Generation Y are those born between 1980 and the mid-90s. They’re known as the millennials, and they are a peculiar bunch. As any generation must seem to those who went before them. They are called spoiled, and said to be self-delusional about their own greatness.
Nonetheless, they are the (near) future of the majority workforce. The workplace will adapt. And it’s not necessarily going to be a bad thing.
Understand generational differences
It can be difficult working with individuals who are from a different generation to you. In your workplace, you don’t want generational difficulties becoming a continuous source of annoyance for your employees. Try to foster a culture of appreciation, rather than irritation. The most effective path to tolerance is education. If people can understand what makes those of another generation tick, not only can they come to accept what makes them different, they can learn to value it.
Are millennials going to jump ship as soon as they can?
Millennials seem to be different to their parents and grandparents with regards to how long they’ll remain with the same company. It’s commonplace for a millennial to only expect to stay with a certain company for a couple years, and that’s if they’re happy. And they’re generally not concerned at being unable to answer the question of where they’ll see themselves in five years.
This is often a point of contention for the older generations. The days of sticking with the same company from graduation to retirement seem to be well and truly over.
But remember that millennials are relatively still young, and so you might find out that they’ll tend to stick around longer when they’re a bit older. Millennials are a lot fussier about the type of work they do. They want to do something they were ‘meant to do’, or something that has a positive impact on the world. It can take a few jobs for them to find that place, where they can ‘be themselves’ and ‘live up to their potential’. So job-hopping doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t commit, or are always in search of greener pastures.
How to keep them engaged
Haydn Shaw has researched and helped clients with generational differences for over twenty years. Millennials in the workplace are something of a speciality of his. Call him the millennial-whisperer if you will. A common question (which relates to the above mentioned point), is how can we retain millennials for longer. Shaw, however, suggests that rather than trying to retain millennials, we should be asking ourselves how to keep them engaged.
This could mean giving them the freedom to be different creative, or bringing them down to earth with something practical like putting them through something like business management courses.
As long as you understand that sometimes it’s best not to ask how to keep them with you longer, but rather asking, as Shaw does, how you can get them engaged and productive. So they’ll make a large contribution for as long as they do stay. He says that if you can do that, if you give them ways to explore what they really want to do with their careers, even if that means leaving the company, they may stay on for another couple years.
What they’ll do with those years depends on whether your workplace can not only adapt to changing times, but learn to benefit from it.