By DANIELLE CHEESMAN
Twenty-somethings are getting a bad rap
Generation Y can't catch a break. First, they were declared entirely non-existent, but instead a made-up cohort created by market researchers. Then, by those who acknowledged their early 1980s births, the Millennials were deemed the most likely to be stuck in the lowest-paying jobs available (more specifically as retail associates—a gig that can rake in an average of less than $20,000 a year). Subsequently, and not surprisingly, the Atlantic named them the "cheapest" generation.
Granted, the economic crisis has had a hand in their fruitless job searches and selective spending habits, but other demographic factors are allowing Millennials to live their lives the way their parents, well, didn't.
"I wouldn't call them the 'cheapest generation,'" said Tina Wells, author of "Chasing Youth Culture And Getting It Right," "but more so, the most 'cost conscious.' Regardless of the current economic climate, online shopping has allowed Gen Y to search for products, accessories, etc. at a reduced price. In the same regard, because of the economy, they are, more than ever, looking for these bargain deals. There's also the reoccurring trend of 'DIY'—or 'do it yourself'—fashion that's big with this generation this season. Why buy, when you can make it and wear it yourself?"
Additionally, as Atlantic writers Derek Thompson and Jordan Weissman reported, there are companies that promote and participate in the growing trend of a "sharing economy" like Zipcar, as well as Airbnb, an online service that matches travelers looking for short-term accommodations with private parties, and thredUp, a site where parents can buy and sell kids’ used clothing.
And as smartphones begin to best cars as young people’s big purchases, Sheryl Connelly, head of global consumer trends at Ford, admitted, “You no longer need to feel connected to your friends with a car when you have this technology that’s so ubiquitous, it transcends time and space."
"They aren't buying cars," said Dan Schawbel, Generation Y workplace and career expert. "Many have moved back in with their parents. They have been delaying major life milestones like getting married and buying a home."
Ironically, it's their parents—and other elders who have already met those milestones—that are becoming a source of conflict in the success of Generation Y. In 2008, the "workplace generation wars" made headlines; three years later, it got more personal between "Gen Y vs. Baby Boomers." And earlier this year, TIME asked "Who would you rather hire?,"written by Schawbel, himself.
"Gen Y has completed their education, but the older generation of Baby Boomers have not left [their jobs] yet due to their inability to retire," said Sherri Elliott-Yeary, author of "Ties to Tattoos: Turning Generational Differences into a Competitive Advantage." "They no longer have a 401K, they have a 201K plan and medical care has gotten so costly, so we have a backlog of educated Millennials with college degrees—and some with large student loans—that are still living at home, especially when they earn on average $9 an hour in retail or waitressing."
However, when they're not battling it out at a place of business, it's the parents' constant coddling that becomes the conflict. In March, US News reported that at least 1 in 4 twenty-somethings feel comfortable moving back home after college graduation because of "'helicopter parenting' and continued closeness with their parents." The article called it a "benefit."
But Elliott-Yeary sees only an adverse effect in parents' reactive rescuing. "Many Millennials grew up thinking they were good at everything because helicopter parents never let them try something and fail," she said, "which is how we learn what we are good at and what we aren’t as we develop our career goals. So, many Millennials obtained degrees in a field that they are not really passionate about or interested in and it's [become] easier [for them] to work a lower level job without the stress of choice of what to do when they grow up."
There's little denial that Generation Y was hit hardest by the economic crisis. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate among Millennials stands at 9 percent—that's 0.8 percent higher than the national average of 8.2. Still, Schawbel shows little mercy.
"Gen Y has to be accountable for their own career and lives," he said. "They can't rely on anything or anyone to be successful. They need to create their own jobs, possibly start companies and never give up. It doesn't look like the economy is going to turn around anytime soon, so Gen Y has to stop being entitled and take their future in their own hands."
To their advantage, however, is their creative nature and computer knowledge. Wells is keeping the faith.
"Millennials are tech savvy and conscious of the necessary steps to live life on their own terms," she said. "So, the retail associate today could end up being the next fashion mogul."
Collaboration vs. Collision: When do you think the last time you heard comments like these….. You’re right, but I’m the boss! Just do your job! I remember when … The kid wants a promotion after six months on the job! No! How did you react? Were you offended? Were you okay with the comment? Did you understand, or not understand, why someone would say these words?
The words and your reaction, as well as the reactions of others, reflect generational differences in the workplace. If you don’t think generation makes a difference, think of this example. When asked to recall how and where Kennedy died, the Veterans and Baby Boomers would say gunshots in Dallas, Texas; Generation X remembers a plane crash near Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.; and a Millennial might say, “Kennedy who?”
How can you effectively collaborate? • Understand the differences and learn to communicate in their language. • Develop training programs to educate your staff on the four generations. • Identify your knowledge workers and help them share their knowledge with the next generation.
An immense challenge lies before the nation’s health care sector: diversifying its workforce. A 2012 study by executive search firm Witt/Kieffer, “Diversity as a Business Builder in Healthcare,” found that diversity is lacking in health care leadership. This is unfortunate because industry leaders surveyed in the study believe diversity in the workplace improves patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes. This impact on the customer likely has similar effects in other industries.
