics, and values that your business offers. Here are key questions that Millennials ask when looking at jobs and companies:
How your business answers these questions can determine your success in engaging and maintaining a new generation of workers.
Members of Gen Y, in their 20’s and younger, are highly educated and eager to tackle new and challenging goals. As a result, we are constantly seeking new skills and constructive feedback in order to advance our careers. Yes, it’s true; we may enter a job expecting to move up quickly into the company. This is why Millennials are described as impatient and have been shown to have a higher turnover rate than previous generations. Despite this, employers can benefit from encouraging young employees in their desire to excel. This can be accomplished by offering mentorship from more experienced workers and opportunities for younger employees to watch and engage in decision making processes. Establishing an instructional program between senior staff members and junior employees is an effective way to expose young employees to multiple levels of the company, prepare them for leadership roles, and satisfy their need for collaboration.
According to research from the Harvard Business Review, Millennials are the most socially minded generation since the 1960s. Accordingly, we prefer to work for companies that support the well-being of employees and the community. This does not mean that members of Generation Y won’t comply with employers’ standards. We will. Nevertheless, if Gen Y’s need for community involvement and life-work balance is ignored, the result may be a less enthusiastic, less productive workforce of younger individuals.
Basically, we want to feel good about what and who we are working for. This is not to suggest that we mind hard work, or putting in extra hours to complete tedious assignments. Yet many of us also want to know that our efforts will serve our community. Otherwise, the only motivation is a paycheck. And for many Millennials, money alone is not incentive enough to inspire lasting enthusiasm for or commitment to a job. With this in mind, companies can engender the trust of Millennials, a generation of idealists who embrace social innovation, by incorporating community outreach programs. Doing so can give Gen Y employees the sense of purpose and positive affirmation they crave and help secure their allegiance to your business.
Millennials also appreciate flexibility in a job. We want to satisfy both personal and professional needs. This standard of life-work balance, in my own experience, developed in my teen years as I watched my mother, a single mom and hard working professional, wear herself out to balance her professional and personal life. Although she assumed a variety of roles in our household, there were certain aspects of family life that were overlooked. Family dinners for example, were few and far between and understandably so, considering the hours my mother invested in her job to meet deadlines, on top of shuttling my brother and me around to soccer games and dance lessons. In light of this experience, I resolved to have a job that fit my life, not a life tailored to a work contract. Similarly, many Millennials share this perspective. We value family life and leisure time equally to the sum of our wages. And since technology allows us to communicate and work from anywhere, it seems reasonable to pursue a well-balanced personal and working life.
In view of the recession many Gen Y-ers have realized the worth and privilege of having an entry-level position. Still, employers will profit from understanding our odd temperaments and styles. However needy, demanding, or changeable your young employees seem, remember that they are adjusting to their role in unfamiliar workplace structures. We just ask for a little encouragement and a sense of purpose in our jobs. Give us the chance to learn and grow in the company, and we will give you more enthusiasm than you expect. Show us that your company cares about the community and the happiness of its employees, and we will submit our loyalty to your cause.
Emily Holden is pursuing her M.A. in Counseling at UTSA, and received her B.A. in English Literature at St. Edward’s University, Austin. Ms. Holden interned at “Texas CEO” for the past six months, and we wish Emily a purposeful and balanced life.
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