Millennial expectations: four key tips to gain buy-in

We “all know” that millennials enter the workplace with a different worldview and expectations. But oftentimes, businesses don’t stop to ask themselves the “what” or the “why”. Instead, expecting younger employees to simply integrate into existing business culture and ways of working.

The problem with this approach, are the assumptions that are created. That all employees work the same way. That all employees want the same thing out of their workplace, or job. That new hire will comply with the status quo of how things are done, regardless of whether it truly “fits” their values, wants, or need.

Assumptions that are problematic and damaging. Especially when you consider how this translates on a day-to-day basis within an organisation. We don’t need to look very far to see the impacts that our jobs or workplaces have on us – both personally and professionally.  Declines in productivity, performance, and culture. Declines in wellbeing and mental health.  

When we consider that millennials will make up to 75 per cent of the global workforce in the next five years, the criticality of understanding this generation becomes clear. They will be driving and shaping the growth of organisations and will be in control of creating impact and change. Which is why, going back to the original point – understanding the “what” and the “why” – will be imperative to business.

Millennials are a unique generation; the challenges they face are different from their parents, grandparents, and generations to come. On face value, one could say all generations experience challenges – and they do. But the impacts for millennials, because of the economic, political, and societal factors that have shaped this generation, mean that their experiences are different.  

Millennials’ sense of work and what drives their career choices are different from older generations. They value meaning and fulfilment above all else; but oftentimes end up in jobs that don’t match that – for varying reasons. Which, in turn, leads to the problems outlined above.

As a business owner, you should be eager to get to know your millennials and work out what makes them tick.  As a start, the following four tips will help you forge some headway and create a workplace culture that millennials want to be part of. 

  1. Give them meaningful work. Millennials need a sense of purpose. They need to know that what they are doing, matters. It doesn’t need to be ground-breaking, but enough for them to feel engaged in a meaningful way.
  2. Remove outdated structures. Traditional hierarchical working structures don’t work for millennials. This isn’t to say hierarchy isn’t respected – but millennials view colleagues as equal, and as such, treat them that way.
  3. Work-life balance is a must. Millennials have a strong work ethic and will put in the efforts – but they are also susceptible to burn out. You must honour their commitments – and lives – outside of the workplace.
  4. Development opportunities must exist. With an appetite for learning and development, millennials must have an opportunity to grow professionally. This also ties in with their notion of success – and whether it fits with the organisation culture. If it doesn’t, they will swiftly move on. 

Establishing rapport with your millennials is not as insurmountable as some may think. All it takes is decision.  Doing it right can make all the difference in keeping performance and engagement high, retaining quality talent and nurturing a flourishing high-performing culture.   

Jacqueline Cripps, Management Consultant and CEO, JCL

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