A key tenet of excellent health care — like any service-oriented industry that meets a customer’s needs — is the caregiver’s ability to understand patients’ needs. This includes their diverse cultural needs — since, as the study noted, minorities account for 98 percent of the population growth in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas during the last decade.
It’s all part of knowing who you serve. Where does a patient, or customer, come from? How about their culture, values and sensitivities? Are these just as important to how we meet their needs?
Knowing all this begins with hiring — and promoting — employees whose cultural backgrounds represent the patients the organization serves. This takes a commitment both internally with employees and externally in the communities served. Companies seeking to do this should take the following 10 steps:
1. Embrace diversity: This seems basic, but it’s critical and worth noting first. A diverse workforce is a true competitive advantage. Promoting a culture that values employees for unique skills, experiences and perspectives distinguishes an organization as all-inclusive, relevant and truly understanding of what customers want and need. In essence, it is a treasure trove of customer and business intelligence.
Internally, the more leaders understand and respect their employees’ differences, the easier it will be to make seemingly difficult conversations more comfortable. This is critical when serving a religiously, culturally or otherwise diverse customer base.
2. Create a visual of your team: Keep ethnicity and gender data on hand so that hiring managers can create a visual picture of the individuals on each team. When numbers and percentages fail, this mental image of who is on the team can help senior leadership see where diverse populations are underrepresented or underutilized and especially compare them to the customer population. Of course, this comes with the need to reassure the team that only the most qualified candidates should be hired.
3. Build a hit list of superstars: Ask existing staff to refer potential recruits, since great employees usually associate with one another or can easily spot a top performer. Not hiring immediately? Collect and build a list of superstars to hire in the future. Keep in touch with them in the meantime.
4. Network with diverse organizations: Develop relationships with ethnically diverse professional associations and organizations, as well as local community boards and civic associations. Attend their conferences, speak at their functions and reciprocate by inviting them to company open houses and job fairs. Also, connect with vendors and suppliers who share a value for diversity and alert them to job openings for which they may have a candidate.
5. Set diversity expectations with recruiters: When using outside recruiters, ask for a diverse set of candidates and examples of high-caliber recruits they have recently placed. If they cannot easily rattle off a litany of names, then find another recruiter.
6. Invite staff into the inner circle: Create an environment of inclusion where all staff members feel valued, embrace the company’s mission, feel part of its vision and are fully tuned in with the organization’s business strategy. Help them understand just how important diversity is to serving customers best and that every individual is a big part of that. It’s easy to lose top performers because they feel detached, especially in large organizations.
7. Let your employees shine: Acknowledge — and celebrate — your staff’s accomplishments and set them up for success. This small step goes a long way in engaging employees and encouraging them to go the extra mile. Give opportunities for employees to demonstrate excellence. Assign them projects that suit their skills, recognize their achievement and celebrate it in a public way — either inside or outside your organization. In this recognition, make a point to celebrate them as a diverse individual, not just their work.
8. Mentor and shadow: The best learning happens in the field, so develop a mentoring and shadowing program that pairs hiring managers with employees of different cultural or ethnic backgrounds or genders. This creates a trusted, educational environment where employees can feel safe about asking questions regarding different backgrounds, and also lets them see different cultural styles at work.
9. Achieve employees’ dreams: Encourage leaders to know the career desires of the staff who report to them. This puts them in the position to always know when a promotional opportunity might be the best fit and help further their career goals. It also gives the opportunity to challenge employees with new assignments that broaden their skills and expose them to different chances for success.
10. Over-communicate: Relationships matter, and they are only built with repeated communication. This could mean deliberately initiating a conversation with an employee, listening to what they say, providing feedback and calling their attention to your follow through. Or, it can mean brief acknowledgements of their work, which add up and make a difference over time. On the other end of the spectrum, it should take the form of an internal communications plan that, from an HR perspective, tells employees what positions are open, how to apply, updates from HR, etc.
A key to all these steps is relationships — inside and out — with those already hired and targeted to join your team. No matter the industry — be it health care or another — businesses can use focused attention on recruitment of minorities as a way to build culture, morale and the strength of the entire business.
All Rights Reserved 2012 – Sherri Elliott-Yeary
Here comes another collision in the generation wars, the fight about whether post-boomers are selfish, moneygrubbing fame seekers – the “Me” Generation – or confident, group-oriented volunteers – the “We” Generation.
In research published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, I found that, over the last 40 years, young people have become increasingly focused on money and fame while caring less about politics, their communities or the environment. My research based its conclusions on analyses of surveys taken by 9 million high school seniors and college freshmen.
At Clark University, Jeffrey Jensen Arnett studies “emerging adults,” those aged about 18 to 25. He doesn’t think change comes neatly packaged in generations, but said youth trends over the last 20 years have mainly been positive. Volunteerism and graduation rates are up, he said, while crime, drug use, and teen pregnancy are down. Today’s young people are tolerant of differences in ethnicity, sexual orientation, and religion, he said. If anything, he said, this is a “generous generation.”
My survey questions were about what students did, rather than what they thought, and it supported my view of how each generation chooses what is important to them.
