How Can I Get My Millennials to Take Their Work Seriously?
This is a common question that comes up when I’m speaking or training executives who work with Millennials — “How can I get my Millennial employees to take their work seriously?!”
The idea that Millennials don’t take their work as seriously as their older professional counterparts is largely a myth. Studies have shown that in many ways, Millennials are workaholics. Almost half (48 percent) of Millennials “think it is a good thing to be seen as a work martyr by the boss,” — a higher percentage than any other generation surveyed, according to a research by Project: Time Off.
In addition, Millennials are more likely to forfeit paid time off than members of older generations, according to a Bankrate.com survey.
Work Gets Done, Just Differently
The difference in the way Millennials work is often the cause of the misconception that Millennials aren’t taking work seriously. Technology allows many employees to work anytime, from anywhere. For some employees, that means they need to spend less time at their desk in the office. Social media and online project management systems, email and mobile devices, remote desktops and more let Millennials stay connected to work wherever they are — and many sleep with their mobile devices, checking email before falling asleep and again before their feet hit the floor in the morning. (A Harris Poll survey showed 93 percent of Millennials have admitted to using their phones in bed.)
Getting the Best Work from Milliennials
If Millennials in a workplace don’t seem to be taking their work seriously, managers are often able to correct the situation through effective communication, goal-setting and mentoring.
Millennials are most engaged in their work when a few key factors are in place. They include:
- Understanding their role in the organization. Millennials grew up with team projects and team sports, where they knew and understood their place and role in the group. They seek that same understanding in the workplace, and managers who communicate effectively about how a Millennial employee’s job is important can help Millennials feel more engaged in their work.
- Understanding the organization’s role in the larger community, economy and world. Further, Millennials were raised with a sense of community and want to make a difference in helping make the world a better place. Millennials who know how the mission of their company aligns with their personal values, helps people and contributes to a “greater good” in society are more engaged at work. (Many companies have started encouraging volunteerism as both a team-building activity and to show corporate responsibility.)
- Being provided with long-term and short-term goals and support to succeed. Millennials perform best when they have both short-term, achievable goals with the support to succeed, and long-term plans that include professional development and growth. Millennials like to achieve, and they look for a supportive network of colleagues to help them do so. (This train comes from their parents, teachers and coaches, who raised them in a supportive, encouraging setting and taught them they could do anything they put their minds to.) Cross-generational mentoring programs can provide Millennials with an understanding of how to grow and develop professionally over time, putting their short-term achievements at work into a longer-term context.
- Enabling open, honest and transparent communications. Millennials are more loyal and engaged with employers who have open-door policies in the way they communicate. Millennials watched their parents fear the surprise layoff, and fostering a culture of openness, honestly and genuineness can help prevent employees from looking for new jobs based on false or incomplete information. Good communication and honest feedback can also help Millennials in their quest to achieve their goals and feel professionally fulfilled.
If All Else Fails…
If you are convinced that your Millennial employee is not taking their job seriously, start a dialogue where he or she does most of the talking and you do most of the listening. Make your case—put all the cards on the table, and do your best to listen. Sometimes it is hard to get to the root cause of the issue, especially if your relationship is strained or frustrating. If that still doesn’t work… well, not all hires are a guarantee fit to the role. But if this is happening with more than one employee, you might need some coaching of your own.