“I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.” (Hesoid, 700 BC)
Everyone knows how lazy the Millennial generation is, right? And how disrespectful? They bounce from job to job, expecting money to simply be handed to them. What a sense of entitlement! They hover around their phones, texting instead of interacting with others around them – and don’t even get us started on the selfie craze.
When we say “everyone” knows this, by the way, we aren’t just talking about people in the United States. Oh, no! In Japan, this generation is known as nagara-zoku, defined as “the people who are always doing two things at once.” In China? They are known as ken lao zu for – ready for this – “the generation that eats the old.”[i]
Pretty clear cut, right? Well, not so fast.
Changing Economical Factors
This generation (people born between 1980 and the mid-1990s) have challenges not faced by previous generations. More than 40 million of them have student loan debt that collectively totals more than one trillion dollars. Costs of a college education in the United States have skyrocketed by 1,120 percent from 1978 to 2010 – and, when good-paying jobs are scarce, it is extremely challenging to pay off education debts. One Ohio State University professor compares this significant student loan debt to youth graduating college burdened with the equivalent of a mortgage.
Millennial Generation Perspective
There are approximately 85 to 90 million Millennials in the United States alone, and they are more educated than any previous generation. While that is encouraging, it also means that supply is greater than demand for people with many types of education, thereby creating a “perfect storm for unemployment, underemployment, and a flat-out frustrating beginning to our career . . . The college diploma feels worth as much as your high school degree now, with the new tension of feeling like you have to now get a master’s or Phd to even be allowed into the game.”
Forty percent of the unemployed are Millennials – the most educated generation ever, remember. So, here they are, investing significantly in their education, garnering higher levels of student loan debt than ever before, while having “lower levels of wealth and personal income than any other generation at the same stage of life.”[ii]
The Survey Says . . .
So, how do we tease the truth from what “everyone knows” about Millennials? The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016 is an excellent source of information, containing survey data from almost 7,700 Millennials from 29 countries in September and October 2015. You can download the entire report[iii] but here are highlights. First, yes, it’s true that Millennials are feeling less loyalty to their workplaces, overall, with two thirds of them wanting to leave their current workplace by 2020; 44 percent would like to switch places of employment within two years. This is a significant challenge to businesses that employ this generation – and, since they represent the largest workplace segment (they will make up half the workforce by 2050)[iv], the challenge is widespread.
Millennials often plan to exit a workplace, the survey shows, because their values don’t match that of their workplaces. Other reasons include:
- Perceived lack of development of their leadership skills
- Perceived feelings of being overlooked
- Work/balance issues
- Desire for flexibility
Interestingly enough, Millennials appear to be guided by values throughout their careers, not just early on. This appears in:
- Jobs they accept
- Assignments they take
- Decisions they make as managers
They want businesses to focus less on profit and more on the people involved, from employees to customers to society at large. They also want more of a focus on products and on business purpose, and they want to feel in control of their own careers.
What about that Sense of Entitlement?
What older generations may see as a sense of entitlement is typically perceived by Millennials as an unwillingness to settle. They want work that stirs their passions – and, when you factor in economic challenges, the attitude of many Millennials is that, if they aren’t going to be able to have financial security, they might as well at least do work they enjoy. The following paradox applies to a good percentage of this generation: “they do not want to settle for an unsatisfying job that will barely allow them to get by but, at the same time, they have no choice but to take an unsatisfying job so they can afford to pursue their passion.” (Guardian, March 2016).
Millennials have lived their entire lives in a time of rapidly advancing technology, so it’s no surprise that it makes little sense to them to be attached to a desk when they could work remotely. They don’t perceive that as laziness or that they’re entitled to not come into the workplace. Instead, they see it as being efficient and working smarter.
And, because many Millennials attended college in the era of a financial crisis, they may not feel as secure in a particular job. Rather than rely upon a workplace, they may create self-employment opportunities.
Work to Live, Not Live to Work
Many from this generation focus on work/life integration, where “work life, creative ambitions, and social life are intertwined.” (Guardian, March 2016). For those who work remotely or in other less traditional ways, it may make perfect sense to start work later in the day and work until midnight – or to work different hours on different days. If this fits their lifestyle and the work they’re doing, they figure, why not?
And, that job hopping thing? Statistics for Americans show that job tenure for those in their twenties is almost exactly the same for Millennials as it was in the 1980s. Plus, as the founder of the Graduate Fog career site notes that, when a Millennial finds a job after graduation where he or she feels appreciated, that person tends to stay at that job. It’s when a career gets off to a rockier start that the young adult tends to switch jobs more frequently.
Blending Perspectives in the Workplace
The reality is that, if you’re from an older generation than the Millennials, you are most likely working with the younger generation – or will be in the near future. So, the goal is to find common ground and to find ways to work well together. Here are three ways to help make that happen:
- Offer flexibility
- Focus on outcomes
- Encourage collaboration
And, in closing, here is a good perspective to consider: “In my opinion, millennials work just as hard as any previous generation in the workplace. They have a different perspective on how work gets done, and it’s counterproductive to expect them to acquiesce to outdated policies and practices. Give them opportunities to blend their work and life more easily, and you will find that you are well-positioned to achieve even greater success in the future.”[v]
[ii] 5 Shocking Statistics About the Challenges Facing the Millennial Generation
[v] Millennials Don’t Want Work Life Balance