According to the surveys I received, the proportion of students who said it was very important to be wealthy increased from 45 percent for baby boomers to 70 percent for Gen Xers and 75 percent for Millennials. The percentage who thought it was important to keep up with politics fell from 50 percent for boomers to 39 percent for Gen Xers and 35 percent for Millennials.
The biggest drop was in whether youths felt the need to develop a meaningful philosophy of life. Seventy-three percent of boomers thought that was important, compared with 45 percent of Millennials, but Millennials still thought it more important than money.
It’s not a news flash to those who’ve had to unexpectedly look for a new position, but for younger generations, that’s how they view work. A job is the place to learn, gather experience, make connections, build skills or a portfolio, but it’s not the last stop on the career train.
At the same time, they’re creating options for themselves, keeping an eye out for what’s next, and trading information with their vast online networks. Mobility is not limited to Millennials, however, my research found that the younger the executive, the more apt to voluntarily change jobs. Executives Who Considered Leaving their Job for Another Opportunity in 2011
Generation X (31-45) 58%
Early Boomers (46-55) 55%
Baby Boomers (56-65) 45%
Traditionalists (65+) 22%
Respondents to our recent annual executive market intelligence survey were, on average, employed 6.6 years at their current organization, and the time at the job lengthened according to their age. Average Number of Years at Most Recent Organization
Generation X (31-45) 5.8
Early Boomers (46-55) 6.4
Baby Boomers (56-65) 7.0
Traditionalists (65+) 9.9
The last few years have especially signified that no job should be considered permanent and that complacency is the partner of long-term job search. Career management is a perpetual state where you are always setting the foundation for the next opportunity — no matter how old you are.
As women, it can be hard to “toot our own horns” and own up to our strengths. But it’s so important to know your worth and to be able to speak to it! We’re reading the following four tips on self-promotion, from forbeswoman.com.
Want to make a woman feel uncomfortable? Just ask about her strengths. It’s no stereotype: Studies show that women are notoriously bad at promoting themselves.
One study, from employee search firm ISR, attributes this trait to the high value women place on relationships and communities. Women don’t speak about their strengths; the reasoning goes, because they don’t want to alienate people who are less successful.
Whatever its cause, this hesitance to self-promote hurts women’s careers. In today’s competitive world the people most vocal about their accomplishments are the ones most likely to get ahead. And by downplaying their accomplishments and deflecting praise onto others, women act like their own worst enemies.
As a marketing consultant for women business owners, I see this behavior all the time. I’ve also heard countless excuses for why women avoid self-promotion. These excuses tend to fall into one of four categories, which I’ve dubbed the four myths of self-promotion:
The Assertive Woman Myth-”Self-promotion will make me look arrogant.”
Not all self-promotion is shameless. Sometimes it’s essential to a successful career, whether that means reminding a boss of your achievements or publicizing the 10th anniversary of your business. But many women have trouble making the distinction between shameless bragging and smart marketing.
The Queen Myth-”If I’m good enough, people will hear about it.”
This myth originates from fairy tales where the princess waits for her knight to arrive and sweep her off her feet. Generations of girls have heard this story. Many grow up believing it’s true. If you work hard and wait patiently enough, someone will eventually notice.
Unfortunately, this only applies to fairy tales. In the corporate world most people are juggling too many responsibilities to notice what others are doing well. This goes double for people with the authority to give promotions and pay raises. For business owners, simply waiting for the right customers to appear is a recipe for failure.
The world is too full of competition for businesses to stay solvent without good promotion.
The Friends and Family Myth-”Others should talk about my accomplishments, not me.”
Some women assume that their friends, family and other customers will do their marketing for them by spreading positive word of mouth. While word of mouth is a great form of promotion, relying on word of mouth alone can hurt your chances of success.
Let’s face it–no one is more passionate about your work than you. No one else knows the depth of your experience and expertise. And no one can elaborate on your unique skills as convincingly as you can. By delegating promotion to others, you’re taking away your best opportunity to demonstrate your value.
The Martyr Myth-”You can’t control what people think anyway.”
When self-promotion makes you feel uncomfortable, it can be tempting to take a “why bother?” attitude. After all, people form their first impressions before you even say a word, so there’s no sense trying to change their minds … right? Wrong!
The Bottom Line
The myths you believe often mask a deeper insecurity about the value you place on what you have to offer. If you don’t fully believe in yourself, you’ll naturally resist stepping into the spotlight. This resistance, plus generations of conditioning to be humble and stand on the sidelines, has left many women unprepared for today’s ultra-competitive business world.
That doesn’t mean you have to play the role of a pushy saleswoman to get ahead. But it does require taking small steps outside your comfort zone. Get familiar with your strong points. Write them down if necessary and put them somewhere you’ll see them often. (Practice talking yourself up in front of friends: They’ll give you honest feedback about what works and what doesn’t.)
Most importantly, tap into your passion for what you do. By denying your passion a voice, you keep the world from benefiting from what you have to offer. And that’s the most shameful thing of all. Reprinted from ForbesWoman.com
While the recession flooded the market with available talent, the talent pool is once again starting to gain the upper hand in the job market. As the recession subsides, businesses that want to remain competitive will shift their focus from cost-cutting to employee retention. The trick is knowing exactly the right time to shift: companies that shift too soon will lose money, while companies that shift too late will lose talent.
