Grouping generations of Americans is a loose practice; there are no hard boundaries or cutoff years. The basic range is about 20 years, and the Millennial generation loosely includes those born between 1980 and 2000. With such drastic technological advances being made every day and digital communication being so commonplace, Millennials have become accustomed to a different social environment than that of previous generations. Because of this, the Millennial generation’s work ethic is often called into question.
The Millennial Generation’s Work Ethic Is Changing the Workplace
While it’s tricky to generalize 75 million Americans, the Millennial generation is often thought of as being overly protected by their Baby Boomer parents. The Millennial generation’s work ethic stands in stark contrast to the “sink or swim” environment that previous generations endured. Rather than simply following orders for fear of being fired, the Millennial’s work ethic hinges on a fair and safe workplace.
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This generation is also the source of a great deal of social change, including a very low tolerance for racism and sexism, and broad acceptance of a wide range of people and lifestyles. As Millennials finished college, they entered the workforce during a time of economic downturn second only to the Great Depression. Faced with such financial and employment uncertainty and an unwillingness to go along with the way things have always been done, today’s employers have the choice to either accommodate these young people within reason or to try to force them to fit the molds of the past.
Millennials are more connected to the world than any other generation. This means that most young people understand the implications of the work they do and want to try to contribute to a “greater good” rather than just earn a paycheck. Millennials want to acquire new skills; they want to find a deeper sense of purpose in their work while also prioritizing a healthy work-life balance.
In the workplace, these young employees prefer an informal environment that focuses on collaboration, while also maintaining an orderly structure and clearly articulated directions. They want to be recognized for their contributions and get plenty of feedback on their performance. In addition, because they are very comfortable with technology, electronic communication is prioritized over face-to-face conversations.
Very few Millennials would welcome a supervisor that was reminiscent of their parents. However, structure and guidance are a must. Young people want a boss who notices their efforts and is available for advice and direction. Frequent updates on how they are contributing to the overall organization is another motivational tool.
As the generation forced to accept participation trophies for everything, the Millennial generation knows the difference between constructive praise and placating advice. These young workers crave real feedback; tell them if they’ve truly done a great job and if not, what needs to happen to improve. In addition, opportunities for training, development and growth are high motivators to keep Millennials moving forward in your company.
Millennials do not have much patience for artificially uptight work environments. This can sometimes be misunderstood as a poor work ethic. However, a relaxed work environment can help contribute to a healthy work-life balance.
This doesn’t have to mean flip-flops and foosball tables; however, business casual dress and accommodating schedules can go a long way. Lastly, the Millennial generation’s work ethic demands that the work they do matters. Even “boring” industries can give back to the community, contribute to meaningful causes, and work to make the world a better place – not just turn a profit.
Bridging the Generational Gap
For some, this may sound like a very different way of doing business and it may lead to some worries about alienating older workers. On the other hand, most of the ways that employers can accommodate and encourage the Millennial generation’s work ethic will also benefit everyone else. The result is likely to be a more loyal, more productive workforce across the board.