The millennial generation is now the largest in the workforce. But what is a millennial?
Also labeled Generation Y, a millennial is someone born between 1980 and 1994, basically anyone who entered adulthood after the millennium. As you are probably aware, the term ‘millennial’ has taken on some negative connotations, with certain members of older generations labeling them as pampered ‘snowflakes’ who aren’t as gritty as their predecessors.
Like all stereotypes, these claims are exaggerated. It’s important that you don’t try to figure out ‘the millennial’ as if they’re a code to be cracked. In reality, it’s all about managing the motivations of older and younger generations. Younger generations have always had different ideas and motivations than their parents. So, what matters to today’s young workers?
Many younger people have grown up with older people telling them they wasted too much of their life working instead of spending time with family or friends. Increasingly, younger workers want to have a strong work-life balance. It doesn’t mean they won’t work hard when required, but just that they value flexibility when they need time off.
While some young people are motivated simply by money, many others want to feel useful, that they’re doing something that matters like helping their community or the environment. Teach them about the unexpected delights of a career in portable sanitation and the good work our industry does (benefiting people in developing countries, saving 125 million gallons of fresh water a day; how important PROs are in areas affected by natural disasters). Get your younger staff involved in any community work you do, and you might just find confident, hardworking, and valuable employees.
Many young workers are pessimistic about their long-term job opportunities. They’ve seen older relatives lose their jobs, they’ve worked in precarious employment themselves, and they aren’t confident they can find a “job for life” these days. Make them feel invested in by creating a positive culture in your company where hard work pays off and leads to promotion. Check out our tips on building company morale and, importantly, train your younger workers well so that they’re confident in what they’re doing and they feel they’re being invested in, giving them the ability to succeed and do things on their own.
Finally, take the opportunity to learn from your younger workers. See if your millennial employees have any ideas about improving your website or online presence. Don’t forget that more and more of your customers will soon be millennials if they’re not already, and the first port of call for them will be your website and social media pages, not local newspapers or ad boards. If they’re not impressed, they’ll move on.
Bridge the generation gap and you’ll teach and learn at the same time!
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