Organizations that have cut staff and asked their remaining employees to pick up the slack may find themselves eventually losing good employees to burnout and the lure of greener pastures. Although it’s tempting to think the Great Recession unveiled some new economic model in which one person can effectively do the job of two, the reality is this model is not sustainable in a positive economy. Just as a runner can only sprint for so long, an employee can only burn the candle at both ends for so many months before he starts thinking about moving on.
Even despite tough economic times, the younger generations in particular still expect to achieve a balance between their LIFE and WORK, and organizations who rely on Generation X-ers and Millennials must meet these expectations in order to retain them. Beginning this year, there are more Millennials (born 1981-2000) alive than Baby Boomers (born 1944-1960). Over the next two decades, U.S. companies will lose 76 million Boomers to retirement, leaving 30 million jobs unfilled. The good news is, structuring programs that create the work-life balance so craved by Xers and Millennials does not necessarily mean businesses must put up with employees who are willing to work less. It simply means making a few minor adjustments to the traditional 9-5 paradigm, or maybe even implementing innovative mentoring and training programs, many of which are free.
Providing flexible work hours and accommodating people’s need to be in certain other places at certain other times is one of the most powerful ways to Attract and Retain top talent. A 2008 poll of 1500 technology workers conducted by Dice Holdings, Inc. revealed that 37 percent of workers would accept a salary cut if allowed to work from home. Accordingly, organizations may find they can save money and attract top talent for less by simply offering the ability to telecommute. This is a model that works even on a large scale—no less than 70 percent of Cisco Systems’ workforce currently telecommutes. Recent technological advances make remote management easier than ever before. It’s not difficult to monitor employees’ online presence, and VoIP phone systems will re-route calls to a direct office line through to any cell or home telephone. In this way, workers can be anywhere and still be available in the office.
Telecommuting programs are not the only way to motivate and retain talent. In addition to their desire for LIFE-WORK balance, Millennials tend to be highly motivated and ambitious. They want to work in positions where they have the opportunity to do meaningful work, to make a difference, to learn, and to advance their careers. Assigning projects that give Millennials the chance to work with senior management and share the spotlight keeps them excited about their job, which in turn motivates them to stay longer.
Adding this type of mentoring program is a cost effective solution to motivate and retain the best millennial talent, and it also has the added bonus of facilitating knowledge-transfer from soon-to-be-retiring workers to the up and coming leaders of the organization.
The workplace dynamic is changing. Businesses who successfully ride the crest of change will recruit and keep the best employees and maintain a competitive advantage in the market.
Susan was doing well in her job. She had an eight-hour workday, great friends, a supportive family, good health, and she was paid well. Everyone around her thought she was happy and lived an ideal life.
Susan was well-compensated and appeared to have time to balance her career and personal life. But she was struggling.
But Susan’s life was actually a mess. Her overly aggressive boss thought nothing of shouting at her in front of her colleagues. Though Susan was a good performer, she was constantly anxious about the next time her supervisor would berate her. Though she was expected to work eight-hour days, her boss would call her at any time of the day or night.
Susan began to dread hearing her cellphone ring and was so worried all the time that she couldn’t even sleep. She fretted that her colleagues and friends would lose respect for her, and she lost so much confidence that she couldn’t handle even the simplest of social interactions. Susana began to spend less time with her friends and family, where she would have to put up a brave face, and instead devoted more hours to work, where she could worry freely, obsessing over every detail of her job to the point of compulsiveness.
By most traditional measures of work-life balance, Susan was doing quite well. She was well compensated for an eight-hour workday, and she appeared to have enough free time to balance her career and personal life. But in reality, Susana was struggling. What’s more, her frustrations would not be picked up by conventional measures of wellbeing, because those measures don’t take into account the quality of people’s experiences, nor do they incorporate people’s own evaluations of their lives. Instead, those measures rely on factors like income and number of hours worked, under the assumption that these factors determine the quality of people’s lives.
Beyond work-life balance
When the idea of work-life balance was first introduced, it was a revolutionary concept. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Industrial Revolution and its resulting shift to manufacturing work made it possible for employers to require workers to labor longer hours than ever before in human history. In some industries, people toiled 14 to 16 hours a day, six to seven days a week.
As researchers began to study the impact that these long hours had on stress levels, health, and family life, the idea of work-life balance gained currency, and many countries began to legislate limits to the workweek. Most developed nations now mandate 40-46 working hours per week, with a minimum of two weeks per year of holiday/vacation.
The concept of work-life balance has been instrumental in influencing these changes and bringing about an improvement in the quality of life that is assumed to accompany shorter working hours. But the concept is useful only up to a point. Globalization has undermined the relevance of reducing worker hours to achieve work-life balance and has revealed limitations; the most significant is that at some point, limiting hours further is just not sustainable.
