Workforce Millennials Confident, forward-thinking, and 80 million strong, Generation Y will reshape the workplace. Here’s how to get the best out of your youngest workers. http://www.bnet.com/feature/managing-millennials/202082
The next generation of workers need not be a frightening species.
Yes, they’re different from boomers and Xers, but like most employees, they respond well to high expectations and accountability, consistent feedback, and a little understanding.
This presentation maps out five common millennial types you may encounter in the wilds of the workplace, along with care and feeding instructions to keep them happy (and productive) employees.
What Is a Millennial? Also known as: Gen Y, Generation Why, Adultolescents, Echo Boomers, Generation Next, Gen I (Generation Internet), Generation Tech Population stats (based on figures from the U.S. Census Bureau): Baby boomers: 73 million, Generation X: 49 million, Millennials: 80 million
Born roughly between 1977 and 1995
Represents the biggest shift in the U.S. workforce since the baby boomers came of age.
Eighty-million strong, they will soon account for the majority of American workers, especially as boomers start to retire.
Unlike previous generations Millenials are forcing a cultural shift on companies and managers.
Millennials are team-oriented, eager to tackle huge challenges, and quite particular about their leaders. “They won’t do something just because you say, ‘I’m the manager.’”
They’ll work hard for someone who truly mentors them.
Why Millennials Matter Now?
There are more millennials than baby boomers , and there are more than 50 percent more millennials than Generation Xers.
Wonder where all these kids are going to find jobs?
We’re on the brink of a pronounced talent shortage as the baby boom generation nears retirement. (According to the Conference Board, 64 million skilled workers will be eligible to hang up their gloves by the end of this decade .)
In the coming years, both Gen Xers and millennials will be called upon to help fill the big shoes left by exiting boomers.
The effects of this imminent brain drain already are apparent across the labor spectrum.
California police departments now host boot camps for 12-year-olds in the hopes of grooming future officers.
Deloitte is publishing books and launching interactive websites in attempts to woo high-school-age millennials .
Despite the current recession, college recruiters and HR staffs talk about the “seller’s market” that companies face.
Until recently, many millennials collected multiple job offer s before making decisions, and experts see the trend returning when the economy perks up.
Why Millennials Matter To You?
These workers are change agents who may force you to rethink and improve your methods of recruiting, training, and management — the lifeblood elements of your company.
They’re accustomed to working away from their desks , using everything from library computers to smartphones and laptops.
They got intense and individualized mentoring from teachers and coaches, and they were never told that their elders should intimidate them. “ The world is a flat hierarchy to these kids ,” says Peter Johnson, director of admissions at the University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. “Whether you think it’s a good or bad thing doesn’t really matter. It’s a market condition.”
Many companies have realized they need to change with the times: UPS has begun to abandon its training manuals for hands-on learning in staged neighborhoods; Deloitte empowers its middle managers to offer flexible scheduling to their team members, and Google bypasses corporate hierarchy by making its brightest new millennials managers and granting them direct access to the company’s co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Millennials’ Strong Points
Millennials were the first generation to grow up with soccer moms, doting dads, and trophies for participation.
Adult attention gave them confidence and a knack for following directions.
Many millennials’ lives have been heavily scheduled since childhood, so they understand achievement and heavy workloads .
Growing up with PCs has contributed to their comfort with technology and social networking.
They’re quick learners and quick to put together information . In that way, they’re an incredible asset to any team.
Nicknamed Generation Why for a reason. Experts say they're like living, breathing search engines, asking question after question. This gives company mentors a huge opportunity to shape millennials’ workplace beliefs and attitudes.
Millennials also are motivated by work they find meaningful . For some, that means the chance to give back through a company-sponsored charity. For others, it’s finding value in the daily work you give them. “ Philanthropy doesn’t resonate with me ,” says 24-year-old Dan Siroker, an associate product manager at Google. “What motivates me is working on products that I think help people’s lives .”
Millennials’ Weak Points
“ I’m not working overtime!” “Can I have a word with the CEO?”
Perhaps you’ve heard tales of such unreasonable demands.
As children who grew up hearing about the entrepreneurial heroics of Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, millennials may be quick to leave your company for what they think is a better opportunity — it doesn’t even matter that these are belt-tightening times.
In the last few years there has been a surge of young entrepreneurs .
Retaining people has become harder .”
Here’s another surprise: While millennials are talented text messagers — they tap out up to eight times more monthly mobile-phone messages than baby boomers — they’re not all technology wizards.
Companies must perform technological assessments as part of their new-employee orientation, as young new hires might be phenomenal on a cell phone but not necessarily as great on a computer.
How to Talk About Millennials Helicopter Parent: Parents who hover over their millennial offspring. Acting on the notion that they know best and can help their children make decisions, Helicopter Parents hope to prevent their kids from making missteps. Black Hawk: A Helicopter Parent who goes to unethical lengths to help his/her child. A dad who helps write his kid’s college application essay is a Black Hawk. Trophy Children: Children driven to succeed in part to please their parents’ need for elevated status and bragging rights. Boomeranging: The act of children moving back into their parents’ homes after graduating from college. Parents often welcome their millennial children back into the house. The children are sorely missed and get the opportunity to squirrel away money for a down payment on a house or to start a business.
