Embracing Millennials in the Workplace
According to a Pew Research Center analysis, one-in-three American labor force participants are Millennials, making them the most significant generation in the U.S work force.
Many hard-working young adults feel like they must continually prove themselves. Our Vice President, Marion Speaks Karr explains why leaders should embrace millennials in the workplace.
“Your generation has it so easy. You’ll never have to work as hard as we did coming up! These are only a few of the sayings millennials hear in the workplace or by their close ones. If you think about it, these quotes, you’ll notice that they can be applied to any generation. I heard all of them from my dad,” says Karr.
It is the first time multiple generations are at work together. Traditionalists (1900-1945), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation X(1965-1976), Millennial (1977-1997), Generation Z or 2020(1997-2013).
With so many different generations in the workplace, it’s crucial for employees and leaders not to get lost in communication.
“The biggest miscommunication different generations have is lack of understanding. It could be a baby boomer talking to a generation X. Or a person from the silent generation trying to interact with a millennial and because they don’t understand their values, some of their actions can seem odd,” says Karr.
For managers to understand a millennial, they must be aware of the valuable traits.
“Millennials are early adopters of technology, collaborative, and motivated by meaning,” says Karr.
“They are very tech savvy, grew up in a generation where technology was always evolving,” says Karr.
From 1977 to now millennials had easy access to computers, cell phones, mp3 players, blackberry cell phone, iPod, iPhones, iPad, Alexa and different devices that have changed lives.
“They can easily adapt to any system faster than any other generation. That is a great skill to have in any industry,” says Karr.
Millennials are collaborative. This trait comes from their interactions at a young age.
“Studies show that millennials have a different family structure from baby boomers and generation X. Their family tree has either two working parents, single parent, a working and a stay-at-home parent. Whichever structure they had, millennials are still the largest generation that enrolled in daycare, pre-k, and kindergarten at a young age, before older generations,” says Karr.
Young adults learn to communicate and collaborate faster than adults who were not exposed to this type of environment. In the workforce, this explains the effortless way millennials jump at the chance to work on new projects and work as a team for a common goal.
“Motivated by meaning is the most interesting trait of millennials,” says Karr.
Young adults wonder why their work matters. What does this mean in the workplace? Millennials want to share their gifts, make an impact in the lives of others and live their desired quality of life(Ganapathy,2016).
Motivated by meaning is difficult for traditionalist and baby boomers to understand because they share the following characteristics work-centric, loyal, respect authority and independent.
“If their boss asked them to do something, they would do it. No questions or explanations were needed,” says Karr.
Different values can create challenges in the workplace. For the work environment to remain positive and productive, it is essential to be aware of the generation differences.
How can leaders tackle the ‘challenges’ of working with millennials?
“The biggest one would be to understand their values, what drives them. We need to align their skills with the challenge. Coach to develop skills to help them succeed. Set up goals and measure them. Lastly, ask the right questions,” says Karr.
When it comes to the work environment, the “Why” questions are important.
- Why is the organization better because you are working there?
- Why are you better for working with that organization?
“We have to lead from an understanding of a social character and social environment the generations come from. The reason people do the things they do is very telling from this,” says Karr
Embracing millennials is a two-way street. While it is essential for older generations to understand them, for young adults to thrive in the work field they need to realize the value in other generations. Millennials can depend on older generation and learn from their process-driven principles.
In the end, it all comes down to accepting the generation differences and stepping away from stereotypes.