France has mandated a 35-hour workweek, for example. But what can the country do next? The workweek can’t be reduced indefinitely, as this has implications for a country’s economic viability and competitiveness. In a globalized world, if workers in one country are unwilling to work for economically viable hours, then businesses will migrate to a country where they are willing to do so. In countries such as India and Pakistan, workers are motivated to work 10- to 12-hour workdays — and this is unlikely to change soon due to the large number of workers willing to do so to move up the economic ladder.
Another problem with the concept of work-life balance is that it takes the number of working hours into account but not the quality of the working experience. A person may spend 35 hours a week at work, but if that worker, like Susan, has an abrasive manager or is in a highly stressful job or one that is not suited to her natural talents, then those manageable work hours are unlikely to enhance her quality of life. Conversely, a person may choose to work long hours because it allows her to progress in her career or to build a social system at work.
Thus, the assumption that reduced hours at work lead to an improvement in personal life is too narrow, and probably faulty. Other factors, such as social support, health, safety, and job fit, contribute greatly to the quality of a person’s life. Since the concept of work-life balance doesn’t take into account these significant factors, it does not provide direction as to how people can actually improve the quality of their lives, except for reducing the hours spent at work. As such, it is not actionable.
The assumption that reduced hours at work lead to an improvement in personal life is too narrow, and probably faulty
How we think about and experience our lives
A more comprehensive concept-one that’s more appropriate for the 21st-century economy-is that of wellbeing, which includes factors that contribute to our experiences and our perception of our lives. Until recently, wellbeing has been seen as an esoteric concept that is difficult to define and quantify. It is most commonly understood as relating to wealth or health, perhaps because of the ease with which these things can be measured.
One reason that wellbeing has been difficult to define is that it means different things to different people depending on what they consider important. To one person, it may mean prosperity or wealth; to another, it may mean values or community involvement or the realization of one’s potential. This is why wellbeing should be measured at the individual level, though it may be aggregated for organizations, communities, and nations. And any measure of wellbeing must be broad enough to incorporate an individual’s own choices and purpose in life while being specific enough to be compared and aggregated to facilitate action that can improve it.
Gallup has developed a wellbeing metric that includes the five key elements of wellbeing: Career, Social, Financial, Physical, and Community. These five distinct factors emerged from research that Gallup conducted across countries, languages, and vastly different life situations. Because these elements of wellbeing are universal, they can be measured and reported on for individuals, organizations, cities, countries, and regions around the world.
Because Gallup’s wellbeing assessment measures these elements individually in addition to yielding an overall score, it is actionable: The assessment gives individuals, organizations, cities, and countries the ability to manage wellbeing by undertaking actions to improve it. If an individual has relatively low Social Wellbeing, for example, she would do well to focus her efforts on improving interpersonal relationships with friends and family.
This can be managed over time. As her Social Wellbeing increases, she may choose to concentrate on Career Wellbeing, for instance, or choose to address both elements by spending time socializing with colleagues and making friends at work. In this way, wellbeing can be measured and managed comprehensively at the individual, as well as government, state, city, or corporate levels, by taking its various components and their interactions into account.
Conventional metrics such as employment status, income, educational level, hours worked, and women’s participation in the workforce are necessary to understand an economy, but they are insufficient when it comes to understanding and evaluating overall life satisfaction. Unless we begin to use a metric of a life well-lived — as measured by one’s own experiences and evaluation — people like Susan will continue to be under the radar, aware that something is amiss, but without an idea why or what to do about it.
The Five Essentials of Wellbeing
For many years studies have been done exploring the demands of a life well-lived. More recently, due to the evolving workforce and generational issues there has been an increasing need to understand how to help our employers achieve a well-balanced life. The elements of wellbeing that transcend the global work environment that differentiate a thriving life not a surviving life are as follows:
- Career Wellbeing: how you occupy your time — or simply liking what you do every day
- Social Wellbeing: having strong relationships and love in your life
- Financial Wellbeing: effectively managing your economic life
- Physical Wellbeing: having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis
- Community Wellbeing: the sense of engagement you have with the area where you live
Take a moment and enjoy all the gifts you have and it will reduce your stress and only say “YES” to the activities and life experiences that you know you want to do!
They’re young, smart, brash. They may wear flip flops to the office or listen to IPODs at their desk. They want to work, but they don’t want to work to be their LIFE.
These are Millennials a force of as many as 70 million, and the first wave is just now embarking on their careers — taking their place in an increasingly multigenerational workplace.
Get ready, because this generation — whose members have not yet hit 30 — is different from any that have come before them.
This age group is moving into the labor force during a time of major demographic change, as companies around the USA face an aging workforce. Sixty-year-olds are working beside 20-year-olds. Freshly minted college graduates are overseeing employees old enough to be their parents. And new job entrants are changing careers faster than college students change their majors, creating frustration for employers struggling to retain and recruit talented high-performers.
Unlike the generations that have gone before them, Millennials have been pampered, nurtured and programmed with a slew of activities since they were toddlers, meaning they are both high-performance and high-maintenance, they also believe in their own worth.
Millennials are much less likely to respond to the traditional command-and-control type of management still popular in much of today’s workforce. They’ve grown up questioning their parents, and now they’re questioning their employers. They don’t know how to shut up, which is great, but that’s aggravating to the 50-year-old manager who says, ‘Do it and do it now.’
