Let’s address the elephant in the room before we get into what I’m about to share with you… I am 21 years old. And I am the youngest employee at StringCan Interactive. That little tidbit shouldn’t matter to anyone, but the fact remains that my age (and my peers’ ages) are often the topic of conversation among businesspeople. Our generation, the “millennials,” are often talked about in hushed tones, as if we’re some sort of confusing breed of human that no one has seen before. Luckily, not everyone feels this way – least of all, us millennials!
Regardless of your experiences with this younger generation, the fact is that you’re bound to have some of us in your workforce. Pew Research Center even found that one of every three American employees falls into the millennial category, which we’re classifying as those between 18 and 34 years of age. So like us or not, we’re everywhere. And if you’re looking to get the most of every employee, it’s important to understand the millennial mindset and what really gets our engines whirring. Here’s my take, backed up by recent research released by Agency Management Institute and Audience Audit™.
What we Care about Most in our Jobs
When people make blanket generalizations about the millennial generation, they’re often referencing some element of entitlement. They might say that this group expects to work flexible hours or get higher pay earlier in their careers without having to work their way up. But the results of the Agency Millennial Research Report tell a different story. In fact, when millennials’ priorities at work were compared to those of the 35 year + age group, the main areas of importance were very similar.
For instance, both groups identified “opportunities to learn and improve skills” as a top concern within their jobs, along with “opportunities to advance.” Both of these make a lot of sense. Humans, of any age, want to be able to see indications of progress in their work and to feel a sense of accomplishment along the way. Being able to master new skills and be promoted allows any of us to move past stagnancy and feel pride that we’re improving and adding value.
Furthermore, both groups responded that they highly value their responsibilities and their salaries. Again, neither of these is surprising. But perks that are typically associated with millennial expectations (like flexible hours, work-from-home time, etc.) weren’t near the top of the younger-aged group’s list. In a nutshell – we take pride in our work and want to grow, just like anyone else. If employers give us opportunity to do so, we will contribute more to the company and thrive.
Career Longevity… What’s That?
This is one area in which I’ve got to hand it to the naysayers… millennials are indeed a job-hopping crowd. In the findings from the Agency Management Institute and Audience Audit™ survey, 58 percent of younger millennials (between ages 18 and 26) expect to be at their current company for two years or less. Meanwhile, 48 percent of non-millennials expect to be at their current company for five years or more. This is a pretty stark contrast, and speaks to the insatiable curiosity – and perhaps restless ambition – of my generation.
While you might not be able to lasso your millennial employees long enough to keep them at your company for more than a couple of years, you can still incentivize them to get the most out of them while you have them. Again, offering opportunities for training and advancement in title or responsibilities can go a long way in creating an environment they’d like to remain within. Even if they decide to hop along to the next career opportunity that comes their way in a year or two, you’ll still get some of the benefit of investing in these individuals while they’re part of your team.
Attitude > Age
Throughout each area of the survey I’m referencing, the biggest surprise was that there weren’t all that many differences between millennials and non-millennials. Really. Sure, my generation tends to be more tech-savvy and antsy to move on to our next role than the older generations might, but otherwise we’re all pretty similar. We want to do good work, improve ourselves and meaningfully contribute to something bigger than ourselves. So when it comes to your team, each individual’s attitude is far more important than his or her age. Focus on the people behind the number, and respecting them as human beings, and you’ll have a much more symbiotic workforce.
Oh, and before I close this out, I need to get one more thing out of the way. I know I’m guilty throughout this whole post, but can we please drop the term “millennial” once and for all? I don’t want to be called one – and neither do your employees. If you need to label us, “younger humans” will work just fine.