Blog: Managing millennial aspirations to create a robust workplace

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Managing millennial aspirations to create a robust workplace

This ignites a fundamental question that what does it take to manage millennials’ aspirations within a workplace in order to optimize their potential, thus, organizational productivity.
Managing millennial aspirations to create a robust workplace

One of my family friends, were having tough time awaiting the result of a campus placement of their son. Finally, after much time and a couple of failed attempts, Ronan (name changed) was placed in a fortune 500 company after completing his engineering in computer sciences. Like every other parent my friends were happy and celebrating. Ronan too decided to give his best shot at his workplace and started out with zeal and aspirations. However, after completing only nine months in his current job, Ronan decided to resign… and he did. Like every millennial Ronan was full of aspirations, ambitions, enthusiasm and a life-purpose. So, what made him resign? 

This ignites a fundamental question that what does it take to manage millennials’ aspirations within a workplace in order to optimize their potential, thus, organizational productivity. 

The millennial generation, born between 1980 and 2000 have entered and are prepared to join the global work-force in vast numbers. Attracting the best of these millennial work-force is of prime importance for any organization as their career aspirations, work-attitude, technology friendliness etc. add lot of value to the organization. Conventionally, millennials are considered to be entitled, easily distracted, impatient, self-absorbed, lazy, and unlikely to stay in any job for long. But Bruce N. Pfau (2016), in his article titled, “What Do Millennials Really Want at Work? The Same Things the Rest of Us Do”, found that they’re also looking for purpose, feedback, and personal life balance in their work. Deep Patel, a serial entrepreneur, in one of his articles  mentioned that millennials are curious, care for social good, seek regular feedback and look forward to collaborate. Given such varied behaviour, companies of all kinds are obsessed with understanding millennials better to such an extent that it has given rise to a new consulting industry. 

The qualities of millennials can be nurtured to achieve optimum organizational productivity, hence creating a robust workplace. Businesses and leaders who want to make a sustained and comprehensive impact must understand this uniquely motivated brigade. Whereas previous generations might have been driven to uphold cultural norms or to rebel against them, millennials carry a mix of attitudes shaped by tremendous technological change and (dis)orderly political, social and significant global events. 

But retaining millennials has always been found to be a challenging task by employers. A study by Red Brick Research,  showed that over 80% of hiring managers claimed that their Millennial employees displayed narcissistic tendencies, and only 27% of managers believed that their young employees were team players. However, Chris Myers (2015), in his article titled, “Millennials Are The Worst...Unless They're The Best”, says that his millennials employees are top performers despite these challenges and that he can always count on their fresh and creative solutions to the problems. Similar phenomenon has been found in Red Brick Research report, while interviewing hiring managers. These managers also mentioned that millennials are entrepreneurial, and are open to change(s) than older workers.

But to outweigh the challenges by benefits millennials bring on to the table, organizations must ensure certain things within the workplace. Organization can mitigate the risks associated and can utilize millennials’ potential to its fullest by ensuring the following things: -

Provide an environment of open communication: - Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, chose to work centrally with his people rather than working from an elite corner office. An environment of open communication within an organization helps people to readily share concerns and information of importance. Hierarchical and bureaucratic structures involve red-tapism which might deter the millennial’s zeal.  Tracy Benson (2016), in her article  titled, “Motivating Millennials Takes More than Flexible Work Policies”, mentioned that Millennials want communication from the boss more frequently than any other generation in the workforce and one similar study reported that 42% of Millennials want feedback every week—more than twice the percentage of every other generation. 

