MILLENNIALS-A NEW ALIEN LIFE FORM?
On July 29, 2013, Christina Batalias, a ‘Y’ generation alien and twitterverse writer said, “I’d first like to state that I absolutely detest that word, “millennial.” It makes me feel like an alien who has formed inside a jar and subsequently fallen out of a UFO to inhabit this here Earth.”
Millennials have taken center stage in the 21st century. At maturity, the Millennial generation will be near 77,000,000 strong; i.e. the second largest population cohort in American history (Baby Boomers are near 79,000,000). Born between 1979 and 1994 (date range varies), Millennials are the most praised, nomadic, and networked generation in history. Because of size–the “Y” generation means a great deal to the future of America. The “Y” generation will be leading America in the 21st century.
The “Greatest Generation” is largely retired. “Baby Boomers” are nearing retirement and the “X” generation is too small to fill soon-to-be vacated business, government, and eleemosynary jobs. Today’s leaders, coming from the “Greatest Generation”, Baby Boomers, and the “X Generation” need to understand, embrace, and develop the “Y” generation. Millennials are tomorrows’ primary work force; some of which will become captains of industry, mavens of government, and/or leaders of non-profit organizations.
Parenthood is considered more important than marriage to Millennials by a margin of 22%. Millennials that marry look at marriage as a partnership that continues to offer career opportunities for each parent with an equal sharing of family and household responsibilities.
The Millennial generation is more ethnically diverse than previous cohorts with a 19% Hispanic population. One half of the Millennial population is of voting age; 19% have college degrees. Women see more value in a college education than men. By 2009, female enrollment in college outpaced men by 6%, 44% versus 38%. There are 8% more women college graduates than male graduates in 2010.
The Pew Research Center profiles Millennials as confident, connected, open to change, liberal, and upbeat. In spite of “Y” generation’ unemployment estimates of 10% to 16.2%, Millennials remain optimistic about their future. Millennials are closer to their parents than previous generations and are likely to be in touch (8 out of 10) with parents on a daily basis. In a book titled “Y-Size Your Business”, Jason Dorsey emphasizes the importance of parents to Millennials and suggests that employer contact with parents can be helpful in understanding and motivating Millennial employees.
Dorsey, a “Y” generation alumni himself, argues that Millennials, are highly motivated to work. Judging from some comments from today’s leaders and managers, there is disagreement. Dorsey believes the disagreement comes from lack of communication and understanding; i.e. a failure of organization managers to listen to, or understand, what motivates Millennial employees.
Dorsey notes that Millennials have lived a life of positive reinforcement from parents, teachers, etc. that has engendered a sense of entitlement. Millennials earned a reputation as the “me” generation that requires more frequent management feedback on performance than is presently practiced in most American organizations. Rather than quarterly or annual reviews of performance, Dorsey suggests weekly or monthly reviews; not lengthy written, file stuffing exercises, but brief ten minute interviews that may include constructive criticism and/or honest praise when warranted.
Questions rise about “Work to Live” vs. “Live to Work” when it comes to the “Y” generation. Without over-generalizing, Dorsey infers Millennials opt for a “Work to Live” life. To a Millennial, job security is a fiction, careers are ephemeral, and life balance is overrated.
Dorsey has many suggestions about what can be done to motivate and retain “Y” generation employees. He creates a sense of urgency by noting that Millennials are the future of the American way of life. Dorsey’s fundamental observation is that managers need to understand what motivates their employees and adapt their organizations to accommodate future needs in a way that continues to achieve organizational objectives. Human nature has not changed; i.e. it is simply valued by different degrees of desire for money, power, and prestige. Nothing Dorsey recommends violates standard management practices suggested by great teachers and consultants like Peter Drucker and William Edwards Demming.
Dorsey’s solution is to bridge the gap between focus on outcome and process by including process in discussion about outcome. Working weekends, longer hours, skipping vacations, etc. are de-motivators for most employees but particularly for Millennials that enter the work force as a generation that has been financially supported through school and only lately become aware of work requirements in a capitalist society. Because of Millennials’ life experience, Dorsey suggests that Matures (the “Greatest Generation), Boomer, and ”X” generation managers become more flexible with time at work by focusing on outcomes rather than process.
This refocus on outcomes can benefit all employees in an organization. It is not to suggest work times can be eliminated but that work times may be a considered management subject when determining corporate objectives. To Millennials, time is money, one of life’s three basic motivations. Viewed in that light, time-off when outcomes are satisfied, are reward for jobs well done.
An advantage of “outcome” focus is that Millennials are not impeded by pre-conceived notions of what worked in the past. Also, outcome becomes subject to re-evaluation. In other words, the question becomes–is traditional outcome still in the best interest of the organization or is it time to re-think outcomes?
According to Pew’s research, Millennials prefer learning by doing. Life experience suggests “doing” is a better teacher than following a proscribed procedure. “Doing” has the added benefit of possible discovery of improved process. The organizational ramification is that organization leaders may consider assigning tasks to “Y” generation employees without formal rules of process. The success of that idea requires current managers of Millennials to: (1) clearly define desired outcomes, (2) frequently review performance, and (3) organizationally reward good performance, commensurate with quantifiable achievement.
