If there’s one word that’s never far from a blog or newspaper headline these days, it’s ‘millennials’. And, yes – this very post is a case in point, but for a very good reason.
Before we continue, it’s worth considering exactly what defines a millennial. Broadly speaking, it refers to the generation born between 1980 and 1999, and is believed to be the largest generation in existence today.
Put simply, they’re taking over, and for many businesses this is something of a concern. How do you deal with people who spent their formative years witnessing the birth of the internet and several key transitions of power in the political realm? To which management styles do they respond best? How do you motivate them? Do they require particular perks and access to advanced technology in order to get the job done?
Let’s take a step back. The millennial generation is of course rather different to that which came before, but it doesn’t consist of alien beings; they’re humans with the same wants and desires as the rest of us and are just as capable of developing new skills as their forefathers.
Where they differ lies in their experiences during those crucial early years of schooling and employment. Gap years, work experience and government-funded employment schemes have laid the ground work for a generation that values job security but, equally, will rarely stay rooted to one role for any longer than deemed strictly necessary.
This desire to experiment with one’s career and explore every available opportunity has given rise to a workforce that is more dynamic than ever before. Freelancers now mix with regular ‘9-5’ permanent staff and the gig economy continues to tempt many into leaving the world of traditional working environments for stay-at-home convenience.
Chances are, if you’re recruiting today, the majority of candidates you meet will be from the millennial generation. Among them will be some absolute gems of hires, and to help you find them, we’d like to provide an insight into what to expect when hiring such people.
1. A strong desire to learn new skills
Education should be a key focus when working with millennials. This is a generation that devours content both on- and off-line. They spend their free time digesting blogs, podcasts and tales from friends, and seek answers to every query with a simple tap or two on the touchscreen of their smartphone.
There’s a good chance that the millennials you hire will end up working in roles that don’t even exist yet, and with that in mind, it’s vital that opportunities are presented which enable them to explore future avenues of work and forge new ground.
Offer regular training opportunities and make access to modern forms of content as easy as it should be, and you’ll win many a millennial friend at work.
2. A modern view of the traditional career path
Not so long ago, people would train themselves for a particular role, enter at a base position and gradually work their way up until their skills and expertise enabled them to sit comfortably higher on the company tree.
More money and experience would of course go hand-in-hand with this type of career progression, but the millennial worker treads a rather different path.
Rather than looking upwards, they’ll be more inclined to look sideways for opportunities to progress their career. For example, it’s not uncommon for the skilled millennial accountant to become a brilliant programmer, thanks to the considerable personal time she has invested in learning programming.
Sometimes unfairly labelled the ‘MTV generation’ – referring to a diet of fast-edited TV and music videos – millennials arguably have shorter attention spans, and this can make itself all too evident in the workplace. However, rather than requiring constant stimulation, they need to instead feel empowered to look beyond their current role whenever the need strikes.
To traditional employers, this can be a frightening prospect. Non-linear career paths may feel somewhat uncontrollable and capable of increasing staff turnover to unacceptable levels, but the opposite is true; workers who want to move sideways can – and should – be fantastic assets.
We now live in the era of the ‘multipersonality’ which refers principally to multi-skilled individuals who invest personal time in new-found hobbies that, unbeknownst to them, could offer a significant commercial benefit.
Create a culture where career experimentation and the revelation of hidden talents is encouraged, and millennials will flourish within your organisation.
3. A strong team ethic
Millennials are fantastic collaborators. They can work coherently within teams big and small and regularly develop strong friendships within the workplace.
This could be due to their reliance on collaborative technology to fuel their lifestyles. Instant messaging and social media sites such as SnapChat are platforms used regularly by millennials to connect with friends and forge new relationships so consider deploying some sort of social platform within your company to encourage them to communicate and collaborate in the way they are most comfortable.
If there’s one thing that boosts productivity en-masse within a business, it’s the ability for teams to work positively together, and the strong team ethic demonstrated by millennials is a real boon for modern commerce.
4. A desire to be challenged
Just as millennials often prefer to look sideways for career progression opportunities, they love to be challenged. It’s likely why challenge-based TV and reality shows centred on fierce team competition perform so well in the ratings.
This is a generation that seeks ever-changing tasks and responsibilities. They want to know “what’s next”, how products and services will change and how their contribution to the business’s overall success can be elevated.
There’s nothing worse than a bored millennial, but before mistaking such a person for being disengaged, ensure you’re challenging them to their fullest – they may simply be feeling chronically un-stretched.
5. Zero fear of multitasking
Millennials grew up multitasking with everything from their friendships to their computer operating systems.
Older generations, as previously noted, have always been more attuned to linear career progression which often results in less of a reliance on multitasking and a greater focus on a single skill. This way of working is still relevant today, but millennials crave a mixture of tasks and responsibilities that can stretch a variety of rapidly-acquired skills.
A combination of traditional working techniques and the multi-skilled abilities of the younger generation is a great way to build a workforce that can take on practically any task and finish projects in lightning-quick time.
The millennial generation is an exciting generation, albeit one that is often misunderstood. The key takeaway from today’s blog, therefore, should be that they’re just as capable of producing high levels of quality output – it’s simply the approach on behalf of the business that needs to change slightly.
As with so many HR-related challenges in the workplace, dealing with millennials demands that a modern, dynamic culture is built; one that values creativity and rewards sideways career movement. And what an exciting place to work that is!