Here Come The Millennials – Are You Ready?

Well, it’s official. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, millennials – those born between 1980 and 2000 – are now the largest generation in the workforce in 2015, forming 35% of the civilian labor force. And by 2020, they will be half the workforce.

So we as employers ignore or misunderstand them at our peril. Unfortunately, we still have a way to go in this regard. If you analyze the Career Advisory Board’s survey of hiring managers and millennials’ attitudes, there appears to be a disconnect in perceptions between managers and millennials. For instance, when asked what the most important thing about work is for millennials – millennials cite meaningful work, while almost half their managers think money is the most important to millennials.

Or, as PWC’s Millennials at Work report cites, 38 percent of millennials says that older senior management do not relate to younger workers, and 34 percent say that their personal drive was intimidating to other generations.

In other words, it behooves us as managers to better understand what makes millennials tick, in order to know what we employers need to do to engage them more effectively in their jobs. Here are some clues from the PWC report and other sources:

1. Encourage learning: When asked about what work benefit they valued the most, millennials ranked Employee Training and Development the highest.

2. Feedback, feedback and more feedback: Millennials want and value frequent feedback. Unlike the past where people received annual reviews, millennials want to know how they’re doing much more regularly – 51 percent of those questioned said feedback should be given very frequently or continually on the job. The companies that are most successful at managing millennials are those that understand the importance of setting clear targets and providing regular and structured feedback.

3. Set them free: Millennials want flexibility. This was a consistent theme in the PWC report as well as Mary Meeker’s 20th annual Internet Trends report – see the image below from her presentation. They work well with clear instructions and concrete targets – but want the freedom to have a flexible work schedule, and location from where they work – whether it be from home or a coffee shop.

4. Weave technology into how you manage and train them: Millennials’ use of technology clearly sets them apart. Almost 9 out of 10 of them say that their smartphones never leave their side – night or day, according to Zogby Analytics. They have grown up with smartphones and social media, and expect instant access to information. No wonder that 41 percent of them prefer to communicate electronically at work, rather than face to face or even over the telephone, according to PWC.  Almost half of them already use their personal smartphones for work purposes (versus one-fifth for older generations).

To conclude, millennials will soon be a force to reckon with, and we have a ways to go to understand them better. However, there are a number of clear ways to engage them better in the workplace. These facts provide valuable insights on how to define a learning model that works for them.

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