In honour of Youth Day on June 16, we take a look at Millennials (otherwise known as Generation Y) and their approach to work and life in general.
The vast majority of management in massive corporations today are Boomers, who were born between the 1940s to 1960s. No wonder there is so much room for misunderstanding, frustration and miscommunication between their Generation X (born between 1960s to 1980s) and even more so, Millennial (born between 1980s and 2000s) counterparts.
Broadly speaking, Boomers (and perhaps their GI and Silent counterparts, born before the 1940s) had the ambition to secure a job where they could demonstrate 40 years of loyalty and commitment. Their work-life “balance” was spending their 20 years of retirement years resting. However, today, life is very different. 54% of 20 – 24 year olds will leave their parents reeling by spending less than 12 months in a job (Codrington & Grant-Marshall, 2010: page 62). In fact, futurists predict that Millennials will have ten different career changes in a lifetime. Much to management’s frustration, Millennials are declaring their intention to have a work-life balance – which certainly does not mean resting for the last two decades of their life. Today’s professionals define balance as having the flexibility to complete their work tasks wherever they are in the world, giving them the time to attend their son’s soccer match, bath their children without relying on the au pair and continue their work day after bed-time stories have been read. It’s no longer a case of impressing the boss by staying an extra 10 minutes after he leaves. Millennials are quite willing to work until the early hours of the morning, but don’t you dare expect them to be at work for 8:00 the next day. In fact, any form of ‘restraint’, be it formal working times, old-school working conditions at a desk and chair in the CBD, or clock-in systems, will in all likelihood be resisted.
Today, it is unusual for our generation of professionals to retire at all, with the vision of still working flexi hours and taking three month vacations once they reach their grand-parent’s age. Common misconceptions of Millennials is that they are lazy, non-committal, ungrateful and spoilt. However these descriptions are born out of our older generational perspective. Those very same qualities, to a Millennial, could be attractively sought out as flexible, a quiet confidence in judgement and discretion, knowing one’s value, and able to offer innovation above experience. Don’t be fooled: Millennials’ are likely to be incredibly hard working. It is not unusual for Millennials to have several jobs simultaneously. Perhaps a doctor will practice three days out of the week, and host cooking workshops on weekends as she loves the artistry of food so much. In countries like New Zealand, job sharing and multiple jobs have become fairly usual – and this culture is spreading rapidly. As the proportion of Generation X’s and more so Millennials will only continue to grow, the best way to evolve with the times is to embrace their uniqueness and capitalise on their offering to the workforce.
Human resources and Corporate Leadership in adapting companies are recognising that the next generation of employees will demand flexibility, freedom and balance. They are no longer simply satisfied with being “grateful to have a job”; even in an economic climate where there is a great demand for jobs, there is too an even greater demand for skills, and skilled professionals know this. If they are not going to be offered flexi-time, a car / internet / cell-phone allowance, attractive benefits (medical, paid leave, study allowance, etc.), opportunities to learn and grow, and personal meaning in their work, they will happily search elsewhere (or worse, accept your job offer as an interim position and move on after a month – costing the organisation in lost time, training, and money). Organisations may want to consider offering a work environment that is family friendly – from providing on-site day care centres for toddlers (and even pets), to an onsite gym with wellness facilities – which is the norm for Nestle. Overnight sleeping facilities or nap-pods, as seen in the movie “The Internship” (a comedy based on interning Google), are normal office environments. Satellite offices and the use of wireless technology will further enhance employee’s ability to telecommunicate and be flexible. No wonder virtual office concepts, such as the Slow Lounge and Regus group, is gaining fast popularity – especially for those self-employed and running small businesses.
Obviously the above descriptions are generalisations - we can’t label the six billion humans which inhabit our planet as a GI, Silent, Boomer, Xer or Millennial just based on when they were born. But the traits are frighteningly accurate for a large proportion for each generation. These behaviour trends are becoming increasingly recognisable and obvious. As the world evolves and more and more Millennials arrive in the work-place telling you what they think, relax! They are not being cheeky. They simply want to share their knowledge. Consider giving them the platform to discuss their passions, ambitions and preferred ways of thinking. Listen (like, really listen) to their ideas. For without ideas, there would be no innovation. Don’t be despondent by your high staff turn-over – it’s nothing personal. And when filling those positions, don’t toss aside the CV which has the typical “job-hopper” profile. They may just be the candidate to take your organisation to souring new heights.
-By Marzenna Almendro
About the author:
Marzenna considers herself a typical Millennial, having made three major career changes before the age of 30. She started out as a specialist after she qualified with an Honours Degree in Psychology, working at a Psychometric Consultancy. At 25, she quit her job and went into a management role, working in radio. After three years she embarked on the venture of running her own business, offering psychometric solutions for organisations. On the side, she is a seasoned voice over artist, and her voice can be heard on retail and some commercial stations. When asked if this is what she’ll do for the next 20 years – her answer is simple and synonymous with other Millennials: “I don’t know. As long as I am learning, growing and feeling challenged every day!”
Codrington & Grant-Marshall, (2010) Mind the Gap. Johannesburg: Penguin Press
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