Managing the Great Expectations of Millennial Employees

What is so different about this new generation? Are they really all that different? What do they want? What do they eat? How should you prepare to work with them and should you prepare at all? Let’s take a closer look at this exotic beast that is your future or current employee and colleague, who happened to be born between 1977 and 1995.

A workforce to be reckoned with

Millennials are poised to start taking your organization by storm any minute… if they have not done so already that is. According to Deloitte, millennials are going to make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025, moving the question of how to successfully recruit and manage millennial employees to the top of your HR agenda.

An image is worth a thousand words: Generational cliches

According to a well-known stock image resource — an unofficial mirror of our society — millennials prefer to spend their days writing on chalkboards whilst wearing plaid and denim, jumping around with their iPhones in hand or casually leaning against red brick, graffiti or other textured backdrops. Gen Y members seem to finish off their working weeks over a beer with their bearded-beanied friends in thick-rimmed glasses taking pictures of their food.

Compare that to a search for another generational group, and real work, white shirts and an array of pastels on a beach seem to be reserved for visual representations of Baby Boomers, leaving the question of millennial career goals open for us to figure out.

Avocado Toast vs Real Estate

As often happens with stereotypes, some have gone so far as to suggest that millennials should perhaps cut their avocado toast consumption on a global scale in order to purchase some real estate instead. This brunch menu item seems to stand for the culture of immediate gratification attributed to millennials, while real estate stands in for commitment and willpower of Baby Boomers.

A similar trend for diagnosing Gen Ys as thrill-seeking brunching vagabonds comes from unsettling employment (and unemployment) data:

  • The younger millennial cohort is expected to have worked at at least four companies before turning 32.
  • 66% of millennials are looking to leave their current employer by 2020.
  • 1 in 4 Gen Y employees are going to switch jobs this year.

Sounds worrying, right? Actually, millennials are not that different from previous generations in terms of switching jobs in their early career. They do, however, have some other qualities every HR professional should consider.

Tech, talk and trepidation

72% of millennial employees report to have made significant compromises to get into the workplace in the first place, accepting lower salaries and unfavourable locations in many cases. Once gainfully employed, only 28% think that their employers are making use of any of their skills, while 80% hope that perhaps with the help of technology their work will become more fulfilling some day.

Lack of certainty in the future leads to the growing millennial emphasis on improving quality of life right now. If you know that you can’t save for a house tomorrow because real estate prices continue to sky-rocket faster than your salary, why not enjoy your avocado toast today? The focus on work-life balance follows: millennials identify “flexible working conditions and work/life integration” as the number one factor in ensuring employee retention. Millennials don’t pick future employers according to their brand value, but focus on clear opportunities for career progression and a shared sense of purpose. Reports suggest that lack of millennials’ loyalty might be a result of feeling neglected and stereotyped in the first place.

Managing Millennials

It may be tempting to follow tech giants in promoting company culture via open-plan offices, bring-your-dog-to-work policies and table tennis, but it could be easier and less resource-heavy to base management of millennial employees on the firm belief that millennials are people too. To foster their loyalty, employers need to show commitment to staff even before they show up on day one. Employers need to create opportunities for growth from the outset and instil a clear organizational sense of purpose for all new hires.

While stereotyping staff will probably not provide you with a magic solution for employee retention and engagement, making sure you know the motives behind millennials’ decisions will help you meet their demands for a fair and stable work environment. When their fears are addressed the moment you sign a contract and all their questions are properly answered, your millennial employee will be no more likely to switch jobs than any other staff member. When treated well, employees, regardless of their generation, will reciprocate. That being said, office puppies are always a plus.

To start building safe and welcoming environments for your millennial employees from the job offer onwards, get some tips for preparing incoming staff for their first day in office. Is your onboarding process good enough to stand the millennial test? Answer a 2-minute quiz for a personalized report.