Never have companies’ fears been so focused on one generation. Millennials play on the minds of company bosses like scientific committees. All-pervading, they defy traditional models and are redefining the roles people play in companies. According to the Pew Research Center, 35% of the American labor force are Millennials, making them the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. Admittedly, we talk about them a lot, but that’s because we know that for them joining the workforce is anything but easy.
Evolving Millennial behavior
In marketing and sociology, we talk about people in groups with common denominators, because members of these groups seemingly share interests. But for Millennials, their behavior at work interests us more than their age. So it seems better to talk about the behavior of Millennials, rather than the Millennials themselves. And even though one generation may have more impact than any other, it’s still incredibly hard to set objective cut-off points.
New behaviors are cropping up in company offices. It’s critical to identify and recognize them so we can understand what these behaviors mean and make them work to a company’s advantage. This is where HR can play a decisive role, supporting middle management (so often on the front line) and helping them to navigate the codes of conduct, attitudes, and values of their colleagues. For example, managers can’t simply go on leading their teams as they’ve always done. They have to adapt to new Millennials behaviors that don’t conform to top-down hierarchies. Targeted training could help managers develop sound methods and adopt positive approaches. This is where soft skills become critical. What do companies stand to gain from tuning into these new behaviors? They want motivated and engaged staff members who are invested in improving corporate environments and who are more likely to stay the course.
But there is work to do on both sides of the fence. If we notice that “typical” Millennial behaviors mainly come from younger members of staff, we should help them adapt to working life and develop specific onboarding programs. Among their many attributes, younger employees tend to be:
- highly adaptable
- fast learners
- unfazed by mistakes
- keen on agile working methods
- skilled technophiles
They are perfectly suited to learning via an experiential platform.
Typical Millennial behavior
Surprising and unexpected behaviors can leave us feeling unsettled or fearing the worst. This attitude begs the question of whether the career-focused, nose-to-the-grindstone behaviors that we were so desperate to show off really brings feelings of happiness and security.
Outside the office, you’re bound to hear and read about “Generation Snowflake”. They seem to be naive slackers and submissive wimps who lack ambition, can’t concentrate, are unreliable, have short memories, aren’t fit for corporate life, and so on.
The craving for meaningful work
Millennials value meaning, the meaning of things and jobs. This generation isn’t afraid to ask questions to delve below superficiality.
- What is the point of the process and why should I be part of it?
- What does my role mean?
- What values does the company I work for hold?
If Millennials don’t understand something, if they have doubts, or if they’re unsure, then it’s probably not the right path for them. Never has a generation in such a precarious financial situation quit their secure, fix-term jobs so often. Some might interpret this as a fear of hard work, while others could think it shows strength and conviction.
Millennials are essential to a company’s performance
They are naturally drawn to agile work and networking rather than hierarchies. For them, fulfillment is more important than outward success, and participating in a project is more important than managing it. Of course, Millennials aren’t any better at spelling “disruption” than their elders, but their ability to take new concepts onboard, their ease in handling information, and their assertive communication skills will blow your mind. This generation is a key asset to 21st-century companies.
Why do we talk about Millennials behavior so much? Simple: There have never so many young people on the planet. They are part of a global network. They are smart and tech-savvy, with the ability to access any information they want in the blink of an eye.
The unique attitude of the Millennial generation is symptomatic of our changing world. But other generations should not pass judgement on this indispensable bunch. Instead, companies should adapt their approach to leadership, management, hierarchical structure, employee input and decision-making strategies, in order to better harmonize their workforce.
Young people are the future. It’s important to showcase their talents and develop their skills so that both companies and employees can reap the rewards. Discover tips to champion the potential of these new employees with our e-Book: Top 20 Soft Skills for Enhanced Performance.