A great deal is known about Millennials:
They have financial smarts. After witnessing the financial insecurity that beset earlier generations stung by layoffs and the dot-com bust, today’s newest entrants into the workforce are generally savvy when it comes to money and savings. They care about such benefits as 401(k) retirement plans.
Thirty-seven percent of Millennials expect to start saving for retirement before hey reach 25, with 46% of those already working indicating so, according to a September survey by Purchase, N.Y.-based Diversified Investment Advisors. And 49% say retirement benefits are a very important factor in their job choices. Among those eligible, 70% of this generation contributes to their 401(k) plan.
Work-life balance isn’t just a buzz word. Unlike boomers who tend to put a high priority on career, today’s youngest workers are more interested in making their jobs accommodate their family and personal lives. They want jobs with flexibility, telecommuting options and the ability to go part time or leave the workforce temporarily when children are in the picture.
There’s a higher value on self-fulfillment. After 9/11, there is a realization that life is short. You value it more.
Change, change, change. Millennials don’t expect to stay in a job, or even a career, for too long — they’ve seen the scandals that imploded Enron and Arthur Andersen, and they’re skeptical when it comes to such concepts as employee loyalty.
They don’t like to stay too long on any one assignment. This is a generation of multitaskers, and they can juggle e-mail on their IPAD’s while talking on cellphones while working.
And they believe in their own self-worth and value enough that they’re not shy about trying to change the companies they work for. That compares somewhat with Gen X, a generation born from the mid-1960s to the late-1970s, known for its independent thinking, addiction to change and emphasis on family.
They’re like Generation X on steroids. They walk in with high expectations for themselves, their employer, and their boss. If you thought you saw a clash when Generation X came into the workplace that was a fake punch. The workplace changer is due to Millennials.
Conflicts over casual dress
In the workplace, conflict and resentment can arise over a host of issues, even seemingly innocuous subjects such as appearance, as a generation used to casual fare such as flip-flops, tattoos and capri pants finds more traditional attire is required at the office.
But some conflict is inevitable. More than 60% of employers say they are experiencing tension between employees from different generations, according to a survey by Lee Hecht Harrison.
The survey found more than 70% of older employees are dismissive of younger workers’ abilities. And nearly half of employers say that younger employees are dismissive of the abilities of their older co-workers.
Who Are Making the Necessary Changes in today’s Workplace?
Xerox is using the slogan “Express Yourself” as a way to describe its culture to recruits. The hope is that the slogan will appeal to Gen Y’s desire to develop solutions and change. Recruiters also point out the importance of diversity at the company; Millennials are one of the most diverse demographic groups — one out of three is a minority.
“(Gen Y) is very important,” says Joe Hammill, director of talent acquisition. “Xerox and other Fortune-type companies view this emerging workforce as the future of our organization.”
As our discussions of the different generations goes forth, please keep in mind that every individual is different. That does not mean, however, that it is impossible for people with certain shared cultural experiences to develop similar sets of behaviors and outlooks. As much as we are individuals, we also share much in common with our peers. Thus, if we assert that Baby Boomers are avid learners, it does not mean that every Baby Boomer is an avid learner. We all know individuals who are Baby Boomers and who are not at all interested in pursuing additional learning opportunities. Likewise, if we say that Millennials are more likely to have good manners than Gen Xers, it does not mean that all Millennials are polite or that all Gen Xers are rude. It simply means that certain behaviors are more typical of each group than of others. The point is raised because you should not become frustrated when, for the purposes of discussion, certain broad characteristics are made. This is unavoidable, and you must realize that the broad statements are based on behaviors that have been analyzed and measured for statistically significant presence among population groups.
Millennials born between 1981-2000, depending on the source are vastly different from previous generations – especially Boomers. Members of the millennial generation cut their teeth on computer keyboards, and to them, computer technology and the Internet are as natural as breathing. This generation’s members know more about digital technology than their parents or teachers, and this is a promise of change not only the way families interact and communicate, but also how young people relate to school and learning.
Millennials combine the can-do attitude of Traditionalists, the teamwork ethic of Boomers and the technological savvy of Generation X. For this group, the preferred learning environment combines teamwork and technology. In a classroom with lots of Millennials, give everyone a task. When a few have completed it, encourage them to walk around the room and help others. They’re used to working this way in school.
Millennials are the most diverse generation in history. Members are born to the most diverse mix of parents in history as well – from teenagers to middle-aged moms who postponed childbearing to establish a career – from Boomers to Xers. One third of this generation was born to single, unwed mothers. This generation is less white and more culturally diverse than any generation in our history to date.
Many of the parents of Millennials are mid-life Boomers, used to winning and achieving. Millennial members have come to age in a very child-focused world. Many of them had Boomers as parents, and Boomers are as competitive for their children as they are for themselves. Boomers are used to getting their own way, and they have been strong advocates for their children. Because Boomers have worked long hours, because of many single parent families, because of an increasing violent world and because of the desire for their children to “get ahead,” Boomers have made sure their children participated in all forms of lessons and activities. Thus, Millennials have grown up in a very structured, busy and over planned world. Also, Millennials are made up of confident, optimistic young people who feel valued and wanted.
