generation-y-employeesWhen it comes to their role in the professional world, Millennials have a bit of an image problem.  Older generations often perceive them as entitled narcissists who lack loyalty and a strong work ethic.  But whether they love Millennials or hate them, employers must embrace them in order to remain competitive in a changing workforce.  Estimates indicate that by 2030, an astounding 75 percent of U.S. workers will be Millennials or members of Gen Y, defined as those born between 1980 and 2000.  This means that companies that understand and maximize the unique strengths, weaknesses, and quirks that characterize Millennials will succeed at attracting, retaining, and developing the generation’s top talent.

Who Are The Millenials?

In order to foster a workplace that brings out the best in Gen Y workers, employers must understand their characteristics and values in comparison to those of previous generations.  Millennials are the most educated generation in history and once they finish school, they aim to be lifelong learners.  However, the unstable economic environment that has characterized many of their young adult lives has shown them that advanced degrees do not always translate to job security.  As a result, they have placed a significant degree of emphasis on personal fulfillment and family values.  As opposed to Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, Millennials are likely to define success not as achieving a specific socioeconomic status or career milestone, but as following career paths that further their personal goals and allow them to have lives outside of the office.
Since many Millennials barely remember a world without the internet, they are tech-savvy and love that technology allows them to perform their work duties at flexible times and locations.  In contrast to their more individualistic Baby Boomer and Gen X counterparts, Millennials tend to be socially conscious team players.  They are also optimists whose positive self-esteems make them hungry for the next challenge.

What Do Millenials Bring to the Workplace, and How Can Employers Capitalize on Their Strengths?

Work-life balance and strong family relationships are central to Millennials’ personal goals, so employers that offer flexibility in work schedules have a competitive edge in attracting and retaining top Gen Y talent.  A study conducted by Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business indicated that most Millennial men and women consider spending ample time with one’s children as key to being a good parent.  Therefore, companies should consider offering work-from-home options, flexible hours, and maternity as well as paternity leave.
Millennials’ passion for learning means that they expect training and development opportunities from employers.  Offering an array of such opportunities is mutually beneficial for both workers and employers.  In particular, e-learning programs provide a cost-effective way to develop employees, and Millennials tend to feel most comfortable with technology as a medium.
Millennials also seek mutual respect and open communication with their co-workers and superiors.  Because they were raised with plenty of coaching from their parents and educators, Millennials thrive on frequent feedback.  Managers should be clear about expectations and deadlines, and let their Gen Y employees know how they are meaningfully contributing to the organization.  Only 30 percent of the respondents in Bentley University’s study stated that they would be willing to work at a company with unpleasant conditions.  As a result, employers should take steps to foster a supportive environment that encourages employees to pursue their personal career goals.
Finally, a whopping 84 percent of Millennials surveyed by Bentley University stated that knowing they are bettering the world in some way is more important to them than achieving recognition in their careers.  Therefore, Gen Y employees will feel more connected to service-minded companies that take measures to improve their communities and society.
The demographics of the American workforce are shifting, and organizations must understand what drives their younger employees in order to adapt and remain competitive.  Employers may begin by brushing aside the negative stereotypes surrounding Generation Y, and working with Millennials’ personal and professional values to harness the strengths they bring to the professional environment. Need help understanding and leveraging Millennial talent as this young generation ascends in the workforce? Contact CBR today!