For the first time in history, four different generations exist in some organizations. The three earlier generations have come to a rough consensus on what it takes to lead and manage organizations. But, Millennials, though optimistic about the future, are not sure current leadership and management have the right ideas about what is needed to lead and manage the future.
Millennials are gamers. Pew notes that Millennials spend “…thousands of hours playing electronic, computer and video games.” Games offer thrills, competition, positive reinforcement, and fun that make most work environments look like a drag. Some companies like Zappos have created a work place that emulates the characteristics of games with competition for sales, immediate positive reinforcement for high performance, and a work environment that eschews formality and endorses fun. This is not to suggest organizations need to become game rooms but that attention should be paid to outcomes that are competition driven with positive commendation for achievement, and/or financial reward, in a more relaxed and enjoyable work environment.
Dorsey explains Millennials are not tech savvy but tech dependent. They are unlikely to know how technology works but they have grown up with what technology can do. Pew describes Millennials as digital natives; i.e. they “…adapt faster to computer and internet services because they have always had them.” This is not to suggest that technology replaces Millennial’ need for social contact; in fact, it amplifies desire for social contact because computers do not offer the human feedback Millennials are accustomed to received.
Pew notes that Millennials are “…prolific communicators”; i.e. they use blogs, Facebook and other social media websites to reveal themselves and communicate to friends and family all over the world. They use instant messaging, cell phones, and Skype to stay in touch. Networking is second nature. Consensus building is a natural extension of Millennials’ ability to manage 21st century organizations. The value to organizations is that consensus builds productivity.
Another interesting insight from the Pew’ research is that Millennials seek flexibility and convenience in life and work. Dorsey notes that in job interviews, “Y” generation job-seekers are as intent on interviewing employers as in being interviewed. Dorsey explains that Millennials are looking for jobs that fit their life style.
A brief interview of three interns that work at the “Las Vegas Review Journal” reinforces much of what Pew’s research and Dorsey’s book reveal. Erin Peretti is a junior at Penn State. Her family lives here in Las Vegas. She said, “I want to work for a magazine or publication that allows me to creatively pursue interesting subjects.” Matt Smith, a 3rd year student at UNLV, is open to working anywhere in the world that offers a good financial opportunity and interesting life experience. Sara Eggers, a senior at BYU, would like to stay in the Southwest and is looking for work in a management environment in which she would feel comfortable.
Time is money to both employer and employee. With an outcome focus, when tasks are assigned to a Millennial, he/she works as many hours as is required to achieve desired outcomes. When a task is accomplished, recognition with time-off can be as important as a cash bonus. The point is that management flexibility in compensation makes jobs more fun to a Millennial employee. It is not that money is not a primary motivator for all employees but money becomes a fungible commodity.
Pew notes that a merit system of recognition is more important than seniority to Millennials. One suspects that is true for any beginning employee but might be a discountable quality as Millennials become more senior in their organizations.
Pew suggests that Millennials excel at multitasking; i.e. being on the phone, listening to music, and downloading information on a computer while working on an assigned task. This is acknowledging “Y” generation’s dependence on technology as much as recognizing any unique ability. As in all stimulating environments, there is a risk of distraction that can negatively impact outcome. Because Millennials are outcome oriented, managers have common ground to discuss employee performance issues related to distraction. If Pew’s so called multitasking skill is interfering with acceptable outcome, there is common ground for performance discussion with a Millennial employee. Objective performance geometrics (measurement) are grounds for frequent approval and/or constructive criticism of Millennial employees.
Human beings, from the beginning of recorded history, have been motivated by three things. One is wealth, defined by money or possessions; two is power, defined by control of lives; and three is prestige, defined by social standing. The only difference is in the weight each is given by a particular generation.
The 21st century is the Millennial’s age-of-opportunity. Organizations that develop, motivate, and retain the best of this new generation will be successful; organizations that do not will struggle.
SOURCE MATERIAL FOR “IN SEARCH OF THE ‘Y’ GENERATION”
1. PewResearch, “Social & Demographic Trends”, February 24, 2010.
2. “The 2013 Millennial Impact Report” by Achieve Organization, Primarily oriented to non-profit organizations.
3. “Millennials Go To College” (2003) by Neil Howe and William Strauss.
4. “Millennial Behaviors & Demographics” by Richard Sweeney, University Librarian, New Jersey Institute of Technology, University Heights, Newark, NJ 07102-1982 973-596-3208,email@example.com,Revised December 22, 2006
5. Y-Size Your Business by Jason Ryan Dorsey, Published 11/16/09.
6. Managing the Millennials by Chip Espinoza, Mick Ukleja, Craig Rusch, Published 2/22/10.
7. “The Millennial Generation”, March 2013, Author: Pat Breman
8. The Practice of Management-1954, The Effective Executive-1967 by Peter Drucker
9. Out of the Crises-1982 by W. Edwards Deming