This column is part of Globe Careers' new Leadership Lab series, where executives and leadership experts share their views and advice about the leadership and management issues of today. There will be a new column every weekday. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.
Millennials are the largest, most diverse, most educated and most connected generation of all time and that's why companies have to pay attention to them in a big way.
By 2025, they will become 75 per cent of the global work force and more are stepping into management positions every day. Most employers aren't prepared for the sheer number of millennials who are going to be entering their companies in the coming years because of the generational differences.
To better understand these disparities, I partnered with PayScale.com on our annual "Generations At Work" study. In the study, we compared millennials to Gen X's and boomers to identify differences in how they view work and how they are dealing with the current economy. As work force demographics change, companies have to be prepared to cater to people who were raised differently and have different levels of comfort with technology. Here are some of our key findings and how they can help employers better engage with millennials.
1. They are happy with their managers.
More baby boomers (9.40 per cent) wish they could change their boss (out of all the possible changes to their work situation) than millennials (5.90 per cent) or Gen X (6.80 per cent). In Canada, fewer millennials would change their boss at 4.9 per cent. Based on previous research I've done, millennials have a positive view of their management. They see them as being wise and willing to mentor. Millennials are looking for mentoring support and seek their boss's advice on how to get ahead since they are just starting out in their careers. Companies need to provide these mentoring opportunities so they can better engage their millennials and retain them, instead of lose them to the competition.
2. They want to work for a small company.
Millennial workers are more likely to work at small firms (less than 100 employees) than both Gen X or baby boomers (55.6 per cent compared with 48.1 per cent and 49.6 per cent respectively). In Canada, slightly more millennials work for small firms (58.5 per cent). Millennials are seeking a startup culture where they can dress casually, have workplace flexibility and be innovative. Smaller companies provide an environment where they can get involved with various business activities too. Millennials are also turned off by the daunting interview process used by large companies. Employers should create a culture that supports millennials if they want to compete against millennial entrepreneurs and those who wish to work at smaller companies.
3. They have a delayed adulthood.
In the study, we found that baby boomers are more likely to have always lived on their own after starting their career (95.6 per cent) than Gen X (88.5 per cent) or millennials (70.8 per cent). In Canada, slightly more millennials have lived on their own (71.9 per cent). Millennials across the world have felt the harsh realities of the economic collapse. Millions are still living with their parents and are either jobless or underemployed working as bartenders or waiters. Employers need to be sensitive to this during their recruitment process and also understand that millennials are very family oriented. Some have even brought their parents on job interviews.
4. They want to work from home.
Despite millennials wanting workplace flexibility, they aren't receiving it as much as older generations. Gen X (6.5 per cent) is more likely to have the option to work from home than millennials (5.3 per cent) or baby boomers (4.8 per cent). In a previous study I did with oDesk.com, we found that millennials embrace the idea of freedom and flexibility in the workplace over older generations. Employers should give all generations the ability to work from wherever they want as long as they get their jobs done. Millennials will be more loyal and effective if you trust them with this privilege and if you don't, they will go to another company that offers it.
5. They want meaningful work.
In the study, we found that millennials report the lowest levels of job meaning. In Canada, only 40 per cent of millennials report a high level of job meaning. Millennials often choose meaningful work over higher salaries when selecting a company to work for. Their workplace expectations are higher and not met by what corporations are currently offering either. Employers need to find a way to allow millennials to work on projects that align with their strengths and have a true business impact. They should also set expectations that not every project will be what they are looking for and that they have to pay their dues over time in order to earn opportunities.
Dan Schawbel (@DanSchawbel) is a workplace expert, keynote speaker and the New York Times best-selling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success.