4 More Millennial Traits
Last week, we wrote about how Millennials were raised by their parents to feel special, sheltered and confident. Those three Millennial traits mark that generation’s personality, shaped by their parents and the prevailing cultural influences of the times.
But there are four more traits of Millennials worth paying attention to: Team-oriented, Conventional, Achieving and Pressured.
There’s a reason why group fitness classes are more popular than ever before: Millennials are the most team sports-oriented generation in history, thanks to the rise of organized sports and parents who focused on group participation activities for their Millennial children. This started early for Millennials, in schools that emphasized group projects and team collaboration.
This team focused orientation set the stage for Millennials’ preference and expectation of working in teams in the workplace. It also sets the stage for managers to play more of a coaching role. The managers who want to attract and retain the best Millennial employees should consider taking on a “coach” role. This means:
- Building relationships is important, as Millennial employees want to feel like they belong to a team working toward a larger goal or the “greater good” in their career.
- Cross-generational mentorship is appreciated by Millennials, who want to feel connected to people in other departments, be coached by people with more experience and want to feel part of a community.
- Embracing open communication and frequent feedback will make Millennials feel welcome and like an important part of the workplace team.
It is counter-intuitive to think that “youth” and “conventional” go together. The Baby Boomers led the way in their youth to be unconventional, anti-establishment, and counter-cultural. GenXers followed the Boomers lead by being non-conforming, but in a different, more rule-avoidance way. Millennials, on the other hand, are a truly conventional generation in may respects.
Gallup research revealed, “In addition to finding steady, engaging jobs, millennials want to have high levels of well-being, which means more than being physically fit. Yes, millennials want to be healthy, but they also want a purposeful life, active community and social ties, and financial stability.”
Millennials are waiting longer than their parents and grandparents to get married, have children and buy homes, but not because they don’t want to follow the conventional path of owning a home and raising a family. Millennials are delaying those things due to economic circumstances, i.e.–student loans and tenuous employment situations.
For employers, this means providing Millennials with predictable, stable opportunities to grow their skill set, and a clear career path. Millennials don’t like to “wing it”. They would rather have a plan that extends well into their future and know what to expect for their long-term development. Make sure you provide plenty of opportunity to explain benefits like health insurance, 401ks, and other benefits. Research has shown that Millennials tend be the most conservative when it comes to investing their money. They save at a higher rate than other generations, and are less likely to have their money in the equity market.
Millennials want to achieve. Contrary to the common media narrative, they are an ambitious generation that wants to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others. As previously noted, Millennials’ parents were more involved and more positive in many ways when it came to how they were raised. Parents had high expectations for their Millennial children, that they can achieve anything they put their minds to and the sky is the limit
This was reinforced as they became older with historical markers that would have been improbable in the past, such as the first black president, the first female Presidential nominee of a major party ticket, and a wildly successful Millennial entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg who transformed the way all generations communicate.
Another indication for this ethic of high achievement is their education level. “Millennials are on track to be the most-educated generation in history,” according to the Pew Research Center. In 2015, about 27 percent of Millennial women had a bachelor’s degree or higher by age 33, and 21 percent of men did. Those are higher percentages than Generation X, the Baby Boomers or the Silent generation by age 33.
So, how does an employer manage an achieving generation? First, never dumb down your message for Millennials. It is condescending and they will see right through it. Set high standards in performance in the work that they do. Be clear about benchmarks and reward them at each step of the process, not just upon completion of a goal. Remember—Millennials grew up in a 24/7 news cycle, texting and IMing. Speed and frequency is important.
A lot of that high-achieving attitude Millennials have comes from the pressure they feel to achieve. A survey conducted by Inc.com revealed 67 percent of millennials said they felt “extreme” pressure to succeed, compared to 40 percent of Gen-Xers and 23 percent of Boomers.
In addition to having highly-involved parents and frequent “measurement” of their progress in school, Millennials feel pressured to succeed at a younger and younger age. “In a strange way, the fact that most millennials’ parents raised them thinking ‘the sky is the limit’ and ‘you can do anything you believe you can,’ then when they don’t immediately find success, they feel bad about themselves, and pressure to ramp it up,” wrote Dr. Rose Kumar.
In the workplace, this means recognizing the stress that they are feeling. A stable salary and clear expectations of their role goes a long way to reducing this stress, and can really improve performance, but smart companies are taking it up a notch. Wellness workplaces, programs that encourage physical exercise, a balanced diet, meditation, and a healthy social network are all part of a growing trend in the workplace that all generations can benefit from.
One common theme that runs through all four of these traits is the need for employers to set clear expectations. Research performed by Gallup found that one of the strongest correlations to workplace performance was an employees ability to understand what is expected of them.
Employers shouldn’t “wing it” when it comes to attracting and managing Millennials. Have a plan. Be clear. Think long-term.
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