TO KNOW MILLENNIALS IS TO KNOW WHAT THEY WANT.
TO KNOW WHAT THEY WANT IS TO KNOW HOW TO DEVELOP AND KEEP THEM.
By Logan Monaco, MS
How time flies! The older you get, the faster it flies. Here’s a milestone that whizzed by virtually unnoticed – especially by some more senior leaders. In 2015, a year ago, Millennials, people born between about 1980 and 1996, outnumbered Baby Boomers, who were born from roughly 1945 to 1960. According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials are 75.4 million, while the number of Boomers rings in at 74.9 million.
The last of the Boomers, those who are 55 and older, are taking what are probably their final roles in the workforce, if they haven’t already left (or been forced out). Generation X (1965 – 1980) has only 66 million, and they are already nearing 50! They are, the ones being groomed for executive suites. We know, we are the ones coaching them.
So, why do we care?
We specialize in leader development, talent strategy and succession. And when working with new organizations, we are often asked the question, “How can I get my organization ready for Millennials?”
Well, guess what. Millennials have already been working for you for the past ten years! They’re already in their 30’s! Millennials are taking their place at the table as we speak. They are the leaders of tomorrow and in many cases, today! They are going to be, and some may already be stepping into these roles, your replacements. Do they know how to lead effectively? Do you know how to reach them or what they want?
According to a Gallup poll released in May, 2016, they prioritize good (steady, full time) jobs that are engaging – meaning that they care about and have a sense of connection to their jobs – that allow them to balance their work and life, provide them with a sense of well-being (emotionally, socially, and physically) and afford them with the all-important, expendable income. They want to live the ‘dream.’ They are idealistic. But do they feel entitled or less willing to work hard? The answer is no.
Ernst and Young’s Global Generation Research found that around half of Millennials in management have begun to work increased hours, almost 25% more than Gen X and nearly 50% more than Boomers. Millennials expect more, in terms of time spent working, from themselves than do previous generations, according to a Wharton Business School study of its students. But, the way in which they work may look different from what previous generations might be used to.
Rather than put in hours at the office, Millennials tend to blend work and life more much easily. If an email comes in at 9 pm, a Millennial worker may pause Netflix, respond to the email and resume his leisure. This may be an implication or result of global work, where business operating hours are 24/7. They work from home, from the gym, from Starbucks or from a campsite, with a laptop and a wireless hotspot. And they get the job done – usually more quickly and easily (with the help of technology) than their older counterparts.
Millennials want to feel like they are contributing and that their work and they themselves matter. But also that the company is contributing to them – 87% of Millennials say development is important in a job, according to Gallup. But, according to a 2013 Deloitte study, only 36% felt ready to enter their current leadership role. Higher-ups often report that Millennials lack maturity and self-awareness. But, how are they helping? 30% of Millennials positioned to move up do not feel ready. We are not doing them justice. They need their bosses to be advocates for their career goals and help them to grow.
In fact, they demand career growth. They do not, however, place as much emphasis on defined succession plans. Rather than follow a stepwise plan for several years, they want to be able to move around inside of and out of the organization and develop in ways interesting to their own unique interests.
They want to work on new projects, or new jobs, every 12-24 months. The days of ‘putting in your time’ before the big promotion are ending. Bosses have to create opportunities, mobility and use them as avenues for development. Be open and transparent, tell them why things happen or why they ought to do an assignment. They will be much more likely to buy in.
As leaders, the jury on Millennials is still out. After all, as a group they haven’t been time tested. We do know, though, their intentions and aspirations. Millennials want to be approachable, open, trustworthy and analytical. They want to develop, inspire, foster inclusion and treat others with respect. They want to be articulate communicators who rely on feedback from others (part of the inclusive, respectful ethos). Today’s leaders who exhibit these qualities are very popular with Millennials – just look at how Bernie Sanders captivated a generation.
One of our clients recently told us, “Millennials want all of the things that I want! The difference is they aren’t afraid to ask for it.”
As a leader, practicing any of the above will get you far. But for a new generation, a whole new paradigm must be adopted. That means a culture shift – towards a constructive, self-actualizing culture; one of growth. We see it. Companies who build great cultures attract top talent. The above will help you begin the transition. But these are just short term solutions and on an individual leader scale. All organizations must ready themselves for Millennials, if you don’t you’ll be a dinosaur. Extinct.
But, the reality is this: If you are preparing your organization for Millennials, you’re already a generation behind.
At Conbrio we live with one foot in the future. Strategy and developing the future leaders of organizations keeps us thinking ever forward. Therefore, we have to ask, “If the Millennials’ time is now, who’s next?”
The answer is: Generation Z.
They are beginning to trickle into the workforce. Gen Z, people born after 1995, are in high school and college now.
What are they like?
What do they want?
How do you reach them?
Gen Z: Savvy. Entrepreneurial. Social. Open-minded. Creative. Collaborative. Global.
They are generally seen as feeling less entitled than Millennials, perhaps because they observed the effect that the recession had on the workforce. Career minded, realistic and practical, ready to work.
They are less likely to want a traditional office space and work well remotely. They see less need to work standard hours, opting to work around their lives, rather than live around their work. They will use technology tools like Skype or Slack to assist them in their work, but they value face to face interaction more, an interesting dichotomy.
They would rather create their own opportunities, ones that align to their own values, than to work for a company that doesn’t match or allow them to “be themselves” or express their personalities.
They value integrity, honesty and authenticity. Brand mission and values matter; not necessarily what a brand does, but how they do it, is important. Brands that give back to the community have a high reputation. As do leaders who are seen as being honest. Again, look at the overwhelming response that Bernie Sanders received from young voters.
Fit is crucial. They want to grow. Their top concerns are that they will not find a job that matches their personality (made less likely as more of our clients are using assessments for selection) and that there will be a lack of development opportunities.
Tech natives, they are almost always connected, linked, networked, interacting with others via cell phones or other devices. Social media plays a large role in their lives. Recruiting efforts should be made via these channels. Attraction, rather than promotion, is the way to win their consideration. But, attraction to organizations will be based on how well what the company does and how it does it aligns with their values and mission, more than the paycheck. Being a tech native means that they do not remember a time without cell phones and tablets. That changes everything. The way they learn, interact with peers, has given them a well-rounded, global mindset.
It is a brave new world. Are you ready?
We have found that most aren’t. They haven’t even wrapped their minds around Millennials yet. The change from working with Gen X to accommodating Millennials has been a difficult one for most companies. And what’s coming with the next class will be a Renaissance-level change, evolutionary. If you’re expecting the slow conversion like the one from Boomers to Gen X’ers, get ready for a shock.
Those who can’t keep pace will fall behind. Many, like Microsoft and Yahoo already have. Apple may even soon follow. In this VUCA world – VUCA stands for volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous – nothing is certain. But those who anticipate and are agile enough to react will win by continuing to play the game.
At 29 years old, born in 1987, Logan Monaco is a certified Millennial. He holds an MS in Organizational Psychology and works on a range of organizational development issues. His specialty is assessments.