Hi, my name’s Alex, and I’m a Millennial.
What does that mean? I never thought much about it. At its core, it signifies I was born between the mid-eighties and late-nineties, but does it mean more? How much effect could being born during this period have on me as a person, compared to those born in the generations before?
Plenty, it would seem. As I found out reading about millennials in places such as Forbes, CNN Money and INC.
We millennials are not, as I had thought, the same as the generations that came before us when it comes to the workplace. In fact, the way these articles discussed us it was as though we were of an entirely different species. A species who needed particular attention. Who needed different treatment to those that came before.
But how did we differ?
A few ways, according to the research. When it came to picking careers, for example, millennials have turned from the classic incentives. Higher salaries and other financial bonuses. Asking instead for emotional attachment, flexibility, and career progression.
Reading these articles, I couldn’t help but wonder: is it true? Are we indeed so different from the generations that proceeded us?
Sadly, I don’t have the time or the money to conduct the breadth of research companies such as Forbes can. I can, however, talk from my own experiences. As well as from the experiences of my friends, whom I questioned on the topic of careers.
In doing so, a few points cropped up.
Money Still Matters
Whenever one of my friends tell me they have applied for a new job, the first question I ask is: ‘what does it pay?’
Research seems to show money no longer matters to people in the way it once did. In fact, one study I read claimed if you talk to a millennial about what they want from a job, money won’t even come up.
That isn’t what I found. When I asked my friends what they looked for in the job, almost all mentioned salary first. Those that didn’t mentioned it in their top three.
That’s not to say money is all that matters. Neither my friends nor I would stay in a job that made us miserable. But nor would we take a job we loved for a salary smaller than what we had become used to.
After all, while work takes up a large part of our lives, and while we want to enjoy what we do, it is not all that matters. We look forward to evenings and weekends and holidays more than we do work. To enjoy these as much as we would like, it helps if we are earning good money
We Want to Feel Engaged and Valued – Who Doesn’t?
So, if studies show money matters little to millennials when choosing a job, what is it we are searching for when perusing the jobs pages? In my reading, the same items came up again and again, and our most common desires when seeking employment were:
Now of these, I would only take slight issue with the final item.
That’s not to say my friends and I don’t value feedback from our managers – we do. My issue is these articles all stressed the frequency with which managers must praise millennials – as though we will collapse into nervous wrecks if we go a half hour without our manager telling us how well we are doing.
On a broader scale, this may be true, but not for the millennials I know. We value manager feedback, yes. Nothing feels better than a superior saying you are doing an excellent job. Moreover, nothing is more useful than a manager who offers advice when things have gone wrong. However, it does not need to be constant.
In fact, those I spoke to suggested constant praise would be a negative. On the one hand, it diminishes the effect to hear it again and again. On the other, recognition can be quite an embarrassing situation to handle. So this is one case where less can often be more.
The other points on the list are spot on. Most of us want to feel our careers are going somewhere. Most would love the flexibility in working hours. Most want our managers to value us, and to feel as though we matter to the company – that we are more than a cog in the machine.
What surprises me about this list is not that its points are being attributed to millennials. It is that it seems to be suggesting they are not true of previous generations.
Can this be so? Before millennials were employers having to beg employees to take promotions? Would staff riot if told they could come in an hour earlier and finish an hour earlier? Did we have a workforce of introverts who would collapse in a heap if their managers spoke a word of praise to them?
Maybe so. I wouldn’t know, I wasn’t there. I just can’t imagine it.
After all, we are not a different species, whatever the research might suggest. Regardless of when we are born, we are all people, and people all have the same basic desires.
How many people do you know, born before 1980, who would not love the chance to choose their hours? So they could get to school on time or pick up the kids or visit the dentist without having to take holiday.
How many don’t desire their manager’s respect, or want to feel they could bring forward ideas, opinions and criticisms without fear of punishment?
It is a simple matter of humans wanting to feel valued. Who doesn’t want that?
It is Not the People who have Changed
Most of what I have said I have based not on research, but on personal beliefs, and on a small sample group.
When it comes to millennials, there are plenty of facts I cannot dispute. Employee engagement is of enormous importance. More people are working flexible hours than ever before. Benefits packages are no longer based around money alone.
Is this because millennials are different to the generations before? Or, do the changes come from elsewhere?
Have employers changed? This is worth considering. Are companies not changing all the time to retain old and attract new customers? Why should the same not be true of staff?
Money is the easiest incentive, but it is not always practical. Perhaps companies are becoming more innovative as they seek more ways to keep or sign staff. They are not focusing on employee engagement because this is what a new generation wants. Instead, because they have realised it is something people might have wanted all along.
Another reason for these changes could be to do with what is possible. As millennials, we are the first generation to grow up with technology. Flexible hours are not born from what we want, but from what is available.
VPN means people can work from home when they could never have before, while our penchant for carrying phones and laptops with us everywhere means we no longer need to stick to a 9-5:30 schedule.
Embrace the Change
The take away here is not what might have caused companies to offer new benefits, but that they have. Whether millennials like me have driven such change, or whether it comes from external factors, what matters is that it happens, and it’s positive.
If employers can offer the right blend of financial benefits, employee engagement and work flexibility then whomever they hire – be they 25, 55 or 105 – they’re going to have a loyal, happy employee.