Richard B. Johnson
Millennials versus Baby Boomers – it’s a dichotomy that’s become ubiquitous in the working world, across many different industries. Generational divides are nothing new. As younger generations enter the workforce, there will always be some friction between their new ideas and ideals, and the established methods that older employees are used to.
So What’s the Problem?
In discussions that we’ve seen in recent years, there is a noticeable divide between business people of a certain vintage and their younger employees and coworkers. Generally, when we refer to “Millennials,” we’re referring to those who are between 25 and 35 years old in 2022.
That said, there is little actual consensus on what specific age range makes up the Millennial generation. This already tells us that a lot of the ire for Millennial workers might simply be chalked up to a general anxiety about younger workers and the “changing of the guard,” so to speak, in established industries. Most opinions on how a particular generation works, or what they want from their jobs, are vast generalizations that can’t be applied to every employee or every workplace.
There are perceptions held by some employers that Millennials aren’t hard workers. That they lack loyalty, and will change jobs at the drop of a hat for more vacation time. That they’re overly reliant on technology and incapable of working without it.
The reality is that many of these perceptions are simply false or misinterpretations. Unfortunately, if older employees are meeting Millennials with these pre-formed opinions, then they may only be seeing flaws. If employers are more willing to listen and learn from their younger employees, they might gather some very useful lessons and new approaches to work.
What Do Millennial Employees Want?
If there is one thing in particular that Millennial employees are interested in, across the board, it’s finding work that aligns with their values.
Many people in the millennial generation are politically minded; they’re concerned about climate change, human rights, and a range of economic and social issues. By and large, millennial employees want to work for a company that upholds similar values – not just in the company mission statement, but in its hiring practices, internal culture, and service offerings.
Corporations, for better or worse, have a lot of power and influence in our society. Younger generations of workers are cognizant of this, and many are reluctant to put their efforts toward supporting organizations that aren’t in line with their values, or whose actions as a company don’t reflect the values they purport to uphold.
Incentives for workers can also reflect a company’s values. The incentives that millennials want are not just monetary bonuses achieved by working longer hours.
Incentives can demonstrate a company’s understanding of healthy work-life balance. Incentives can demonstrate that an organization values its employees as people, and is also willing to provide flexibility to accommodate a more diverse workforce. Some such incentives may include:
More paid vacation
Remote work opportunities
Flexibility of hours and scheduling
Employers need to be open to these ideas and think about how offering these types of incentives to employees might actually benefit the business in the long term. Hiring employees whose values reflect the work your company does not only gives those employees incentive to do good work, but is a fantastic retention strategy.
What can Millennial Employees offer?
Millenials are good at using tech, and in general they want to work smarter, not longer. That is pretty logical! They want to be able to utilize tech to automate processes and reduce their workload, and they understand that working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean higher productivity – that in fact, sometimes the inverse is true. Again, logical.
Many older workers interpret Millennials’ desire for work-life balance as laziness, when that’s not really the case. Plenty of Millennial employees are willing to put a great amount of effort into their jobs – provided they feel like their work has meaning.
This generation of workers, in general, wants to relate to their work. They want to feel like the work they’re doing has a positive impact on the world, rather than simply serving to make a handful of people more wealthy.
The Business Case for Listening to Millennial Employees
It’s easy to assume that our way is the best, and that younger generations should always be learning from the older ones. But the truth is that it’s often a two-way street – if older generations want to create a harmonious working environment with younger employees, then they need to be willing to listen to input from the younger generation, in addition to offering guidance of their own.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that you do not need your workforce to be spending eight hours a day at a desk to achieve high productivity – and in fact, many workers are happier and more engaged at jobs that allow them the flexibility and autonomy to work at a time and location that is conducive to their lifestyle.
With Millennials more concerned about the environment and social issues, it just makes sense for your business to pay attention to how you’re approaching these issues and demonstrating your values both internally and externally. Millennials aren’t just a new generation of workers – they’re a new generation of consumers, as well.
We want to encourage people in all industries to broaden their scope a little bit. Hearing opinions and learning methods from across generations can mean the difference between getting stuck in the past, and using your workforce to their fullest potential – and thus, staying relevant and dynamic in a changing business landscape.
Wondering how you can better serve your younger employees? Concerned about a generational divide in your workforce? Contact Ascent today.