Recruiting Gen Y: Four Killer Tactics
A recent survey by Robert Half International says that nearly one out of every two business executives is concerned about the upcoming exodus of baby boomers from the workforce.
Want to lose a little less sleep? Here’s something you can do now: start recruiting the next big wave of workers, the millennial generation. They're hardworking and enthusiastic, but they won’t settle for just any job .
Here’s how McDonald’s, Google, Harvard, and others hook today’s best young talent.
Pitch-Perfect Campus Visits Tactic: Get your millennial employees out in front of their peers
Recruiting on college campuses traditionally has meant presentations given by influential senior executives. Today’s recruits are less impressed by suits and gray beards.
Millennials in particular are peer influenced. They don’t automatically relate to some older person that might have different values, unless that person is a mentor.
Point people for a company’s college tour should be recent alumni fresh into their careers who can describe what life will be like in the trenches.
Representatives must discuss some unorthodox topics along with the traditional metrics of company success.
Tell the job-seekers about your business’s positions on philanthropy and corporate responsibility (experts testify that millennials have a soft spot for social justice and conservation issues).
Offer flextime policies and workplace lifestyle — right down to what employees are expected to wear (millennials are notoriously casual dressers).
Send a company exec along in a supporting role to answer questions after the audience has been won over. “The high-level VP should close the sale,” she says.
Flashier Presentations Tactic: Ditch PowerPoint for Flash
College recruiting experts say they still see a majority of companies attempting to woo job applicants with PowerPoint presentations.
For the YouTube crowd PowerPoint is prehistoric.
Use Flash-based presentations, which look a lot more like a dynamic website than a boring slideshow.
One big crowd pleaser: the two-minute videos a recruiter rolls of her company’s employees describing their best and worst days on the job are those kinds of stories that the candidates care about.
Easy Online Job Applications Tactic: Get rid of paper-based apps
Millennials like applying via an anonymous, digital interface.
Harvard’s undergraduate online applications were recently up nearly 20 percent over a year ago, and experts attribute some of that soaring growth to online accessibility.
Business also senses a trend: In a 2007 study, the number of major retailers accepting online applications for hourly work rose 29 percent in just three years.
McDonald’s makes a compelling argument for the move to electronic job applications. In a 2007 pilot program, the fast-food empire installed computer kiosks designed to accept employee applications in 40 of its restaurants. The number of applicants at those restaurants jumped by as much as 100 percent. At one McDonald’s in College Station, Texas, the employee turnover rate also was reduced by more than 20 percent.
Millennials liked that they could apply on their own time, in their everyday clothes.
The kiosks captured the attention of customers, whom McDonald’s believes make the best employees.
Finally, millennials feel more secure applying via computer. Whereas older generations worry about hackers and online identity thieves, millennials feel it’s riskier to write a Social Security number on a paper application and that could end up in the wrong hands.
Meanwhile the kiosks eliminate a lot of paperwork and filing for company management.
Work That Matters Tactic: Connect employees to issues they care about
There’s little consensus regarding what millennials’ attitudes are about their 401(k) plans, but they definitely want something in addition to their salaries: that rather intangible benefit, meaningfulness.
Many experts believe that the millennials’ exposure to the 9/11 terrorist attacks has left them with an unyielding desire to find substance in their lives, whether on the job or elsewhere.
Meaningfulness, of course, has many interpretations, which means your company could adopt a local charity and still not attract a crowd of young workers.
Woo them with what your company can most naturally offer. Deloitte, for instance, has had on-staff career coaches to help its employees transfer within the company since 2002. Nowadays those coaches come in handy, assuring fidgety youngsters that they can work at the same company for 30 years while having myriad jobs, experiences, and opportunities.
For the kind of employees Google attracts, making a difference means inventing a hot new application. “The goal for me at Google?” confesses Dan Siroker, a 24-year-old associate product manager. “I want the skills that’ll make me successful as an entrepreneur out on my own.” While traditional companies shy away from training employees who might fly the coop, Google puts its strongest young recruits into management positions and gives them two years of hands-on training as a way to attract the best and brightest.
Three Strategies for Managing Generation Y
If Millennials really need mentors, flextime, and the reassurances of Mom and Dad; why not dissipate their demands with the swift crack of a whip?
Veteran leaders, however, would say that old-school management techniques only serve to drive young recruits elsewhere.
Getting the most from millennial employees requires a new approach, and that means managers may be the ones who need to change.
Here’s how three high-profile employers — Deloitte, Merrill Lynch, and the U.S. Army — have learned to handle the needs of a new generation.
