The truth about millennials in the workplace

“Millennials” is a popular buzzword in the news, and it’s not a topic that should be ignored. It’s often said that “20-something” employees don’t stay put in one job for very long. If this is true, why? Instead of focusing on why millennials aren’t the same as previous generations, let’s shift the conversation to how they are positively transforming the workplace (all in the name of achieving the elusive work-life balance).

Defined as those ages 18-34, millennials are the largest generation in the workforce according to the Pew Research Center. More than one out of three members of the overall working population is a millennial, now outnumbering both gen-xers and baby boomers. Due to their volume alone, millennials certainly have the power to reshape the business world.

So, how can managers help to hire (and keep) the best and brightest of this generation?

The millennial way of life is often over generalized and sometimes under appreciated. This young, hungry generation is known to dislike traditional office hierarchy – they demand to sit at the table and have a voice. Millennials also actively seek professional growth, so mentorship-styled relationships are very valuable to these employees.

When asked what she looks for in a work environment, millennial Ashley Owens said, “When I interviewed for my job, I saw that I would be working with a team of individuals who I could really learn from. I am very driven by personal and professional development, so good mentors and teammates are one of my top priorities in a workplace, as is challenge in a new position and opportunities for advancement.” Owens is the Chair of the Professional Development Committee for Alachua County Emerging Leaders (ACEL), a millennial-driven organization.

Research also shows that millennials strive to work for companies with which they share similar values. This is where work-life balance often comes into play. Millennials will work hard for companies that have strong morals and value their overall happiness. This is why companies need to allow employees time for their extracurricular activities. It’s a common trend that millennials are no longer glued to their work emails at 8 PM when they’re off the clock at 5.

“Between work, my family, ACEL, and other activities that I am involved in, I want to make sure that I am producing quality work, taking care of myself and strengthening my relationships with my loved ones,” Owens said. “Practicing mindfulness is key for me. It can be difficult, but when I can reflect on recent weeks and say that I am happy with how I have prioritized things, I consider that a personal win.”

So when it comes down to it, are millennials really all that different from their predecessors? Not necessarily. They’re just equally as focused on their personal happiness as their professional goals – and they’re transparent about it.

In recent years, more millennials have transitioned into management positions, which may further change the game. Andrew Romero is President of ACEL and the Health Policy Program Manager at the Department of Health. As a millennial who manages millennials, he doesn’t think the generation is as difficult as the media sometimes implies.

“I tend to think good management doesn’t change that much across different generations. Like baby boomers and gen-xers, one of the biggest things millennials want is to be engaged at work,” Romero said.

Millennials care about their careers just as much as previous generations. (They might just tweet about it more.)

“They want to be a part of a team they are proud of. They want their talents to be used well, and they want opportunities to grow and develop. Both in my health policy team at the Department of Health in Alachua County and as President of ACEL, that’s the boring secret of managing millennials and everyone else,” said Romero. “Although, it probably helps I can meme with the best of them.”

While the millennial group sometimes gets a bad rap, they seem to be making waves in the right direction. Yes, they may be shaking up the employment landscape, but they are a smart, talented, hard-working generation (just like previous generations). Millennials are simply more vocal about their professional desires, which if anything should help employers. But if businesses don’t adapt to the current environment, it will be hard to advance and surpass the competition – especially if that competition offers flex-time and profit-sharing.


by Koertni Adams

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