In 2013, millennials became the largest generation in the country, finally surpassing the baby boomers and Generation X. According to the White House, millennials are rapidly becoming a driving force of the economy, and as the years go on, their influence will only increase. Yet most millennials are still at the beginning of their careers, making this a transitory period that is sure to come with its own set of interesting problems. The fact that millennials grew up with the Internet, then came of age as the world’s economy fell into a recession means that the generation has traits and habits that may seem foreign to their employers – an obsession with technology and a sense of entitlement to name just a few. However, employers can take those unique aspects and hone them into skills and other advantages through creative employee training techniques.
Many employers actually resist spending the time, money and effort on training millennial talent because it is commonly held that the generation likes to job hop, never staying with one company for very long. If you told that to a millennial, you might get laughed at – from their perspective jobs are hard to come by. Many graduated college only to find the entry level positions were being snapped up by Gen Xers who lost their jobs in the recession. The White House reported that millennials actually stay with their early employers longer than Gen X did at the same age. From that perspective, it makes a lot of sense to invest in millennial talent.
Here are three ways employers can capitalize on millennial traits:
1. An over reliance on technology
Millennials grew up with the Internet. Even the earliest members of the cohort, those born in the early 80’s, quickly grew accustomed to rapidly evolving technologies. As such, many members of the generation rely on tech, especially their smartphones, for almost all of their daily activities. Take away their wifi and drain their phone’s battery and they might not be able to find the way to the grocery store. Actually, it’s easy to poke fun at millennials for their constant tweeting and Facebook posting, but this inherent affinity for new technology makes them quite an asset in the modern workplace.
When training millennials, you need to recognize this reliance on tech for what it is: An appreciation for community and a desire to get things done quickly and efficiently. So you’ll have to train them along those same lines. AdWeek reported that many forward-thinking companies are breaking away from traditional e-learning programs and changing their tactics to reflect the way millennials think. Training sessions should become smaller and more compact. In other words, five minutes of highly concentrated information is going to go over better than an hour of plodding, repetitive learning. Millennials rely on tech, so use that to hone task-related skills.
Millennials work differently from previous generations.
2. Driven by money
Millennials came of age during the economic recession of the early 2000s. Just as many members of the generation were graduating college and entering the workforce, the job market dried up, the housing market fell to pieces and debt skyrocketed. According to the Huffington Post, graduates of the class of 2014 have an average debt of $29,000. Outliers of the group have several times that amount. As such, millennials are often driven by money – but not in a Gordon Gekko “greed is good” kind of way. Millennials just want to get out of debt as quickly as possible. That means they might put a greater focus on earning money, rather than on task completion or project quality.
Again, this only becomes a problem when it is energy focused in the wrong direction. With a little guidance, employers can begin to view this fixation with money as a huge advantage of hiring millennials. Wanting to make money is good for business – it is business! When training millennials, focus this energy down a positive path. How do you get out of debt? By making money. How do you make money? By producing a quality product in a timely manner. And how is that done? Well, that’s where the training comes in. Show your millennial hires how to make money and they will listen.
3. Entitlement Issues
One of the biggest complaints about millennials is that they feel like they are entitled to the good things in life. They don’t want to work for the fun things in life and they absolutely can’t stand grunt work. The New York Times reported on one company that had problems with its millennial employees taking time off from work and lying about their reasons for doing so. One worker took an entire week off so he could build a tree house and blog about it, but told his boss he was going out of town for a funeral. The blog, of course, gave him away. Stories like these get a lot of attention on the web and they paint millennials as lying moochers who have an innate ability to twist the truth to suit their needs. But is it fair to judge an entire generation on the merit of its layabouts?
“Millennials are seen as having entitlement issues.”
Even the Greatest Generation had its share of slouches. To take the issue to a more granular level, you might even consider that the hardest workers have days when it’s just as difficult to head to the office. The lesson to be learned here is that when you hire millennials, you must be sure to judge them on their own actions and not make snap judgments based on generalities. If you do find a sense of entitlement, that’s easy enough to straighten out. For example, in the first weeks of an employee’s tenure, sit him or her down and show the person how they can advance within the company. It might seem odd to do that so early, but it lays out clear goals and paths forward. Millennials appreciate knowing that they will be able to advance their careers and it’s important that they realize nothing will be handed to them without effort on their part.
What are you doing to welcome millennial talent at your company? Let us know by tweeting @MSIGTS.