(Originally published on LinkedIn)
They work differently, think differently, and have different expectations than the employees we have managed for years. (Or, so people say…)
Considering that millennials are the largest generation in our workforce, it doesn't surprise me that they are the most talked about. But what does surprise me, time and time again, is how negatively these 20- or early 30-somethings are perceived.
I have never been a fan of 'millennial bashing'. I just don't support it. Maybe it's because I'm the mother of one….
A few weeks ago, I was at a conference and my colleagues and I were discussing this highly talked-about but little-understood generation. We started chatting about the typical stereotypes; millennials being entitled, lacking loyalty – and the list goes on and on. And all of a sudden, we started thinking about the proof points to validate these claims.
It was in this moment – there was nothing but silence. We all stopped, stared and looked at each other…
So, then it made me think: what's the real story here? In my opinion, it's just a matter of seeing things a little bit differently. Here's what I mean by that…
Having a best friend named Google.
I heard a statistic the other day that 66% of millennials check their phone as soon as they wake up in the morning (before they even get out of bed). Well, my thought is: most of us do!
We see these statistics and we think we know what millennials are doing with technology, but do we really?
A couple years ago, my son and I were in church for a Christmas service, and as we were listening to the pastor deliver his sermon, my son all of a sudden pulls out his cell phone.
As you guessed it: I shot him a look of utter disbelief and disapproval, and I nudged his elbow…. With that, he flips his phone around so I could see it, and shows me that he is browsing Bible.com; he was highlighting the passage that the pastor just read! I felt horrible and it instantly made me realize that more often than not, we tend to make up stories about what people are really doing on their devices – especially millennials.
I hear all the time that when we bring students into TD, they can perform a task in six hours, compared to what used to take someone else six weeks. Millennials are so smooth and skilled in technology that their efficiency levels are off the charts.
All of this just means that from an HR perspective, millennials are changing the way we work – for the better. They are bringing a sense of efficiency into the workplace that previous generations have never experienced before – and technology is a big advantage in this regard!
They're also helping us evolve in the right direction (being highly tech-savvy, they expect their employers to be so, as well).
The age-old search for recognition.
We've heard it time and time again: millennials are the 'me-me-me' generation. They want to work for a company with a purpose, but they need constant performance-based feedback. They thrive on it.
Here's my opinion on this….
Does anyone not like to be recognized? Of course, some don't like to be recognized publicly, but the reality is: recognition is key to improving your performance at work and feeling motivated to succeed. Recognition programs (done right) can also have a powerful impact on a business's performance.
What millennials want out of work is actually not so different than previous generations, and in my opinion, they are no hungrier for 'pats on the back' than their Gen X colleagues.
A never-ending ride on the career carousel.
Millennials are depicted as job-hoppers who lack loyalty. Instead of focusing on this popular stereotype, here's what I believe should be the conversation instead: Seeing the positives and strengths in bettering ourselves and gaining a fresh perspective.
Operating in the extremes is not a best practice. (Leaving too soon or staying too long).
Staying at a company for an extensive period of time makes recruiters wonder if you have a fresh perspective and can operate in a variety of cultures, and anything less than a few years can make recruiters question if you've truly mastered the role and made a significant contribution.
Honestly, when it comes to this stereotype, I will say that the size of the organization matters and if there's not a lot of mobility, then of course, go and find what you're looking for. At some point, you want to navigate your ability to see different cultures, develop your skills and create richness in your career.
So, here's to putting this endless rant to rest. Perhaps it's not that millennials are inherently different from earlier generations – but it's just a matter of seeing the other side of the coin and giving this generation the benefit of the doubt. If we simply listen and respond to them, we may just be better for it!
Over the holidays, here's your challenge:
When your millennials are on their phones, engage them in what they are doing. Ask a question that requires us to collectively leverage technology to answer and don't judge. Millennials, recognize that it appears you are disengaged and disinterested when you are on your phones. Allow your exploration and learning to create conversations.
We can be better together!