It’s morning. Coffee mugs of all shapes and sizes start flooding the office. You take a seat at your desk, excited to start your work for the day. As always, the younger coworkers’ voices reach your ears, making you furious. They won’t stop chatting about the latest Facebook posts, or complaining about the inflexible work schedule, stiff coworkers, the number of official policies they have to remember, and god knows how many other things. Sounds familiar?
They are the millennials- those born between 1984-2000, often described as narcissistic, lazy and disinterested. „Born with a smartphone”, this generation has a never-before seen ability to adapt to the new and to happily welcome changes within society, traits which earned them the nickname „digital natives”. Among this generation’s characteristics, we can highlight the deep desire to quickly climb the professional ladder, the ease with which they switch jobs as soon as something better comes along, a constant need for approval, as well as an innate openness to change of any kind.
At a glance, the millennial demographic may seem a nightmare at the workplace, like too much to handle. Some organizations have a flexible culture, the emphasis being on young employees, while, in others, senior workers are more appreciated. How can we harmoniously collaborate with these kinds of people at the workplace, regardless of the company’s environment?
Firstly, it is important to understand that millenials owe a big part of their personality to their age. They are young, freshly emerging on the labour market and excited to be acknowledged by the world- normal traits for anyone just beginning the journey of their career. Then, every demographic’s personality is fundamentally influenced by certain events or happenings from society. If the Baby Boomers saw the rise of the technological era and the spread of media channels, the millenials are those who are completely immersed in this phenomenon, digitization being a part of all aspects of their lives. Technology brought about new ways of interacting, learning and, frankly, of looking at society and the environment, while emphasizing the idea of unity, broadening of horizons and shaping the concept of „global citizen”.
However, in every country influences of the place’s cultural values exist and manifest, especially through other citizens. These can not be that easily swayed by external events. Thus, traits which are millenial-specific in Romania may differ, more or less, from millenials in other countries.
According to Dragoş Iliescu (during a speech within Romanian Youth Focus, 2015), the Romanian millennial generation is one which is more individualistic, with a higher dose of hedonism, who tends towards decentralization of power, preferring instead that companies have hierarchies based more on convenience, way more flexible than the traditional ones. In regards to their personality, romanian millenials are more narcissistic, and with a lower emotional stability- having received, growing up, mostly positive feedback, this demographic developed a lower tolerance to negative feedback and critique. According to data, romanian millenials are, also, a more extravert generation, witnessing a rise in perseverance and conscientiousness.
Thus, it becomes obvious that a big part of job conflicts between millenials and more senior employees are, mostly, a normal part of intergenerational conflicts. However, this generation poses both a challenge, as well as an opportunity for managers to review and to update their relationship with their employees. A study recently conducted by PwC comes to our aid in this regard, offering a couple of practical advice, which can be implemented right away:
- The answer lays in acknowledging age differences: it is important to keep in mind that, inevitably, inter-generational conflicts will arise in the workplace. It is, however, a phenomenon which can be at least subsided, if not avoided entirely, through encouragement of open communication, as well as deciding upon common strategies in which certain tasks should be performed. Moreover, we have to accept the fact that technology will become increasingly prevalent in the workplace, it being the younger generation’s favourite way of communication, rather than having to sit through long meetings and phone calls.
- Transparency is key: nothing is more frustrating than going to an interview in which you get promised unicorns and rainbows, and after the first few days of work to find out that things are not as initially described. It is, thus, recommended to be honest and transparent with every candidate, both about the good, the bad, and the less glamorous about the organization. Another piece of advice would be revising the compensation policies. We can begin to emphasize other types of benefits besides the monetary rewards. For instance, a great deal of employees are attracted to the possibility of customizing their own benefit packages, so having such an option can never be a bad thing.
- Encourage growth: in order to be able to attract and retain numerous millennials in our organization, we must be try to align to their objectives as well. From the body of research conducted so far, this generation increasingly starts to value professional growth and continuous learning. Most certainly young employees will get excited about the occasions in which they will be required to find new and creative solutions to old problems the status quo faced. It also doesn’t hurt to think of this as an opportunity to challenge them to give their best at work. It would also do us well to be aware that it is best to have mixed teams age-wise, and tasks to be as different as possible. Any task wich errs on the indesirable or unpleasant side can be presented as a career milestone, a strategy which will certainly make millennials feel proud about later.
- Feedback feedback feedback. The millennial demographic wants and values contingent feedback. As opposed to previous generations, who were used to getting a yearly evaluation and that’s it, millenials constantly want to know how they’re doing, and if they are on the right way. The recommendation would be that managers offer honest feedback, in real time- without forgetting to mention the important contributions or the progress their employees made.
- Emphasis on flexibility: Millenials love flexibility. They perform best with clear instructions and goals, but with a blurry in-between. If they are expected to have measurable results, does it really matter where or how they work? As long as they deliver what they promise, a recommendation would be not to keep millenials on a short leash, allowing them the freedom of working when or where they want to, or how much time they spend at the office.
- Developing a learning friendly environment: today’s youth is a generation who wishes to grow and learn as much as possible. In this regard, a company culture which promotes learning is most welcome. Besides formal training programmes, good ideas would be organizing innovation contests within the organization, rewarded with a catchy prize, founding the company’s library or an efficient mentoring programme.
- Quick career advancement: Until now, promotions and career advancement were reserved to seniors and to those who spent a lifetime in the same organization. However, millennials don’t see things this way. They value their results and merits more than the face time and the time in which it becomes socially acceptable to get promoted. So, if your talents already have what it takes to get promoted, why keep them stuck in a role in which they cannot grow anymore? A relatively simple fix would be adding more layers to the organizational structure, or implementing a gamified strategy toward career advancement within the current role. This should be enough to stimulate a millenial’s need for continuous improvement.
- Accepting that every beginning has an end: it is unrealistic to expect that every employee (especially the best ones) will be forever our employees. It’s best to enjoy our employees, their performance, and to try to develop them as much as possible, while also prepare ourselves for the inevitable moment in which they will leave.