“Millennials are restless and I can’t retain them.”
“I always need to be one step ahead of my millennial employee.”
“What do millennials really want?"
While these statements might be somewhat true, there’s been a tendency to over-hype the differences between them and other members in the workplace. This has often led to the unfortunate conclusion that millennials are difficult to relate to and a challenge to engage in the workplace.
To unbundle some of these conclusions, we interviewed some millennial employees. Read on for the 6 most asked questions from them, and our responses!
1. Will I Have Work-life Balance?
Millennial employees see that life has a great deal of its own stress and so embrace ways to make living less structured and more convenient and enjoyable. After all, as they say, YOLO or “You Only Live Once.”
Seamless integration (or segregation) of their work and personal lives take a front seat because millennial employees want to have a hand in shaping it as much as possible. Having grown up in an environment where they’ve been told that they “can do anything,” it’s not difficult to see how this mindset extends to work as well, whether they’ve just joined the organisation or not.
Related welfare questions such as the amount of overtime expected, company benefits and employee rights also come into discussion as millennial employees expect to have a certain amount of flexibility in the workplace, rather than rigid adherence to policies. We even had a potential intern asking us about the “free snacks” clause that we put up in our job advertisement!
How leaders can respond: Identify what’s the meaning that’s tagged to “work-life balance.” Is it about having a balance between work and personal time? (in which case, it’s statistically unrealistic). It would be important for you to listen for the conviction or belief behind the particular concern, and then helping them to see how their work supports their convictions. It might also be helpful to point out that the realities of the current workplace are that, work-life balance doesn’t exist! They should seek work-life harmony instead.
2. How Am I Performing?
Feedback is really seen as a gift for these “GenMe” employees. This makes sense actually - they have high expectations for themselves, and are therefore eager to receive constructive feedback so that they can improve quickly.
On the other hand, research has found that millennial employees have an increase in self-focused traits — including having better self-esteem and even being mildly to extremely narcissistic. This also means that they have unrealistically high-performance expectations that are mismatched with the realities of the workplace. We’ve seen how some of these employees expect themselves to be error-free even in their learning curve, and this raised bar applies to others whom they work with as well.
How leaders can respond: Encourage feedback-seeking behaviours but don’t forget to calibrate performance expectations for your employees. Doing so will help them truly achieve optimal levels of growth and performance in the workplace, at a pace that’s tailored to each individual.
3. How Well is the Company Doing?
We were surprised to receive this question, but the respondent clarified why it’s important. For her, it affects her motivation and sense of pride while working in the organisation.
Ultimately, this question would appeal to all generations of workers as we all want to be proud of the organisation we are working for. We want to be part of a successful, high-performing company and be led by people who have integrity, are competent and have a vision for the future.
How leaders can respond: Be open and honest about the growth and future plans of the organisation if you know anything about it. Encourage them to read up on financial reports that are available, and help them with an objective evaluation of the organisation’s strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities (SWOT) in the industry.
4. What is My Future in This Company?
What they’re really asking is, “Are there opportunities to grow?”
In a bid to grow, advance and be in a job that best aligns with their needs and life goals, millennial employees may appear to be on the search for new opportunities constantly; what we call “job-hopping.”
Millennials can be very clear on what skills they need, and may even have taken self-directed actions to pursue developmental areas. So sometimes all that managers need to do is to engage them in a conversation. Providing exposure to opportunities for training and development is also crucial.
How leaders can respond: Do I know what gives my employees real enthusiasm in their work and enhances their energy? What can I do to find out more about what their real passion is? What have I done to sustain such enthusiasm and energy? What can I do more?
5. How Can I Leverage on the Experience of Senior Colleagues?
Millennials recognise that senior colleagues have vast experience and substantial knowledge in the company as well as in the industry, and may be eager to leverage on them as resources. However, we know that coaching and mentoring takes time. There may not be an immediate affinity between these baby boomers and millennials, and thus the fostering of a coaching relationship would also require intentional effort.
How leaders can respond: Create intentional and deep expert-driven mentoring opportunities for these employees; especially around the core areas of the business. Allow them to be mentored by the best of the best in your organisation so that they grow roots in their areas of expertise. Also ensure that time is given to explore and experiment with new ideas for the organisation, even if they decide to be generalists instead of specialists.
6. How Does My Work Support or Impact the Larger Purpose That My Company Has?
Great Place to Work’s 2017 report showed that the best companies made effort to connect their millennial employees to a deeper sense of purpose in their work, and as a result, were six times more successful in retaining their employees.
More so than any other generation, millennials seek meaningful work that appeals to their larger sense of role in the community. Even if a job is mundane, there must be a greater purpose connected to it.
How leaders can respond: Take time to talk to employees and how them how their daily work supports the attainment of the departmental goals, business goals and organisational goals. Help them understand how their work objectives are derived, which is cascaded from the organisation’s objectives. You can also ask them about their personal vision and mission, and how they see it connect to the organisation’s vision. Thereafter, help them to find alignment as much as possible.
We wholly agree with what Chinwe Onyeagoro, president of Great Place to Work, says: “…superficial changes won’t improve retention among millennials unless they’re accompanied by managers making authentic connections with employees…”
Authentic connections are absolutely important in building a high-trust culture, which has been shown as key in the retention of millennials in the organisation.