If we were to go by much of what is said of the traits of the typical millennial employee - overly-demanding and idealistic, high-maintenance and holders of ridiculously high-standards, yet flaky and needy at the same time…fans of job-hopping, not so much fans of good old-fashioned hard work, commitment and loyalty to the one cause…one might wonder what is to become of the work-force of the future. How do we encourage such a cohort to behave themselves and conform? How do we attract so fickle and distractible a person to come and work with us? And most importantly – because it is of course much more important than making a good hire – how do we ensure that they stay?
As a millennial myself, who has had a fairly typical millennial career-trajectory, maybe with a slightly earlier-than-usual wake-up call as to what really matters in life, I am going to give you a snapshot into the life and times of your average millennial, and what it is that will motivate someone like me to work for one company over another.
In a nutshell- my career over the past 8 years has comprised the following: an 18-month graduate programme with the Irish Food Board, Bord Bia in Madrid, supporting Irish companies with Marketing and Market Research for the Spanish Market. In 2012 I moved to Ireland, and embarked on a fantastic three and a half years with LinkedIn during which I worked in several different sales roles covering a variety of territories.
Thanks to some of the very inspiring speakers from the LinkedIn Speaker Series, along with the shift in my core values that my yoga practice was bringing about, I chose to set off on a different path. I left LinkedIn in June 2015 ready to jump head-first into the world of yoga teaching, having completed a teacher training course in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga earlier in 2015. In my final week of working with LinkedIn however, an opportunity to work in the area of social change arose with Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, and after a break of a couple of months, this became my ‘Next Play. Now fifteen months on and another Yoga Teacher Training later, I still feel hungry to learn and grow and continue to improve myself. Much of this I do through yoga, which is a path I would highly recommend to any millennial with a curious heart and mind.
Based on my own journey and learnings along the way, I would give the following advice to companies looking to hire and retail millennial talent.
- Purpose is crucial.
It is very important to have a strong narrative on the purpose of your company, and how it is making the world a better place. A strong sense of purpose will fall out of an ambitious and clear vision, e.g. EY’s vision to ‘create a better working world’, or LinkedIn’s vision ‘to create economic opportunity for every professional in the world’. I can visualise or imagine what each of those scenarios would look like, and can understand how the work done by both companies is contributing to achieving these goals.
- Hire Authentic Leaders.
Millennials have a heightened sense of integrity and therefore don’t tolerate inauthenticity in leadership teams. Authentic leaders are people who will lead by example, are comfortable in their own skin and not afraid to share their own vulnerabilities in an appropriate way with their teams. I have had several such managers in my time, and it has been an absolute pleasure to work with them. The opposite scenario, whereby a manager/’leader’ is not leading with integrity is difficult for an idealistic cohort of un-hierarchically-minded millennials to entertain for a prolonged period of time.
- Be transparent and practice realistic expectation setting.
As per my introduction, millennials already have very high expectations, and this is particularly true when it comes to the pace at which they want career progression to happen. This is not a negative trait. It is thanks to their ambition and keen desire to learn coupled with the energy they are ready to invest in their careers. Achieving their goals and progressing at the rate at which they expect to progress is hugely important to them, for which reason it is vital to ensure that their expectations are correctly set in the first place. In the long-term it is much more productive and makes for a happier team when people are moving along/upwards at the rate they expected to. It can be devastating and disillusioning for a millennial to work hard towards a promised promotion that doesn’t materialise.
- Focus on Health, Wellness & Balance
One of the very positive demands that millennials place on employers is for a work environment and working conditions that consider the health, wellbeing and work/life balance of employees a key priority. Any company therefore looking to retain millennials should involve them in the design of a new work environment, and initiatives to improve the health and wellbeing of the workforce. For smaller companies without the resources or space to build on-site gyms, or partner with Wellness providers, this may seem like an onerous task. It doesn’t need to be however. It could be as simple as being more flexible with working hours to ensure employees can fit in a work-out/walk at lunchtime or at some point during the day, and discouraging a culture of working late.
- Be Gentle with us!
This corresponds with the points on authenticity and expectation setting. Particularly earlier in their careers, Millennials do not have enough experience to know that there will always be tough times, and obstacles that crop up, and therefore do are not as resilient as more experienced peers. It is therefore advisable to set expectations that such challenges WILL inevitably arise, and that this is just a fact of life as opposed to a reflection on the capability of an individual, and to support such employees through disappointments rather than allowing them to feel unworthy when things don’t work out as they had hoped.
Finally, if you are perplexed at the idealistic and seemingly fickle nature of the millennial workforce, do remember that they are in fact a product of their environment. They are the product of a society that demands ever-increasing levels of perfection from us across the board, which explains their limited attention spans and high expectations of what is attainable. If they are not as loyal as previous generations, it is because they have seen that just because an institution is large, or a brand is renowned, it does not mean that they can trust it to act ethically. If they are no-longer motivated by jobs for life and incremental career growth, it is because this path will no longer guarantee them the upward-mobility and security it may have done for previous generations.
Our world is in flux. We are moving into a new era in which more importance and meaning are being placed on enjoying the small things in life, living in the moment and being loyal and true to ourselves first and foremost rather than relying on institutions to show us the way. A world in which people first secure their own oxygen masks and place their own wellbeing at the centre of their priorities, is a world in which we are more likely to lead happier and more fulfilling lives.
So, the moral of the story is – DO hire Millennials. Hire them in their droves. Provide them with a genuine sense of purpose and be authentic, kind and transparent with them to enable them to thrive.