What Do Millennials Expect?

There’s a myth that’s been widely circulated in recent years that in reality is fake news. It’s that Millennials have expectations about work and the workplace that no previous generation has ever held. Words such as lazy and entitled are often used to describe this cohort.

 

Let’s set the record straight: They’re no different in this respect than any other generation that has preceded them. According to Gallup, Millennials expect many of the same things as workers in previous generations. They expect that the policies and the application of them in their organization will enhance their wellbeing; not detract from it. They expect their leaders to behave ethically, and they expect that there will be no discrimination against anyone.

 

The difference, if there is one, is that their perspective hasn’t been jaded through experience. That employee wellbeing is damaged by organizational policies hasn’t fazed them.

 

They expect you to fix it.

 

That leaders are often unethical hasn’t changed their minds. They expect you to act in an ethical manner.

 

And it matters not a jot that discrimination was accepted in the past. They’re having none of it.

 

 

Wellbeing

 

Wellbeing refers to the physical and mental health of employees, and it’s impossible to have one without the other.

 

Some might suggest that the body could be well, but the mind and/or emotions sick. But when the mind and/or emotions are unwell, it affects the body, too, as anyone who has ever suffered from clinical depression or anxiety will tell you. And social isolation threatens mental health and causes employees to be less productive.

 

 

Ethical leaders

 

Millennials expect their leaders to be squeaky clean. It’s no longer sufficient to “do nothing wrong.” “Nothing wrong” isn’t the standard. Those who hold to it, however, tend to see how close they can come to doing something illegal or morally wrong without actually crossing the line - their line, or at least not getting caught.

 

Ethics is about doing what’s right, which is completely different. It’s about holding to a high moral standard, something many leaders seem to know nothing about. For them, the end justifies the means. For Millennials, the means matter just as much.

 

Ethical behavior promotes trust, which is essential for productivity. If you don’t trust your employees, then among other things you’ll be more careful about what you tell them, or what you let them do. By the same token, if employees don’t trust you, then they will tell you less about what they think, and more about what you want to hear.

 

Ethical behavior also includes transparency. Anything less is considered to be a sign that you have something to hide, despite protestations to the contrary. When anyone says that they have nothing to hide, their gut reaction is that they do because “Methinks he protesteth too much.”

 

Some people may trust you initially, but then verify what they’ve been told by seeking additional facts as well as the opinions of others.

 

 

Inclusion

 

You can’t get away from it. All employees expect to be included and to be treated equally in every respect. Gender, for instance, is unrelated to pay, though you will know that many organizations still try to practice it all the while denying that they do. No names will be mentioned to protect the guilty.

 

Notwithstanding the longstanding emphasis on teams, Millennials expect to be recognized for the individual contributions that they make. That means that teams may no longer be the most advantageous model at work. And that’s because teams are much more than a group of individuals. If you have a team, then you must treat everyone in it as a part of that team. As soon as you start treating them as individuals, you put them in competition with one another and destroy the ethos of what a team is.

 

It’s likely that Millennials aren’t against teams per se, any more than any other generation. What they’re against is doing all the work, but sharing the credit. That’s a managerial problem that you have to fix.

 

All Millennials, just like previous generations, expect to be coached in their work so that they can advance and given opportunities to develop. No longer is it acceptable for a select few to be offered this. It’s part of the movement for equality. They expect you to respect them and recognize them for the contributions that they make.

 

 

Consequences for failing to do these things

 

What are the consequences for organizations that fail to give Millennials, or any other generation, what they expect?

 

Among other things, employee turnover.

 

The success of teleconferencing in recent months has proved that people can work successfully from home, and it’s something that Millennials expect as a part of their employment package. As the job opportunities available to this cohort are higher now than they’ve been since the Internet was offered for public use, these people especially will seek employment elsewhere if you fail to give them this option. This phenomenon is occurring in the United States as well as in the United Kingdom.

 

Flexible working weeks are also considered essential. Some organizations allow employees to work two half-days in lieu of a full day. Their week may mean that they work Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday all day, and then on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. This enables them to attend doctor’s appointments more easily and minimizes absenteeism or the loss of holiday time. Other schedules may mean working all of their hours over four days, and then getting three days off in a row. And studies show that when employees work fewer hours, then they get more accomplished in the time.

 

 

Not all Millennials think that the world owes them a living, or are easily distracted, or restless, or are only interested in what’s-in-it-for-me, or are lackadaisical and transient. Previous generations were like that, too. They were probably less vocal about it than the current generation, and they certainly didn’t have as much opportunity to change jobs then as is available today, but this attitude was present.

Why is it that this generation in particular has been identified as being this way? One reason may be that these attitudes are consistent with a particular age group. Maturity is a wonderful thing. Mark Twain once said of his father that, “when I was 16, I couldn’t believe how stupid the old man was, but by the time I was 21, I couldn’t believe how much he had learned.”

 

As Millennials age, their attitudes will also change.

 

 

Strategy

 

You have to ask yourself if, in your organization’s talent acquisition activities, you’re emphasizing the things that Millennials expect - employee well-being, ethical behavior among all supervisors, and inclusion on multiple levels - because those are the things that your current and future employees will be evaluating you on. They may agree to work for you, but if you fail to meet their expectations, then they’ll look for work with someone who does.

 

 

No doubt you’re aware that it’s utterly futile to pursue strategies that favor one generation over another, as they all want the same things. If you give benefits to Millennials that aren’t available to those who are older, or who have been with your organization for the same amount of time, then you’ll increase the likelihood that many more vacancies will occur. That’s because your more experienced staff also expect to benefit as well. It’s why, for instance, people change mobile phone companies or banks, or credit cards. The benefits offered to new people are better than the ones made available to existing customers.

 

 

Technology

 

The workplace today differs from the one that existed as recently as 2019. Nowadays, people expect more technology, equal pay for equal work, communication via social media, flexibility, collaboration, and inclusion.

 

As technology grows, Millennials have learned how to use it, and they expect to be able to do so. Smartphones, laptops, tablets and teleconferencing all contribute to this.

 

Technology also promotes online collaboration, which in turn increases productivity not to mention location independence.

 

Social media features large in the lives of Millennials. Whereas Boomers tend to use it more for personal reasons, Millennials expect it to be part of their working lives as well.

 

 

Millennials have the same expectations for their jobs as previous generations did. The difference is that they won’t take “no” for an answer. They expect their leaders and managers to do the right thing, rather than make excuses for why they can’t or won’t.

 

The primary difference between this generation and the ones that preceded it is that they’re more technologically savvy. They understand what can be done, and how to do it.

 

As a leader or manager, it’s your job to enable all of your employees to function at their highest level. If the Millennial generation feels like more than you can cope with, then rather than hold them back, ask them how they can improve your organization’s performance.

 

You might be surprised by what they tell you.

 

Want to learn more, contact me here.

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