While there’s no precise definition of a millennial, it’s generally agreed that the group includes everyone born between approximately the early 80’s and late 90’s. A broader definition is that they are the children of baby boomers.
There are many stereotypes about millennials’ attitudes and how they approach work, and while there are broad trends, it would be foolish to characterize any group this large as homogeneous. To successfully recruit and engage millennial employees, it’s important for employers to move past characterizations of the entire group and recognize them as individuals, embrace their tendency for social consciousness, be flexible as they establish their homes and families, foster a vibrant community, and consider their financial circumstances, especially with regard to student loan debt.
The only thing millennials are certain to share in common is their age; it would be silly to draw broad conclusions about their personalities, political sympathies, savviness with technology, or work ethic based on the most visible examples. While many groups of millennials, especially on college campuses, have expressed a heightened sensitivity to political correctness, this is certainly not representative of the entire generation. However, it is fair to say that millennials are probably more concerned with diversity, inclusiveness, and harassment than any generation in recent memory.
Effective Management Styles
While some millennials will seek workplaces closely aligned with their strong social values, most are simply interested in a friendly and inclusive work environment, just like older generations. As far as quotidien office management, one popular consultant suggests that most millennials tend to highly value direct and honest communication with superiors, and frequent feedback. Also important to millennials are hiring practices that promote genuine diversity, and firm policies to prevent and address harassment. Basic considerations like job stability, the opportunity to advance over time, and the need for a healthy work-life balance are perennial, and have changed little across generations. Many industries require few, in any, changes in their management practices to accommodate millennial employees, but those that have been traditionally dominated by men or other singular groups may need to examine their culture to ensure that it is welcoming to all.
A Socially Conscious Generation
Millennials are much more concerned than previous generations about their impact on their community and society. Volunteering in the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps programs has reached an all-time high, largely due to millennials’ participation, and a Harvard University poll suggests that perhaps six in ten millennials have at least briefly considered a career in some form of public service. Thus, organizations with virtuous missions and socially responsible practices are particularly well positioned to capture millennials’ attention.
Student Loan Debt
Millennials are the most highly educated generation in history; approximately one third now hold a bachelor’s degree. Unfortunately, as the cost of higher education continues to rise, many are mired in debt upon graduation. Even millennials who graduate with an in-demand skill and quickly begin earning a generous salary are often weighed down by years of significant debt. The causes and effects of this dilemma are far beyond the scope of this article, but it is critically important to be aware of when dealing with young graduates. Employers should be mindful of their young employees’ plight with debt, and should consider offering benefits to alleviate it in cases when the company can afford to. Many millennials faced with student loan debt would surely rather have an employer match their student loan payments than their retirement savings. Furthermore, many companies that offer even partial funding for their employees’ secondary education have been hugely successful in recruiting millennials.
Unsettled Living Situations
Many millennials have delayed marriage and homeownership for years, if not indefinitely, in part due to the student loan debt crisis discussed below and rising housing costs. Millennials tend to relocate more often than previous generations did during their twenties and thirties, and are generally not as settled either personally or professionally as their parents were by this age. More millennials live with their parents in their twenties than any other generation so far, and those who are able to move out must often live with several roommates to defray the increasingly high cost of rent.
To appeal to millennials, employers should be understanding of the group’s challenges with housing, transportation, and raising children, and offer as much flexibility as possible in times of transition, such as the option to work remotely or on an altered schedule. It’s increasingly common for both partners in a relationship to work, so generous maternity (and paternity) leave programs resonate very strongly with young millennial parents.
That millennials tend to avoid homeownership and move so often is a double edged sword; the frequent upheavals in their personal lives can potentially interfere with work, but it also means that many are comfortable moving great distances to begin a new job. One poll found that over 80 percent of millennials are willing to move for work, and in fact believe that it’s necessary to advance their careers. Companies able to offer relocation stipends or sponsor visa applicants have the potential to attract millennial employees from all around the world.
Companies interested in attracting talented young professionals to work in an office ought to pay close attention to where they’re located, and where their employees are likely to live. Many regions experience a “brain drain” – an exodus of young talent – because while there may be strong job opportunities, there’s a perception that the area is dull. Just as young people have always been, most millennials are eager to spend their young adulthood in an area with vibrant culture, exciting nightlife, and other people their age. While it’s difficult for a single business to control what goes on in its neighborhood, they can sponsor community events and partner with other nearby organizations to foster a sense of local identity.
While millennials’ tastes may be very different from those of their parents, for the most part, what they’re looking for from employers is not; millennials want stable jobs, friendly workplaces, and a comfortable work-life balance. Despite stereotypes of hypersensitivity and poor work ethic, millennials are as tough and eager to work as any other generation, and failing to embrace this generation’s talent could significantly hold businesses back. For businesses serious about recruiting the best millennial talent for the long term, it’s best to appreciate the generation’s very real concerns about diversity, to be mindful of their often chaotic living situations, and to offer benefits geared towards education funding if possible.
Author: Rob Jackson is the owner of Charity-Team-Building-Events.com, delivering team building solutions anywhere in the United States.