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Millennials in the Workplace

I’ve lost count of the number of times in HR conferences I’ve been to, in conversations with my friends (yes I have at least one friend), and in conversations at work, where someone has called me a millennial. On the surface, this is fine. I’m born in 1990, therefore the demographic label fits. However, I instantly take offence because of the connotations of this. Being a millennial, I apparently do a range of things:

  • I buy avocado toast, therefore I can’t buy a house (I hate avocado)
  • I’m half as likely to vote as someone double my age (I’ve voted since I turned 18)
  • I’m likely to choose my holiday on the basis of Instagram (I don’t have Instagram)

I don’t take offence at the label, but I do reject these common conceptions of what us Millennials are – some fit the stereotypes and some don’t. This led me to think about the impact Millennials have had in the workplace, how workplaces and styles are unquestionably different now to a decade ago, and whether my working style fits more into the Millennial workplace conceptions than my lifestyle does. Largely yes, but here are 5 common myths about Millennials in the workplace that I definitely don’t agree with:

  1. Millennials are entitled. Literally nobody I know (my two friends) expects a pat on the back for getting in to work on time. What we all do have though are worse attention spans than our predecessors, so we just want interesting work which leaves us fulfilled. We want to achieve, and we want to achieve yesterday. Is burning ambition really such a bad thing?
  2. We job-hop because we can’t settle. On the face of it, the statistics and studies don’t lie – we do stay at organisations for less time than before. However, the question is why do we job-hop? Is it to grow and succeed? Instead of accepting that all Millennials move on, organisations should be asking themselves “Are we offering enough training and development to keep Millennials longer?”, “Is there a platform for Millennials to grow?”, “Do we offer flexible working and benefits Millennials want?” It’s less can’t settle and more fulfil our development and experience needs.
  3. Millennials are lazy. This simply isn’t true. From the moment we wake up, many of us check work emails. On the commute into work, we are mentally plugged into our work. It’s not laziness to travel to work slightly later or leave slightly earlier – it’s working more efficiently! Most importantly it’s based on contribution, not time and attendance, leaving to a more productive workforce.
  4. We have little time for experienced colleagues. I think this is a two way street. If a Millennial joins an organisation and experienced colleagues go out of their way to settle them in, this builds a level of trust and connection which can blossom into a two-way learning street throughout the employee life cycle. If an experienced colleague treats younger “newbies” as a threat and gives them short shrift, this will be returned with interest! Millennials just need to be approached and treated with respect, and we will do the same back.
  5. We are addicted to the internet. Okay, you win, I can’t defend this one. We totally are! But this is a benefit – we stay up to date with trends, and can reflect this in our work, keeping at the forefront of innovative thinking.

Whether these conceptions are true or not, the key message is that it’s vital for an organisation to:

  1. understand their workforce profile;
  2. adapt to complement workforce diversity; and most importantly
  3. applaud Millennials for getting to work on time.