Here are some of the characteristics identified for Generation Millennial:
1. Closer relationship with parents.
2. Admiration for their parents (33% names one or both parents as their hero, rather than a pop culture celebrity).
3. A closer sphere of influence – a more dangerous world has created an environment which is more sheltered and structured, and where young people have been protected.
4. The small sphere of influence has contributed to the creation of a generation that is, in general, more polite and considerate than their predecessors. They are less likely to call adults by their first names, but rather use the more formal Mr. or Mrs.
5. Attentive and respectful. This generation has been brought up to show respect for others. In a crowded world where there are larger numbers of people in classroom and activities, civility becomes essential to getting along.
6. Programmed and team oriented. Some college administrators believe that many Millennials have “lost the sense of pure play.” They expect everything to be planned for them and do not expect to have as much freedom – or responsibility for structuring their educational lives.
7. Having spent a large percentage of time in structured activities, they are accustomed to having a lot of adult supervision. Thus, they may have poor conflict resolution skills.
8. Pressured to succeed. The Boomers, parents of the millennial generation feel pressured themselves to succeed and also transferred that pressure to their children. In addition, just as Boomers have lived in a world where there is increasing competition for resources, Millennials have done the same.
9. Involved. This is a generation of activists – young people who believe they can make a difference.
10. Egalitarian. This cohort often prefers to work in teams or groups. They definitely do not prefer hierarchy. Sometimes faculty finds the lack of authoritarian hierarchy in their groups creates ambiguity when it comes to having a point of contact for information.
11. Open and eager. Members of this generation are very open and eager. Students are responsive and “very smart” according to some faculty.
12. Demanding of themselves and others. Members of this cohort set the bar high for themselves and they, like their Boomer parents, expect success. They sometimes “expect” to get good grades and are upset when this does not happen.
13. Stressed. Compared with five years ago, 81% of college mental health service directors reported an increase in students with serious psychological problems. Pressure to succeed is one reason identified by some counselors.
14. Multi-taskers. This generation can easily manage to listen to music, work on the computer and watch television at the same time. This means they need a lot of stimulation in their learning environments and may be more focused than it seems to their teachers.
Here are some shared experiences of Generation Millennial:
1. Child focus (Sylvan Learning Centers)
2. Oklahoma City bombing
3. Busy, over-planned lives (more than 75% of time spent in structured experiences)
5. Malfunction at Three Mile Island nuclear power plant caused a near meltdown
6. Iranian students took 66 people hostage at the US Embassy in Tehran
7. US boycotts the Olympics in Moscow
8. President Regan shot
9. The Equal Rights Amendment passed (though not ratified)
10. The Space Shuttle Challenger explodes shortly after liftoff, killing all seven astronauts on board
11. The Exxon Valdez spills more than ten million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound
12. The Berlin Wall demolished
13. Persian Gulf War
14. Four white police officers accused of beating Rodney King were acquitted; shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado left 13 students and one teacher dead; the Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 10,000 for the first time
15. It took more than a month to declare a winner of the presidential election because of ballot (“hanging chad”) disputes
16. Four US planes were hijacked in attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing more than 3000 people leading the US into an ongoing fight against terrorism
17. The Space Shuttle Columbia exploded upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts on board.
18. War is waged against Afghanistan and Iraq
Here are some additional characteristics of Generation Millennial:
1. Bigger than Baby Boomer Generation
2. 3 times the size of Generation X
3. Roughly 26% of the population
7. Weak on interpersonal skills
10. Support social causes
12. Active/hands-on learners
13. Use technology
14. Spending power exceeds $200 billion
16. Strong views
17. Close to family
And finally, Generation Millennial in the classroom:
While boomers like to be in charge of their own learning and the Generation Xers prefer to work independently with self-directed projects, Millennials prefer learning that provides interaction with their colleagues. They like a lot more structure and direction than Generation X. The want to know everything up front as far as what is expected and what criteria will be used to evaluate their performance. They are the most likely to want to ask questions like, “Will this be on the test?” or specifics such as “how is this going to affect my life in a positive way?” Certainty and security is key for this group. Tying the leaning outcomes to economic objectives is important for Millennials. This generation is as comfortable with technology as a fish is with water. In spite of their technology savvy, they are in some ways very traditional. Members of the millennial generation are motivated to learn in order to reduce stress and increase their marketability. They place high value on developing good interpersonal skills and in “getting along.” This is a generation that is polite, believes in manners, adheres to strict moral code, and believes in civic action. This is a generation that places a high value on making money – more than any previous generation – and they see education as a means to this goal. Like Generation X, this generation likes learning to be entertaining and fun, and become quickly bored in a learning environment that is not highly active and interactive. They grew up with the Learning Channel and Chuck E. Cheese – edu-tainment and eat-o-tainment. Stand-up talking is deadly for this group who, even as adults, respond to music, art, games, and other creative activities. Leaning materials for this group should have the same levels of value interest and multiple focal points as those of Generation X. However, there is an important difference in Millennials in this regard. It is a generation of readers, so written information works well with this group.