U.S. Army The Challenge: Command-and-control management is a non-starter with Gen Y The Solution: Lead by example Five years ago, U.S. Army drill sergeants won respect the old-fashioned way: through fear and intimidation. When a bus of newbie “future soldiers” pulled up, the waiting drill sergeant immediately screamed orders, created chaos, and instilled fear. Problem was, the rate of recruits leaving during basic training had ballooned to 10 percent. “We might have gotten away with more of that negative atmosphere with previous generations,” says Jim Schwitters, the commanding general at the U.S. Army Training Center in Fort Jackson, S.C. “Now we know that’s generally not the best starting point.” Schwitters slowed the hemorrhaging of new recruits by instilling a management method that millennials understand: lead by example. Helping to rewrite Army training regulation 350-6, which embodies the military division’s training doctrine, Schwitters wanted drill sergeants behaving more like mentors and less like, well, drill sergeants. He says the time was ripe to make some of the military’s newest soldiers, whom nowadays can see action in Iraq just six months after enlisting, feel empowered from the get-go. Today the first challenge that new recruits face is a “confidence obstacle course” that’s tough but empowering because it’s not overwhelming in its difficulty. The drill sergeants then do virtually everything they ask their soldiers to do — from navigating obstacle courses to marching with heavy backpacks to properly handling a rifle. The mentoring has worked, and attrition among new recruits has dropped nearly 50 percent. “When I ask a new soldier what has motivated his accomplishments, he’ll frequently say, ‘I’ve been inspired by the drill sergeants that lead me,’” Schwitters says. “He’ll say, ‘The drill sergeant cared about me and did everything that I was asked to do.’”
Deloitte The Challenge: Hiring managers can be clueless about what makes millennials tick The Solution: Invest in a management-training regimen In 2004, Deloitte’s Stan Smith, a national director specializing in human resources issues, got a call from a partner who was furious at some of his young associates. He’d assigned them some work over the weekend, and they’d asked him to reschedule it because they already had other plans. Smith ultimately heard more such complaints, and the friction helped push Deloitte off Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list in both 2004 and 2006 — tough setbacks for a top company’s HR director. Smith fought back by educating the managers instead of trying to change the young staff. “I wanted to help our leaders understand that the world they grew up in doesn’t exist anymore,” he says. “They were going to have to deal with these young people’s needs.” In early 2006, Smith produced and printed the first in a series of in-house educational brochures about generational changes in the workplace, filling it with think-tank research. (Example: both Gen X and Gen Y employees grew up in a consumer economy and see themselves as customers, which means they expect to inﬂuence the terms and conditions of their jobs.) Deloitte’s brass not only read the brochure, some took it home to their kids, who said the information was spot-on. Now, change is in the air. Deloitte has begun overhauling its orientation process to make it millennial-friendly, and the company has retrained its management to adjust to millennials’ desire for flextime. As for Smith’s latest projects, he’s produced three additional brochures on the subject. His new book, Decoding Generational Differences, was distributed in-house earlier this year, and it obviously reads like a success story. Deloitte now is enjoying its second consecutive appearance on the “100 Best Companies to Work For” list.
Merrill Lynch The Challenge: Mom and Dad often come with the package The Solution: Market your company to parents, too Many millennials were raised by hyper-involved soccer moms and dads. Now, in a number of industries, HR managers report that these hovering “helicopter parents” are helping their adult children negotiate pay and benefits, angle for promotions, and decide which job offers to accept. Though many HR reps initially were shocked by it, the phenomenon is now so widespread that companies are shifting gears and marketing themselves to parents as well as potential recruits. For example, when Office Depot launches its new website this summer, it will include a reassuring message to parents, an attempt to convince Mom and Dad that the company is an opportunity worthy of their progeny. The phenomenon caught the attention of Merrill Lynch’s Elton Ndoma-Ogar in 2006. A diversity recruiter for the company’s global markets and investment banking division, Ndoma-Ogar realized that the applicants and their parents were reviewing Merrill’s job offers. For those parents who haven’t worked in the industry, he says, “They only see and hear all these horror stories” about long hours and tough demands. His efforts at recruiting diversity candidates were hurt, he says, because he wasn’t sufficiently reducing parents’ fears and concerns. Ndoma-Ogar responded by launching Parents’ Day in 2006 for a select group of summer analysts working in his division. The company flies caretakers to Manhattan (parents have come from as far as Nigeria), teaches them about the business, provides a tour of the Big Apple, and emphasizes company support and benefits, such as free meals and transportation for employees working overtime. “ The day provides a sense of comfort that sons and daughters are being taken care of,” he says. Still in its nascent stages (Merrill has limited the program to a small number of diversity candidates), the company is considering expanding Parents’ Day. Last year, only one student whose parents attended the event didn’t accept the firm’s subsequent job offer.
Additional Resources Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation by Bill Strauss and Neil Howe. Published in 2000, this was the first broad profile of the generation. When Generations Collide by Lynne Lancaster and David Stillman. Solutions to workplace clashes based on generational differences. Managing the Generation Mix by Bruce Tulgan. A step-by-step guide to adjusting your communication and management styles for a wide span of generations. PBS’s “ Generation Next ” webpage. Informed by the network’s documentaries on Millennials, the site offers a compilation of audio and video clips, as well as profiles and news stories.