Michael Chalmers: Dispelling Millennial Myths

Michael Chalmers

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

The mass exodus of Baby Boomers from the workforce has been a looming issue for several years, compounded by the smaller numbers of Gen Xers waiting in the wings. An overwhelming focus on what the workforce may lose has tended to obscure potential gains as the significantly larger mass of Millennials firmly establishes its place in the labor force. Already the majority generation in the workforce, at full strength, Millennials—born roughly between 1980 and 1999—will number 75 million. Given their growing influence and obvious importance to America’s future, employers need to acknowledge how different they are from their parents and grandparents, understand what motivates them and learn how to attract, engage and retain them.

Just as Baby Boomers once said “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” today many feel similarly about anyone under 30. Consequently, Millennial labels range from too needy and too entitled to too focused on time away from work and entirely too “plugged in.” Due more to misunderstanding than malice, these stereotypes are not only unfair but misleading.

Love to learn. Millennials are the most educated generation, with far more college graduates than Gen X or Baby Boomers. Whether carrying a degree or not, members of the Millennial generation have a burning desire for knowledge. They need to feel they are always learning something new. According to the latest Spherion Emerging Workforce® Study, however, Millennials are less than satisfied with the quality, quantity and accessibility of employer options. They worry about falling behind in meeting their current responsibilities as well as prepping for career advancement. In addition to wanting significantly more skills training, managerial training and coaching than is currently offered, they are especially interested in beefing up their ability to solve problems, think strategically, leverage evolving technology and understand and interpret data. If they feel stymied at their current job, they won’t hesitate to do their learning and growing elsewhere. 

Looking for strong coaches. Millennials look for frequent feedback on their performance, because they want clear direction. They have little patience for a feedback loop that only happens once a year. In coaching them, avoid being preachy and deliver lessons and feedback with respect for their ability to learn and their potential to excel.

Quick to accept a challenge. Millennials welcome new challenges and are not afraid to venture beyond their comfort zone. “Offering me more opportunities to contribute beyond my current responsibilities” was named as the action that would most improve their level of engagement.

Expect flexibility in scheduling and a life away from work. Millennials crave work/life balance. They are more likely than any other generation to take advantage of employer initiatives, such as flextime, telecommuting, paid time off and sabbaticals. On the flip side, they are the least satisfied with their employer’s work/life balance options, with only 27% saying they are satisfied. While Millennials may be more vocal about their work/life balance expectations, any steps to meet these expectations can score points with workers of every generation.

A different take on loyalty. Millennial workers are not necessarily disloyal. They just have different expectations than other generations of workers. They want attractive pay and insist on opportunities for growth and mobility. They want to make an impact through the work they do, so understanding the big picture and their part in it is important.

Engagement and job satisfaction. The Emerging Workforce Study found that the younger the worker, the less engaged they are, with Millennials least likely to be highly engaged compared to other generations (38% vs. 44% among Gen Xers and 56% among Boomers). Pew Research agrees, saying Millennials also “are significantly less likely than older generations to be highly satisfied with their jobs.” The two most influential factors in Millennial engagement are “being rewarded for my accomplishments” and “belief that employee contributions have an impact on the company’s overall success.”

Attracting, Engaging and Retaining Millennials

To ensure an open pipeline to Millennial talent, employers need to recognize that this is a unique generation with new expectations. Assuming a one-size-fits-all approach for multiple generations would be a mistake. A company’s aptitude at understanding different worker groups, especially Millennials, will determine how well it can not only source, but more importantly, engage and retain this increasingly critical component of the workforce.

Local Spherion owner Michael Chalmers leads a team that has been serving the recruiting and staffing needs of Middle Georgia employers for nearly 20 years. Founded in 1946, Spherion is a staffing leader with more than 150 offices nationwide. Individually owned, each Spherion office offers clients and candidates the personalized service of a local business, along with the resources and expertise as part of a $2 billion workforce leader. To find out more about how Spherion connects people and jobs, call 478-956-1700 or visit spherion.com.