Tips for Teaching Generation Millennial:
Some experts have asserted, “there is a growing mismatch between faculty and students in terms of teaching and learning.”
1. Develop opportunities for experiential learning. Small group discussions, projects, in-class presentations and debates, peer critiques, team projects, service learning, field experiences, developing simulations and case method approaches have been found to be successful for high school and college Millennial students.
2. Encourage the development of learning and sharing communities – small groups of students that can discuss and analyze readings and assignments. This also addresses the need of many millennial students for hands-on activities in the classroom.
3. Provide lots of structure. Having grown up in a highly structured world, Millennials look for structure in their learning setting. They want to know precisely what is required of them, when work is due and very specific information about expectations.
4. Provide lots of feedback. Providing frequent feedback is essential for Generations Y’s. This allows them to know when they are headed in the right direction and when they are getting off-track. Frequent attention from teachers is welcome.
5. Use technology. This is a generation that uses technology for “everything.” A classroom that does not incorporate it will not meet students’ needs for variety, stimulation, and access to information. Some classrooms still require students to study and learn in ways that, to them, are completely different from the ways they operate in every other aspect of their daily lives.
6. Make it fun. Like their Generation X predecessors, they want to enjoy their learning. If it is not fun, it will be cast into the category of “boring” and may become less effective. Millennials learn best when they are entertained.
7. Incorporate games. For them using computers games as an instructional technique can be very effective. These incorporate many of the strategies that Millennials have already developed for learning: multi-media sensory stimulation, interactive (either with other people or with the computer), individualization (customization) of the learning experience, and control over processing time, highly visual.
8. Be relevant. Like Generation Xers, Millennials will demand relevance in what they are learning. This will also want to “skip” steps in learning if there are areas of the information that have already mastered, and will avoid repetition and rote practice once they feel they have mastered the information.
9. Utilize their talents. This is a generation that likes to be useful and helpful. If you have students who know more about a topic than you do, let them talk about what they know. If they finish an assignment early, let them help other students.
10. Present the big picture. Many in this generation are global or “big picture” learners. They learn better if they have the big picture and then learn more concrete and specific information.
11. Allow for creativity and be creative. This is a generation that thinks in many dimensions at once. Provide opportunities for them to be creative in how they approach and fulfill requirements. Music, art, and games are good teaching tools.
12. Offer multiple options for performance. Try to provide a variety of acceptable, measurable outcomes so that students can optimize their performance.
13. Be visual. This group is the most visual of all learning cohorts. In general, visual learners predominate, but among millennial learners it is even more strongly preferred than in other age groups.
14. Be organized. Because they need a lot of structure, millennial students also learn best when materials are presented in a well-organized and rational way. Millennial students are much more prolific readers than Generation Xers, so reading materials for them are not a stumbling block. However, materials should be clear, use lots of white space, and be visually accessible, just as for Generation X. Summarizing key points is very important for this group. They want to know where they are going with their learning – and why.
15. Be smart. Unlike Generation Xers, Millennials will not look at you with disdain if they feel they know more than you about a specific topic. However, they will expect you to be open to hearing their ideas and to demonstrate competence as a teacher. To this generation being “a good teacher” is more important than knowing everything.
16. Be fair. Like their Boomer parents, fairness is important to this group.
17. Recognize the need for social interaction. This is a key for millennial learners, so learning strategies that incorporate social interaction work well.
18. Remember, talk is essential. Develop activities that encourage students to exchange information verbally. When they say it, it is converted more quickly to long-term memory.
19. Structure a learning environment that demands respect and positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement, from teachers and peers improved learning and increases motivation.
20. Tie learning to actions. For some key information, students can increase their recall if there is a specific action linked to their learning of a key fact. For example, if you want students to remember the date of the Norman invasion, then you give them the information, the year 1066, have then hold up 10 fingers and then 6 fingers. The information will stay with them forever.
21. Think positively. Positive thinking stimulates the brain. It increases the likelihood of success.
22. Be clear and precise. Give students clear goals, targets and purpose. Millennials particularly want to know precisely what they need to do meet the requirements of the class. This is not a lack of intellectual curiosity, but a desire to be efficient. Keep in mind that these students have been exposed to more information in their lives than the two preceding generations combined. They know a lot. For them, school is one of the many ways to get information, and they are used to getting what they need or want in ways that are efficient for them.
23. Allow focus time. The millennial generation’s attention span declines after 15-20 minutes. You have you student’s brain for only 20 minutes at a time. Break up a training class into 20-30 minute segments with some kind of activity (outbursts, e.g.).
24. Talk is critical. Talking stimulates the brain, in particular, the frontal lobe, the area which controls higher-level thinking and decision-making. Social interaction is important to memory and learning.
25. Enhance procedural memory with movement. Procedural memory is stored in the body – it is muscle memory. Riding a bike is an example of procedural memory. Procedural memory is easy to access. Relating procedural memory to cognitive tasks can improve recall.
26. Make learning relevant. Tie learning tasks to real-world problems. If it is not seen as relevant, there will be resistance to learning.