Millennials Demystified by Millennials
Millennials, Millennials, Millennials….We may all feel like this topic has been beaten to death, and yet we just can’t stop ourselves from asking, “What makes them tick?” As co-chairs of AMC’s Young Professionals SIG and because we are both Millennials (although on slightly opposite ends of the age spectrum) we have a unique perspective on how our generation functions as a product of our surroundings. We sat down to answer some burning questions and provide insight into the largest generation in the workforce today:
What are some common misconceptions about Millennials?
Val: I think “needy” is one that I hear that, in some ways, I relate to. The idea that Millennials ask lots of questions and for help on many things can ring true, but I think understanding where that’s coming from can help demystify it for older bosses and employers. I think part of our desire for clarification comes from a fear of failure, especially if there are a lack of clear instructions or things are left up to vague expectations. Millennials may ask lots of questions, but that’s because we want to do a good job, know what our resources are, and understand what the end product should look like.
Andrea: For me, a misconception is that Millennials are entitled and lazy, or that they don’t want to work hard for their achievements. Just from the demographics here at AMC, where over 40% of employees fall into the Young Professional category, it would sure seem that we are an active and vibrant component of the workforce. I can recall my first years out of college when finding a job was so hard – I would have taken ANYTHING, and just happened to stumble into association management (which I luckily love). At the time though, it felt horrible to hear things like “entitled,” “lazy,” or what Val said above – “needy.”
What do Millennials really want in a job? In an employer?
Andrea: Continuing Val’s thought from the first question, I think Millennials really want clear expectations, but with the freedom to get to the final product in the way that works for them. We may do things a little differently, but that doesn’t necessarily make it bad! I also think many of us want a strong mentor relationship with our supervisors or someone with a bit more experience than us. We grew up in a closely regulated environment – school, team sports, clubs, jobs at young ages, so we often work better in a team.
Val: It feels like so many people think Millennials are looking for the new and hip places to work, which isn’t necessarily true. While it may be cool to have a ping pong table or free snacks, I think overall we are looking more for work/life balance and the chance to make a difference. In terms of a position, I think Millennials like having some sort of structure, but also the ability and freedom to move beyond that structure. Like Andrea mentioned, give us the basics as well as the opportunity to move beyond that.
How can one best utilize and engage Millennials in the grand scheme of the multi-generational workforce?
Val: Millennials care about making a difference. They care about building and creating their careers. Rather than thinking of Millennials as burdens, think of them as equal and able contributors. Use them as a resource to bring fresh energy and ideas to your team. Let them provide insight into new tools or trends they’re aware of. As mentioned before, set clear guidelines and expectations. Let them know the resources at their disposal and any “must-haves” for a project. If there is room for them to be creative, let them! Just make sure they understand where creativity is appreciated so everyone is on the same page.
One-on-one meetings are definitely a great tool to utilize. Although we may be seen as an “online generation”, that doesn’t mean human connection isn’t important to us. Check-ins are a great way for both you and your millennial employees to communicate about ongoing projects as well as development opportunities.
Speaking of development opportunities, provide them! Even if there is no budget for courses or official training, provide ways for them to step up, get involved, and gain experience. Maybe it’s a specialized project for your client, maybe it’s leading an internal special interest group or task force, maybe it’s having them organize social or service opportunities for the rest of the team or company. Ownership is a great way to empower your Millennials and give them a feeling of accomplishment, while also breathing new and fresh ideas into the community.
Andrea: Gosh, I don’t think I can say it any better than that, Val! I would only add – be honest and forthright with your Millennials about everything, but most especially their performance and your expectations. It may seem like we all have thin skins, but I guarantee that they will be grateful for it, even if it’s bad news.
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