Disloyal, entitled and difficult — these are just some of the unjustified labels given to the millennial generation. The stories on the other side of the table narrate a different reality. With millennials expected to make up 75% of the office leadership by 2025, it is time to stop labelling, and start understanding — to stop complaining and start leading.
What’s often not realised is that millennials are the way they are due to a range of factors, from the era of social justification they grew up in, to the high expectations of success they developed owing to the success stories they heard from their parents. Understanding their motivations, expectations, and desires at work are key to leading them properly.
Societies across the world underwent a major modernisation revolution during the time millennials were growing up. Years of campaigning and efforts of many humanitarian organisations showed great results in just that window of time. Women were given more power in the workplace, racial equality made a major headway, the US elected its first black president, and there were vital medical advancements along with education opportunities — with such a rosy experience, millennials grew to expect more results in shorter periods of time. Perhaps that’s why they’re so particular with wanting to spend time as effectively as possible. In fact, this trait is one of the most advantageous when it comes to delivering on short deadlines experienced in the workplace today. You’ll notice that millennials can get things done when everyone wants projects delivered yesterday.
Sadly, just as they were entering the workforce in early 2000s, they were hit by recession. For a generation that saw so many positive advancements, they then experienced joblessness, disappointments expectations of success, pressure to succeed and more. As Simon Sinek describes it, “they were dealt a bad hand”. However, that has led to them becoming a more flexible generation, working with what they have and being solution-oriented.
Another interesting development in their growing years was the growth of the internet and advent of social media, that connected people the world over. Stories of poverty, cruelty, environmental harm, were shared more widely than ever before. This has been cited to overwhelm the emotions of people, bringing quarter-life crisis into existence. It is in fact commendable that millennials put a positive spin on this too to take it upon themselves to do good in society — fulfilling a purpose.
This has become one of the most common desires of the generation as whole. They judge their life’s worth or success by fulfilling a purpose. In fact, more than 60% confess that a company’s purpose plays an important role for them in choosing an employer. A recent millennial survey from Deloitte also showed that the they judge a company based upon what they do and how they treat their employees. You may feel a moral righteousness in their character, which is in part responsible for the reducing corruption rate across across the world.
Making a difference and fulfilling a purpose may sound odd to others in an office environment. However, this is one of the key drivers that can be leveraged by companies to not only fulfil their social responsibility duties, but to bring about positive changes in the workplace, which can increase employee morale, as well as raise employer brand value and reputation in the market. From health screenings every few months, mental health support and better work-life balance, to choosing sustainable project plans and doing business with ethically conscious partners — there are many differences people can make at every level and department of an organisation.
For every negative experience, millennials have developed a positive character trait, and for every badly-perceived quality, there can be huge financial and productivity upsides. Sadly, the leadership and management styles of companies haven’t changed to adapt to the new generation. This is evident in survey results such as Deloittes’ that shows more than 40% of millennials are expecting to leave their current jobs within two years, and one in four willing to move to join a new organisation or different position if given the option.
While this is a concerning find, a more worrying pattern has emerged in the business world across the globe — with 63% of 7,700 millennials across 29 countries claiming in a survey that their leadership skills weren’t being fully developed. With them making a majority of the leadership and workforce today, it’s high time that leaders took note of this and started making changes to address this for the long-term success and stability of their companies. It’s vital that they let go of the traditional succession plans and imbibe the patterns of true leadership: to inspire and support people to reach their full potential and show results they are capable of; taking responsibility for failures, honouring their promises and being open to new disruptive ideas that could bring about a positive change — hand in hand with the millennials.