Ready or not, millennials arrive in force

Baby boomers step aside. Millennials are officially the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. With great size comes great responsibility … and great angst.

Time to learn how to navigate post-grad life, including the ins-and-outs of the workforce — professionally and financially.

As stated by G&A Partners, “With workforce demographics shifting toward millennials, businesses can no longer afford to resist changing their workforce management practices. They must target these young professionals if they want to attract top talent.”

G&A Partners is a human resources and administrative outsourcing firm. It provides HR expertise and insights on company culture, workplace dynamics and benefits.

Two of the company’s specialists — Audrey Johnson, an HR generalist, and Aly Griscom, an HR assistant — talked with Alissa Carpenter and Dr. Amy Cooper Hakim about what awaits newly minted workforce millennials.

Carpenter is a Gallup-certified strengths coach. Hakim is an industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and workplace expert.

“Millennials get a bad rap for being entitled, lazy and wanting more work-life balance, but many millennials are entrepreneurial, highly motivated, dedicated to making an impact and innovative,” Carpenter said.

“Ask questions about expectations, best practices and circle back to your boss when you’ve completed a project,” she said. “A lot of time millennials have completed the work, but their supervisor didn’t know and assumed they didn’t follow through.”

Bound loosely

Unlike generations past, lifelong attachments to one company are not the norm.

“Loyalty goes both ways between employee and employer,” Carpenter said. “A company can provide incentives for their millennial employees to stay — professional development, leadership.”

There are other adjustments employers could make.

“Millennials are confident and strive to forge their own paths,” Hakim said. “Sometimes, millennials may not openly listen to critique and may not always be willing to hear a perspective different from their own.

“Focus on work-life-balance is critical,” she said. “I especially appreciate the drive for openness and candor. What steps might we take to encourage netiquette and etiquette during difficult interactions?”

Griscom sees two views of millennial attributes.

Good habits: the willingness to collaborate and strive to create the best product and service possible. A bad habit is they’re easily distracted — social media, texting — and sometimes the distractions can get overwhelming and negatively affect their work.

Being new to the workforce, millennials also are less set in their ways.

“Millennials I work with are extremely flexible,” Johnson said. “They can carry the pressure of a full work week and adapt to almost any schedule. They work really hard and have the ability to learn new processes quickly.”

Stereotyping millennials is as unfair as it would be with any other group of people.

“There are lazy people in every generation,” Carpenter said. “It comes down to communication and perception. Some people show up late to work, leave early and don’t follow through on projects.

“To avoid this, millennials should be present and communicate with their supervisor,” she said.

Don’t take being pigeonholed lying down

“Millennials can prove stereotypes wrong by consistently demonstrating a strong work ethic,” Hakim said. “Under-promise and over-deliver. Further, when mistakes happen, own up to them.”

Flexible, not lazy

Appearances also are deceiving.

“I don’t agree with millennials being ‘lazy,’” Griscom said. “The desire for a more flexible and balanced life has created the perception that we don’t want to work. It’s more about working more efficiently to get the work done to have more free time.

“I don’t think it’s a lack of loyalty but more of a shift in loyalty from previous generations,” she said. “Just because millennials’ goals are centered around personal satisfaction doesn’t mean they’re not going to work hard for the company.”

Retaining millennial employees starts with communication.

Have open conversations with them about their professional development wants, their career aspirations and provide ongoing feedback. Get to know them as people and find a place for work-life balance.

“Be transparent and open about opportunities within the organization,” she said. “Provide a clear path for them to grow professionally. Give them a seat at the table and listen to their ideas. Provide an opportunity for them to learn, observe and be part of important conversations.”

Be clear about key roles millennials play.

“Outwardly show support and clearly demonstrate why the millennial is valued,” Hakim said. “Ask your employee: What can I do to help you to be most productive? What do you need from me for you to get your job done?

“Open and sincere conversations are critical,” she said. “Further, when a millennial makes a legitimate and reasonable request, it should be honored quickly or at least addressed. It is worse to ask and not do anything with the feedback than not to ask at all.”

Silence penalty

Consequences of failure to communicate will turn up quickly.

“It’s all about feeling valued and needed,” Hakim said. “If we don’t feel important to the organization, we are less likely to perform well and remain committed there.”

For Griscom, it comes down to transparency.

“Being honest about their performance as well as opportunities within the company will be a huge part in retaining millennials,” she said. “Also, maintain and promote an environment based around flexibility and opportunity. That can’t be said enough.”

Alienating workplace culture will turn away millennials and any other workers placed in boxes — such as disagreements attributed to just being a millennial along with disparaging skills, talent and opinions.

“Culture and managers are the №1 reason employees leave an organization,” Carpenter said. “People stay for good managers and with an organization where they support their mission and goals.

“Companies have a hard time seeing that they can create some of these opportunities even if they aren’t the Googles of the world,” she said. “Add mentorship programs, trainings, and ask employees what they want.”

Culture is a key factor for Hakim.

“Many millennials choose an organization based on the culture,” she said. “Flexible work schedules and work-life benefits are key for millennials. They want an environment that encourages open thought and is flexible and empowering.