Focus should be on work-life balance: - It has been found that millennials value work-life balance more than tangible gains. According to a millennial survey by Deloitte, 16.8 percent of Millennials evaluate career opportunities by good work-life balance, followed by 13.4 percent who look for opportunities to progress and 11 percent who seek flexibility (i.e., remote working and flexible hours). Ryan Jenkins (2018), stated that for many Millennials, success is having control over how and when they work and accumulating various life experiences, both of which are enabled by a better work-life balance ( 

Provide proper opportunities to grow: - Carey Smith, of “Big Ass Fans”, believes that if one gives people the opportunity to succeed — if one has hired the right people — they’re going to succeed. Though turnover rate has been found higher in millennials, providing them with opportunities to grow and training them to develop their skills have been found as great motivators for them to contribute their best within organizations for longer.  Today, Businesses need to promote such environment that provides continuous learning opportunities for employees by allowing them to solve critical problems for the company (Tracy Benson, 2016). For example, PepsiCo’s Career Architecture are “Critical Experiences”- key growth opportunities which allow people to develop new skills and knowledge. This may not represent traditional upward progression in career, but helps in building capabilities in such a way which helps career progressions in diagonal, vertical and lateral way as well. 

Ensure enough challenges: - According to Bob Nelson, President of Nelson Motivation Inc., millennials expect to have meaning and purpose in their jobs from the very first day of work. They want to earn sooner and have both job status and respect. In a PwC report, Vineet Nayar, former Chief Executive Officer of HCL Technologies Ltd., mentioned that, Millennials expect to work in communities of mutual interest and passion – not structured hierarchies. This can be achieved by reducing vertical structures and introducing more organic practices, where generational tensions can be reduced in order to achieve better, more open and collaborative work-place. 

Build an organization with a wider purpose: - There is a lot more than a flexible work strategy which takes to attract millennials. An ethical and socially aware organization attracts millennials. According to Unlocking Millennial Talent 2015,  a white paper by the Center for Generational Kinetics and Barnum Financial Group, 60% of Millennials said a sense of purpose is part of the reason they chose to work at their current employer. Studies have shown that organizations would benefit from creating opportunities for employees to participate in personally meaningful initiatives. One such example is the “ecomagination nation” initiative at GE’s Power & Water business. According to the company’s 2015 sustainability report, millennials’ passion to do something good for the community helped reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 31 percent and water use by 42 percent over the first three years of this program. Although more than 8,000 employees worldwide engaged in community volunteer activities under “ecomagination nation”, millennials’ vision to serve greater purpose primarily drove this initiative. This showed millennials commitment towards creating shared value for all.

Create an innovative and collaborative organizational culture: - Millennials are known to have big dreams and plans and are in a hurry to achieve those.  Although these are positive attributes, but they need to be channeled in the right direction and that’s the job of their managers. In the absence of which, job hopping increases. Organizations must try to provide a workplace where millennials’ values and skill sets are in sync to the work that organizations expect them to do. Integrating right technologies with work would help employees exchange ideas in open forums and collaborate across functional and geographic boundaries. These enhance opportunities for both innovation and Millennial engagement. Tracy Benson (2016), found that companies that embrace a risk-tolerant culture and promote learning and experimentation will benefit from the intense energy around innovation displayed by millennials. This would allow an inclusive growth for all the stakeholders.

Always appreciate: - Studies have shown that the most important factor related to employees enjoying their job was that they felt appreciated. Tangible benefits remain one of the desired ways of appreciating one’s work. However, a study by Paul White, (President at Appreciation at Work, Kansas, USA), showed that communicating through verbal interactions, orally and in writing (using texts, emails, and personal notes) are the most effective way to appreciate a millennial . Also, the study found that millennials desire to spend quality time with colleagues rather than supervisors which is a change from previous generations. They looked upon it as a primary language of appreciation and also it allows them to collaborate with others. Its best to use monetary rewards when a task is extremely boring and routine. Daniel H. Pink suggests,  that for more creative tasks, organizations should concentrate on building a healthy, long-term motivational environment that pays people fairly and that fosters autonomy, master and purpose.

A growing body of evidences suggest that employees of all ages are much more alike than different in their attitudes and values at work. Although millennials promise to be a powerful generation of workers, all employees want to make a positive impact in their organization. So, all the above practices would not only help organizations to retain millennial power but the employees across ages. Organizations can ensure a robust workplace by taking time to get to know their employees, asking for their opinions, involving them in decisions (especially those that affect them and their work), creating opportunities to socialize at work, providing flexibility at work, fostering innovative work culture and focusing on learning and development opportunities.

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Topics: Life @ Work, #GuestArticle

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