As the biggest portion of the workforce begins to retire, the world will grow to depend upon the leadership and labor of the Millennial generation. Today, an estimated 40 million Millennials are in the workforce, and by the year 2025, that figure is estimated to reach 75 percent.
Also called Generation Y, the Millennial generation is comprised of those born between 1982 and 2000. Other titles include Digital Natives, the Boomerang Generation and Echo Boomers. Around the office, a Millennial may be referred to as the “new kid” or the “recent college graduate” – but there is more to the Millennial than his age, his education or his experience.
Despite their generational confidence, research shows that Millennials crave feedback. According to The Truth About Millennial Workers– a report published by Capstrat in 2011 – Millennials “clamor for advice, coaching and mentorship.” Hailing from backgrounds filled with encouraging professors, overly-involved parents, and a constant connection to technology; feedback and evaluations are integral parts of the Millennial life.
While some managers have dismissed this demand for feedback as unnecessary “ego-stroking,” studies show that performance management tailored to the Millennial mindset is a key engagement driver. In his article, The Millennials: A New Generation of Employees, A New Set of Engagement Policies, Jay Gilbert explains that to satisfy Millennials, feedback must be communicated clearly, with specific examples of success and opportunity, often and without delay.
When a Millennial employee doesn’t receive clear and specific guidelines for improvement, he will ultimately seek an environment that offers more mentorship, which is what the Millennial sees as a key to success. In her article, Don’t be so Touchy! The Secrets for Giving Feedback to Millennials, Dr. Joanne Sujansky provides fundamental guidelines for structuring communication with younger workers.
“The secret is to structure your feedback – whether positive or negative – in a framework that leaves no room for misunderstanding,” Sujansky writes. “Feedback has to be clear and specific to be effective.”
Millennials are unimpressed by superior rank, seniority, or salary. In other words, they tend to disregard the longstanding pillars that have upheld traditional workplace hierarchies. Millennials believe the workplace should be structured like King Arthur’s roundtable, where each member of the team discusses ideas and problems as equals.
Nick Shore, senior VP of strategic consumer research at MTV, has used words like “meritocracy” and “ideocracy” to describe this Millennial viewpoint. “This doesn’t mean they don’t think they have a lot to learn from a boss,” Shore explained in his article Turning On the “No-Collar” Workforce. “It’s a sense that learning is a two-way street, regardless of seniority.”
Many companies are still operating under at least some level of a pyramid-based hierarchy, but business leaders like Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies, are trying to turn things upside down, especially when it comes to information.
In order for each employee to contribute, each must have access to the necessary information. In his article, How to Retain Gen Y Employees? Invert the Pyramid, Nayar explains the traditional information hierarchy as follows:
“It is almost laughable when you think about how the traditional, hierarchical organization has been built on the practice of hoarding of information as a way to gain and maintain power. If I have certain information and you do not, then I know more than you do and I therefore hold more power and authority than you do. Really, what a sorry way for human beings to behave!”
In the article, Nayar continues by explaining how his company chose to give employees access to relevant information that was previously withheld. These “transparency” efforts allowed employees to reach a new level of understanding and to begin contributing in more valuable ways. As in all situations, an idea can only be as reliable as the sources which influenced its creation. Though it may not be the solution for every company, providing employees with the resources to form innovative ideas could be a major step toward harnessing creativity and reaching a new level of competitiveness. Of course, employees must also have an opportunity to collaborate and share these ideas once they are formed.
Millennials operate under a work ethic that differs from the Baby Boomer “nose to the grindstone” ideology. The younger generation reveres collaboration, mentorship and open communication as its leading principles. Millennials have challenged existing workplace infrastructures with their non-traditional views of transparency and corporate responsibility. In order for managers to adapt to this emerging sector of the workforce, they must embrace the possibility of positive change and guide the younger generation forward.
Karen Smith, a former newspaper reporter and globe trotter, is now a freelance writer for various publications and websites. She specializes in answering questions from students who are hoping to earn a business degree online, but she also welcomes comments or questions regarding all educational topics.