BY 2025 THREE QUARTERS OF THE AUSTRALIAN WORKFORCE WILL BE MADE UP OF THE MILLENNIAL GENERATION.
This selfie crazed, avocado and latte loving generation living the Instagram life are often the subject of jokes, and typically labelled (mostly by their elders) as lazy and self-absorbed. Psychologist Dr Joann Lukins of Positive Peak Performance, suggests that businesses seek to better understand Millennials and harness the innovation, creativity and skills they can bring to the workplace.
“Work is a place to do something meaningful and to make a difference within the world,” she explains. “Millennials want a career path, an opportunity to work with an organisation that is consistent with their personal values, and they are motivated by the opportunity to have experiences, and take risks.”
Critics will often accuse Millennials of expecting to achieve leadership positions early in their career, or rushing in to start their own businesses, but Joann explains that this is not a sign of disrespect to their seniors.
“Millennials are optimistic, they are more comfortable with a ‘flat’ leadership structure – hence the belief that they can hold positions of influence early and it is deserved,” she explains.
Through no fault of their own, Millennials are also the result of a parenting style that has since been phased out.
“When the current Generation X were younger, the research was supportive of the benefits of enhanced self-esteem to overall wellbeing. What occurred though was an honest mistake,” Joann admits. “Whilst high self-esteem might help you to nail that job interview or ask someone out, it is not sufficient to help you to keep that job or keep that relationship. Where the message became somewhat skewed was in the assumption that self-esteem is enhanced by adding to someone’s self-worth by telling them how great they are and that they can achieve anything, there are no limits. The challenge is that if we tell a whole generation that they are outstanding and above the average, then it makes it quite challenging for anyone to be that average.”
Perhaps it is frustration, not arrogance, driving some of the behaviour that draws criticism. Joann points out that this generation has the highest likelihood of not meeting their career expectations, and reports the lowest levels of satisfaction with where their current career is currently at.
Consider too that they are the first generation to be born into a digital world, with around half checking social media at least hourly, and what effect this can have on their mental health.
SELFIE CRAZED, AVOCADO AND LATTE LOVING GENERATION LIVING THE INSTAGRAM LIFE
Yes, they do things differently, but so too has each generation before them. Joann explains that the ‘kids these days’ notion is really just history repeating itself.
“Humans have something of a habit of looking back to those who follow them and making comments such as ‘not as it was in my day’.” Joann observes. “To describe a person by their generation is a short-hand strategy and typecasting everyone by the generation into which they are born is also not wise. A key thing for us to think about is that each culture and expectations of each generation is strongly influenced by the generation that have gone before.”
It’s essential that leaders equip themselves with the skills to mentor this upcoming workforce and bring out the best in them. “Take the time to find out who they are,” Joann advises. ‘Engagement in work is critical. Gain feedback from staff as to what they find engaging and encourage them to be part of the solution in getting less palatable tasks done in a more productive way. When work is meaningful, even if it’s tedious, it will get done more effectively. People matter, the opportunity to form meaningful relationships within the workplace central to the task is important.”
“Most workforces will benefit from having diversity within it, in terms of age, gender, experience, and ethnicity,” Joann says. “Diversity allows for new ideas and challenges, and helps to overcome the dangerous phrase, ‘That’s how we’ve always done it around here’.”
There’s a lot that businesses can learn and gain from this next generation, and if you can successfully tap into the massive pool of Millennial talent that’s out there, you may just find your business has a serious competitive advantage.