You’ve seen this before: A photo of Google employees in the workplace and there’s seldom a gray hair in sight. Fact is, it’s not just Google. Most employees in the top tech companies, as of fall 2017, are in their late 20s. Which makes tech companies unusually dense concentrations of Millennials.
But what exactly is a “Millennial”? Definitions vary, but the Pew Research Center decided just a few months ago to use 1996 as the last birth year defining Millennials “in order to keep the Millennial generation analytically meaningful.” So a Millennial is someone born between 1981 and 1996—those who are ages 22 to 37 in 2018.
Since we at tekMountain live, breathe and eat tech innovation, we believe that every tech entrepreneur, every tech employer, must better understand not only Millennials’ characteristics, but also (and especially) their habits and expectations in the workplace.
Think of this as a primer on the cultivation of those who can bring your vision to fruition.
Characteristics of the species
Theories about the Millennial mindset and experience are as numerous as they are speculative. Some are downright fanciful. Good research, slow to materialize, is just now painting the Millennial portrait somewhat realistically. Here are a few things that researchers are becoming sure of about what makes Millennials tick:
Mediated peer persuasion. Millennials are heavily persuaded by their peers, and that persuasion is most often mediated by social media and other digital networks. No surprise, considering that Millennials were between age 11 and 26 when the iPhone first appeared. Millennials’ sensitivity to peer persuasion is thought to derive in part from coming of age at a time when their daily experiences were focused on team projects, collaborative gaming, ethnic diversity, cooperative learning, and intricately networked communication. Social media, constant connectivity and on-demand entertainment and communication have always been part of their technological landscape and are largely assumed.
FOMO all day long. It’s often said that Millennials value experience more than status of ownership. While true, that’s putting it simplistically. A more nuanced view can be had by looking at their finances.
Today’s “FOMO” is the new “keeping up with the Jones,” and its connotation is just about as unsavory. Millennials evidently fear going into debt less than they fear missing out on something. According to a new CredictKarma/Qualtrics survey, 39 percent of Millennials spend money they don’t have just to keep up with their friends. And 73 percent of them keep their debt secret from their friends. Maybe Millennials are not as different from their Baby Boomer grandparents as they like to think.
OK, experiences too. It’s true that Millennials surveyed by CreditKarma overspent on experiences, specifically food (60 percent), alcohol (30 percent), parties or nightlife (21 percent), travel (40 percent), music events (25 percent), and sporting events (17 percent).
But not all life experiences. Large percentages of Millennials also said they overspend on clothes, electronics, jewelry, and cars.
In the end, Millennials’ obsession with peer persuasion looks more like social anxiety than anything else. And that’s something employers need to recognize and perhaps accommodate.
Racial diversity. Millennials are more than 40% nonwhite, the most racially and ethnically diverse adult generation in the nation’s history, according to Pew. (The next generation will be even more diverse!)
Pew Research stated, “The implications of growing up in an ‘always on’ technological environment are only now coming into focus. Their attitudes and lifestyles can be both “positive and concerning.”
“What we don’t know is whether these are lasting generational imprints or characteristics of adolescence that will become more muted over the course of their adulthood,” Pew stated.
We should be careful about coming to any premature conclusions or making assumptions about this highly varied cohort.
Their natural habits
Work ethic, redefined. Millennial employers and employees alike report working an average of 38.8 hours per week, much less than Gen X (47.8) or Boomers (47.1) work. “That’s 468 hours, or almost two months less per year than Gen X business owners” work, Inc.com reports. But what may seem like a poor work ethic to Boomers looks more like a healthy life-work balance to Millennials.
T-t-texting. Millennials use texting three times more often than calling. Having a vocal conversation is so 1990s. Face-to-face communication, as valuable as we all know it is, may not be Millennials’ strong suit. More likely it’s a soft skill that calls for development and therefore something employers and HR professionals should have on their radar.
Care and feeding
Purpose-driven work. Millennials are the least engaged generation in the workforce, according to a recent Gallup study. But they’re not indifferent. The work they choose to do must have meaning to them personally. Gallup estimates that Millennial turnover due to lack of engagement costs the U.S. economy a whopping $30.5 billion annually.
One way employers can enhance meaning for Millennials’ work is through strong, regular feedback in which the employees themselves have some say. Feedback can come in the form of regular meetings and periodic performance reviews, with high frequency being the key element.
Attractive perks: Millennial employees expect nontraditional benefits—game rooms, gym membership, flexible work hours, onsite daycare, college-loan repayment, more generous holiday leave, free food or craft beer, laundry service, nap rooms, and more. And Millennial employers are the most likely employers to provide just those things.
However, it’s worth noting that the 2016 Gallup study mentioned previously takes issue with “the bells and whistles found in many workplaces today—the ping pong tables, fancy latte machines and free food that companies offer to try to create job satisfaction.” The study states emphatically that, more than job satisfaction, “purpose and development drive this generation.”
Rapid career advancement. Given their on-demand upbringing and technology nativism, Millennials can grow frustrated when rapid advancement eludes them. Their potential for advancement has been reported as their foremost criterion for choosing a job. So Millennials with clear goals see job hopping as an advantage, not the disadvantage that their elders view it as being.
Mentors, not managers. In keeping with the need for professional development, Millennial employees prefer to work with, and to learn from, job coaches—they want mentors more than they want\ managers.
Working from strengths. Having been raised amid the flowering of positive psychology, Millennials prefer to work from their strengths rather than striving to fix their weaknesses. That’s not to say that organizations should ignore weaknesses; rather, the more useful strategy is to leverage and enhance existing strengths in order to minimize weaknesses.
As a thought leader in the interdependent tech, entrepreneur and innovation ecosystems, we at tekMountain make it our mission to understand the evolution of tomorrow’s workplace. Helping our partners to understand the habits and expectations of Millennials in the workplace is only one of the many advantages we offer that bear great potential to the success of your enterprise.