Millennials1According to Jeanne Meister, the “Millennial Generation” is the future generation that we might look at as the next stage of adaptation to the world of the work. These future workers were born between the 80s up to 2000 and will represent, by 2030, 75% of the global working force Jeanne Meister, Forbes.com. (photos compliments of HubSpot, my web host).Ready or not, here they are. What would it take to provide proactive leadership to get results through these people?

According to the research, “In 2014, Millennials will be 36 percent and 46 percent of the workforce by 2020. This is excellent news for employers that are already shifting to an entrepreneurial culture. And it is scary because how to relate? How to optimize performance??Millennials

“What does this generation value? Compared to past generations, Millennials place a much higher value on a position that allows them to make new friends. They see the company as a conduit for their own personal growth, in comparison with past generations that placed more value on professional growth. With a third of Millennials starting businesses before they graduate, this generation doesn’t value salaries as much as previous generations. In fact, one in three Millennials would take a job with less pay that offers more social media freedom, BYOD, and flex work schedules.

“Generation Y,” the other name for ‘Millennials’ force us by their sheer growing presence to rethink our management techniques. They do not follow the example of their predecessors who got educated then started a job and a family. This new generation has other aspirations.

For example, they stay home with their parents into their 20’s and even later. They care more about ethical issues, which mean more to them than the present moment. They are much more sensitive to environmental problems. They are more likely to share the world than fight for it.

Their social life is integrated with online networking and informatics. They use all kinds of software for entertainment, research, and get involved in charity issues across the world in recognition of their connection to the whole world, not just their immediate community. Their lives fit a more computerized world, the social media and global informatics of today.

That does not mean that they are not concerned about finding a job. On the contrary, they often need to reimburse a huge school debt. At the same time they know they won’t earn enough money to be free from their parents for a long time after they have started to work.

Even at work, environment is important, so much so that they would bypass more money to have a working environment that is pleasing to them. They want autonomy and authority, whether it has been earned or not. The way to engage them is to give them what they want because they are used to it. There is a rub — as evidenced in this comedy depiction of managing Millennials. As in any humor, there is some truth here….

This generation saw, in their youth, several financial, ecological and cultural crises come to a head. They are much more worried about the future and how we are leaving the world they have inherited.  To them, working signifies improving the experience of life and making life better rather than worse, contributing rather than taking away from the world’s resources.   (Maura Pennington, Forbes.comThey are attentive and aware that their future is less bright because of the state of the world today.

A common perspective is that this group of young people wants to improve themselves; they are very optimistic about achieving their goals as quickly as possible, and they are impatient to grow up and find a place in the world where they can make a difference.

As a result, they expect to be given responsibilities and trust NOW, even if “91% of Millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years” (Future Workplace Multi-Generation Survey of 1189 knowledge workers, Millennials).  Bottom line, the best way to keep them in your company is to allow them more freedom and to trust them.

This generation also has been encouraged by their parents to succeed, and they respond much more quickly to praise than criticism. That said, they are also very open-minded and will CONSIDER your advice and comments.

The research suggests that they prefer (need?) flexible working hours, and that they know how to balance life, studies and work.

So far, what we think we know is that Millennials:

  • Need to be involved in interesting tasks in which they feel confident and also useful.
  • Need flexibility in their work schedule.
  • Want to be allowed to work the way they want, where they want because this generation really improved teleworking to the point where an office seems irrelevant to them.
  • Want to be given a chance to improve themselves and
  • Want you, their manager, to also learn from them, because they are aware of everything happening in the world, from innovation to world conflicts and politics.
  • Place a higher value on their career progression than the salary we can offer them now.

The Millennial Impact on Optimal Performance

Need I point out that traditional techniques do not work with this new generation?  So how do you motivate them, urge them to go farther and to apply their skills to your company? How will the arrival of Millennials transform current management behavior?

Unilateral Acceptance of the Story on Millennials at Work?

Not everyone agrees about what Millennials value at work.  According to author Adam M. Grant, a deeper dive is required before conclusions are drawn about Millennials.

“The new generation has joined the workforce, and we can’t seem to figure out what they want. Some observers believe that Millennials display ‘a notable urgency to make social change’ (Washington Post), and their ‘commitment to altruism signifies a fundamental change’” (Forbes). Others call Millennials ‘narcissistic praise hounds’ (CBS News), ‘cocky about their place in the world’ (Time), whose goal is ‘wealth and fame’ (USA Today).”

Who’s right?   Neither—or both.

Psychologist Jean Twenge believes the approaches to study Millennials is flawed.  In one study Twenge and her colleagues accessed a survey of work values done with 16,500 Boomers in 1976, Gen Xers in 1991 and Millennials in 2005 and it seems fair to question the above conclusions.

The high schoolers rated the importance of various job attributes on a 1-5 scale, where 1 = not at all important and 5 = very important. Twenge and her colleagues grouped the questions into five categories of work values:

  • Intrinsic: interesting work, learning opportunities, being challenged
  • Extrinsic: pay, promotions, status
  • Altruistic: helping others, contributing to society
  • Leisure: vacation time, work-life balance
  • Social: interacting with others, making friends

In this longitudinal look, the three generations were remarkably similar, not different.  “On average, all three generations rated intrinsic values the highest, extrinsic and altruistic values in the middle, and leisure and social rewards at the bottom.”   Dr. Jean Twenge is a professor at SDSU in San Diego as well as author, presenter and consultant on generational issues.

If this view teases you into more curiosity about work values in general, Adam’s new book, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller.