Everyone seems to have an opinion about millennials and the employment market.
The media calls them narcissistic, their parents call them lazy, the media calls them, and employers characterize them as impatient, disloyal, flighty, self-centered job candidates.
But even millennials grow up. Now, these “self-centered,” “lazy” “narcissists” make up 25 percent of the US workforce. By 2030, that number is projected to rise to 75 percent.
Yet generational gaps have existed for as long as generations have. And the things that Boomers hate about millennials also happen to be the things that give them an edge in the job market. It’s only that a different generation comes with a different mindset, and maintaining these ambitious young adults means adopting a modern way of management.
And I would know.
I’m one of those flighty Generation Y narcissists. But contrary to the stereotype, I’ve spent seven years at one company. So, speaking from personal experience, here are a few ways that you, the employer, can create high engagement and retention amongst your Generation Y employees.
Upon completing my bachelor’s degree in business and East Asian studies, I went straight to work as a junior clients account manager at an online media company. It was a small startup made up of 60 ambitious employees, where I had the opportunity to grow with the team and learn directly from my manager.
In fact, my manager (and ultimately, mentor) was an integral part of my experience here. He never told me how to do my job. Instead, he exposed me to industry trends and business models, guiding me toward my own method of managing my client’s portfolio. I learned a lot, grew professionally, and developed a new skill set.
Luckily, both my manager and the HR team recognized my management skills early on. They actively challenged me by increasing my responsibilities, involving me in solving complex problems, and assigning me to support and mentor new employees. They boosted both my confidence and my abilities during this pivotal, early stage of my career, helping me thrive.
The company appreciated my motivation, and I was promoted to managing a small team of media buyers. While this was an obvious win for me, it was also a big win for the company: by nurturing internal talent, they were home-growing their very own future managers. Plus, I became even more loyal to the company, aligning more closely with its goals and missions. After all, their success directly benefited me — the more the company grew and diversified its business models, the more I could grow professionally.
Though autodidacts and self-learners are commonplace amongst millennials our company’s HR team deliberately worked to foster the talents of today’s young manager, helping them grow into tomorrow’s leaders. For instance, I had the benefit of a monthly mentorship plan, as well as a six-month course in leadership and managerial skills, all of which strongly influenced the type of manager I am today.
This taste of success further motivated me, and I searched for my next challenge. Suddenly, leading five people was no longer enough — I wanted to challenge myself, to learn, to evolve by managing a much larger team, and when the opportunity came along i was well prepared for it. My last job at the company I’ve ended up leading a five-team department, including client success, business development, M&A, sales, and marketing.
My managers and the HR team identified my strengths early on, helping them understand the best way to lead me. The realized that to succeed in developing my career, I needed to be constantly challenged, yet I need to constantly deliver results. Plus, they made me feel important: they asked for my opinion, my ambitions, and how I gauged my own success within the company.
Of course, not all millennials are the same. But we are ambitious, hungry, and driven. We long to be challenged, and we need to be heard.
- Understand what matters to us. Generally, millennials are high achievers. But they may define success differently: to us, personal growth and development often outweigh financial rewards.
- Let us know how we’re doing. We crave constant feedback, good or bad. Provide recognition for good work, and constructive criticism on points for improvement — we’ll up our efforts in return 🙂
- Define goals, but don’t micromanage. Since Generation Y treats all of a company’s roles (from CEO to the most junior employee) as equal, expect to be treated that way. We appreciate leaders who mentor and are inspired by those who lead by example, are professional and experienced.
- Involve them in creating their work environment. Feedback is a two-way street, and employees should always have a voice when it comes to company activities, management, or anything else company-related.
- Don’t limit them. Millenials are multitaskers who like to get their hands dirty and try out new things. They don’t want to focus on just one area of responsibility — they want to learn. This can be a huge attribute to your company.