“Trust is vital,” Hakim said. “It’s important for leaders to build this trust and take the necessary steps to maintain it.”

Atmospherics count

Griscom noted the importance of a pleasant atmosphere.

“Millennials want to be happy as much of their day as possible,” she said. “Creating an enjoyable culture — one where they wake up and are excited to get there and do their job with coworkers — is a huge determining factor on whether or not they will join and stay at a company.”

As with any worker, give a millennial room to work.

“A culture that is mutually respectful and trusts its employees will keep millennials,” Johnson said. “Trust them to perform at or above the expectation rather than trying to micromanage them.”

There are no deep dark secrets about working with younger workers.

“Millennials are people, too,” Carpenter said. “I think we label generations and ‘assume’ most people within a generation need or want the same thing, but individuals make up a generation. Get to know people individually. Find out what makes them tick.

“Ask employees how they want to be recognized,” she said. “Is it at a meeting in front of people? By email? During a one-on-one with management?”

Be aware of discrimination against youth.

“Don’t judge people just because of their age,” Hakim said. “Recognize that — while millennials might fit or embrace certain key characteristics and behaviors of that generation — they are still individuals and should be treated based on their own merits and needs.

“We also have to see what situation was created for them before even entering the workplace,” she said. “Organizations are not as committed to their employees as they were 50 years ago, and vice versa. The loyalty issue swings both ways.”

Take time and thrive

Progression does not have to be rushed.

“Although they have great ideas and want to move fast and be recognized, millennials also really appreciate time invested in developing them,” Johnson said.

The work ethic also transcends generations.

“Millennials can’t all fit into one category,” Griscom said. “While there are shared characteristics, they’re not all be out to become the CEO within three months of working — as they have been portrayed thousands of times.

“We’re driven, not greedy,” she said. “We’re ready to put in work.”

Eagerness and willingness to work are defining workplace characteristics — which cross generational lines. Millennials haven’t cornered the market, but they should have worldwide franchises.

“Comfort with technology is a huge asset for any organization,” Hakim said. “Assertiveness is also helpful when creating change within an organization.

“Millennials are extrinsically motivated,” she said. “Leaders should understand what it is that motivates each respective employee so as to best encourage the worker to meet goals and be successful.”

Seek and find

Restiveness has an advantage.

“Millennials are extremely innovative and resourceful,” Carpenter said. “If there isn’t an answer, they will find one. If a process is slow, they will try to make it faster. They are looking to give back and make a difference.

“We also are used to things being fast paced and are potentially more open to trying something new,” she said.

Manage millennials as people, not millennials. Differences in management in the workplace to accommodate one group will alienate the others. Go for common management rather than risk inducing toxicity.

“Provide ongoing and consistent feedback,” Carpenter said. “Set aside time for one-on-one meetings. Don’t wait until the annual review. Get to know what millennials are looking for professionally. Provide the resources to set them up for success.

“Be clear on your expectations and how you like to be communicated with,” she said. “Get on the same page. If you’re ever unsure, make it a point to immediately address the issue. Communicate how you like to be communicated with. Let millennials know you are there for them and support them.”

Do you question?

Be up front about questions.

“Ask millennials what they need to be successful at work,” Hakim said. “Show them they are truly valued. Give them independence. Empower them to make their own choices while supporting them when they need help.

“It’s also important to set the standards and expectations in the organization,” she said. “Even if a preferred method of social communication is texting, if in-person dialogue is needed in the company, the leader needs to state that and coach to it.”

Talking is not an occasional occurrence.

“Constant communication and the give and take of management is important to millennials,” Griscom said. “Being able to have a conversation is key versus just being given a ‘my way or the highway’ management style.”

Millennials need to feel a part of the organization just like everyone else.

“Keep a structured work environment when it comes to meetings, reports and expectations,” Johnson said. “Make teamwork and groups a regular thing.”

Willing and able

If given a task, do it to the best of your ability. Show you’re willing to work with the team.

“Work hard and consistently meet or exceed expectations and objectives,” Hakim said.

“Ask questions and listen to the answers given,” she said. “Take note of organizational culture. Even in a casual office environment, dress professionally — not like you would when going to a club or out with friends. Distinguish between professional and casual language.”

Above all, millennials should take the initiative.

“Push yourself outside of your comfort zone,” Carpenter said. “Be a leader before you’re given a title. Take advantage of opportunities your organization provides — professional development, mentorship, skill building.

“There’s always something new to learn and give back to your organization, your peers and to enhance your career,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions, be wrong sometimes or not have all the answers. There will be times where you fail, and that’s OK. Take responsibility for your actions. Ask for help. Address the issue.”

Millennials need to accept and work through their big career transition.

“Practice patience,” Griscom said. “It’s a huge change going from the classroom to the workplace.

“While we all have certain goals, it’s still important to take time to observe and learn from those who have been there before. Create your own path in the workforce,” she said.

Johnson said millennials’ success depends on two words.

“You can still get what you deserve by working hard,” she said. “Above all, show respect and have integrity.”

Want to read more about Millennials and Gen Z?

Check out The Secret to Managing Millennial and “Diversity in the Eyes of a Midwestern Gen Zer.”

Article originally published here.


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