by Sam Neo
Millennials, typically defined as those born between 1980 to 2000, are often seen as the “problem child” in companies. Some stereotypes about them include the following:
- Disloyal job-hoppers
- Strong sense of entitlement
- Addicted to smart phone and social media
- Seek instant gratification
- Only interested in big companies
But is that really the truth? Or are these mere surface symptoms that we observe but fail to dig deeper to understand what this group is all about? Let’s explore further.
Learning opportunities and career development
Based on research findings, Millennials prioritize their career in terms of learning opportunities and career progression. This does not differ much from the past generations when they were younger but what stood out was their ideal retirement age. In the Asia-Pacific region, 60% of the Millennials see themselves retiring before the age of 60 which is way lower than the average retirement age across the region. What this tells us is that they are looking to grow and learn at least as much as their predecessors in a much shorter time frame. With that in mind, they could be perceived as being impatient which results in a job-hopping tendency.
Millennials are an expressive bunch of people. They want their voices to be heard. They do so in person and even more so, on social media. You will see social media posts ranging from personal updates to ranting about their dining experiences to even political views. You name it, you pretty much see all of it online. This is how they express themselves. They are not afraid to share their opinions and will readily ensure that their points are driven across. This might often come across as being very entitled and focusing just on themselves all the time.
Technology and social media
In this era that they are being brought up, Millennials and technology are closely integrated. The use of technology is like breathing or drinking, it comes that natural to them. They are used to having things fast and hassle-free as compared to their previous generation when it comes to daily work. They believe that technology are basic tools to help them do their job better. In fact, 59% of them indicated that state-of-the-art technology is something they look out for when deciding who to work for. In addition, social media has now become one of the main, if not the main source of content sourcing, sharing and communicating tool. Like it or note, it has become a way of life. As at end 2016, the penetration rate for Facebook has hit 1.7 billion users, WhatsApp with 1 billion users and LinkedIn at 100 million users. If you are not engaging them on such ready sources at this moment, and more so since most of it are free, why not? The likes of your email blasts and EDMs are probably a thing of the past. To engage the Millennials more effectively, social media has become a necessity for organizations.
Feedback and affirmation
Feedback is something that Millennials value, a lot. It can come in multiple forms with the likes of your mentoring programme, coaching or even regular “check-in” sessions. Of course, they believe that feedback is two-ways and thus within the organization, we are increasingly observing reverse mentoring where the younger employees share their knowledge with the more experienced ones e.g. the latest technology trends. Besides internal feedback, Millennials also rely heavily on review sites such as Glassdoor. Interesting, 50% of them believe in user-generated content as compared to their predecessors where only 30% of them trust such sources. This means that besides spending marketing dollars on your employer branding, managing the internal employee experience has become increasingly critical. In addition to feedback, Millennials also seek affirmation on their work. They want to know if they are doing well and whether they are progressing at the pace they set out to achieve. All these could easily be misunderstood as seeking instant gratification.
Making a difference and being part of something bigger are elements that motivate the Millennials. That’s probably why the likes of Google and Facebook are ranked by Millennials among the top 10 companies that they want to work for in 2017. If we simply check out the mission and vision statement of these companies, you will realize that there is no mention of profits and none about becoming a market leader. The emphasis often has an emotional appeal, an appeal for others to join them on a journey to impact the society and community at large. It revolves around things that are relatable on a personable level to strengthen the connection between what the individual does, and what the company seeks to achieve.
Authenticity and passion
Millennials believe in being themselves and following their passion. Authenticity is thus an integral part of their life which they value. That said, not only do they want to be authentic, they are seeking to connect with people and leaders who are authentic as well. The sincerity displayed will prove to be an important element when connecting with them. On the flip side, this expectation of theirs is probably why they are perceived as being self-absorbed.
Millennials are not that different from their predecessors if we dig deeper to understand the core of what they are looking for. The likes of career progression and wanting their voices to be heard are common traits that a working adult look for. What differs are the context, changing landscape and the way they are brought up. Once we recognize that, the next step is to understand and internalize the key drivers shared and integrate it into the HR strategy. Why is this important? Because it is what makes the millennials tick and drives them. Only when we speak their language can we engage them more effectively and in turn, get them to work with the other generation more effectively. After all, what we should focus on is not just the Millennials. The driving force of the organization should ultimately be the multi-generational workforce. Millennials are just a part of organization’s success but increasingly, a important part of it.