Also, the danger of not talking about a problem, regular and stretch goals, updating your résumé annually – and more
Much is being written about millennials these days. Human resources consultant Tim Sackett's reaction: Bah, humbug! "I've vowed at this point to never sit through another presentation on millennials in the workplace," he wrote on his blog after listening to a keynote address on the generation born between the early 1980s and 2000.
"Millennials are now dead to me. Just as baby boomers, GenXers, GenZs, the Founders, etc., are all dead to me. All of us are people. All of us are in the workplace. All of us have to work together and get along. Focusing so much on one group over another just perpetuates dysfunction and confusion."
But of course, he didn't stop there. No commentator would. Everybody loves to pontificate on the millennials. He went on to share some myths about them from a recent IBM Institute for Business Value report.
Myth 1 – Millennials' career goals and expectations are different from those of older generations: In fact, their career goals are similar to previous generations. They are marginally more interested than the baby boomers, for example, in making a positive impact on their organization and marginally less interested in helping to solve social or environmental challenges.
Myth 2 – Millennials want constant acclaim and believe everybody on the team should get a trophy: IBM found that they prefer a manager who is ethical and fair to one who recognizes their accomplishments. Mr. Sackett adds: "Every generation wants feedback and [to be] told they're a rock star, even when they're not. As we age, we start to gain a little better self-insight that we might suck. When we're young we think we're awesome, even when we're not."
Myth 3 – Millennials are digital addicts who want to do everything online: In fact, when learning new things, they prefer attending conferences or classroom training or working with colleagues to digital learning options. Mr. Sackett says he has eight aunts nearing their 70s who spend most of their day on digital devices, gaming and visiting social sites: "This is the world we live in. My mom would rather order a pizza online than pick up a phone. Welcome to modern day life."
Myth 4 – Millennials, unlike their older colleagues, can't make a decision without first inviting everyone to weigh in: Actually, that's truer of the generation before them, Gen X, born between the mid-1960s and 1980. But Mr. Sackett says in the modern workplace, most people are wary of making individual decisions: "We all say we want to make decisions until we're actually given that responsibility; then we turn into bowls of Jell-O on the floor hoping we didn't ruin our careers!"
Myth 5: Millennials are more likely than others to jump ship if a job doesn't fulfill their passions: Actually IBM says the generations are fairly similar on wanting to move elsewhere, with the top reasons being more money and a more creative workplace.
But Gallup Research presents a different picture. A recent report revealed 21 per cent of millennials say they have changed jobs within the past year, more than three times the number of non-millennials. Millennials are also 16-per-cent less willing to stay in their current jobs, with only half of them "strongly agreeing" that they plan to be working at their company one year from now. "For businesses, this suggests that half of their millennial work force doesn't see a future with them," Gallup writer Amy Adkins warns.
Workplace consultant Cali Yost says we need to thank millennials for pushing work cultures toward true flexibility. The tendency of organizations has been to come up with modest programs and policies for flexibility that target the aggrieved group. But that won't work well.
"From my experience, what millennials really want isn't a policy or program. They aren't necessarily looking for a formal flexible work arrangement that officially defines how, when or where they work on any given day. And they don't even want 'balance.' They want a degree of control over how they fit work and life together, day to day. That's harder to wrap neatly into a one-size-fits-all benefit. It requires fundamentally rethinking the way work is done," she writes on her blog.
Smart organizations that are responsive will step back and use the expectations of millennials as a spur to broader workplace change. Some issues she suggests you consider:
– Uncouple talent from geography, expanding your access to good people wherever they live.
– Give workers in increasingly open and crowded work spaces the option to telework, as needed, when it helps them concentrate and be more productive.
– Help people fit cost-saving, wellness-related activities, such as exercise, doctor's appointments, and, yes, sleep into everything else they need to do.
– Support the partial and phased retirement of employees who don't want to work full-time but can continue to contribute their talent.
– Retain employees who need to reset the way work and life fit together because of a major life transition, such as becoming a parent, caring for an aging relative, going back to school, or the relocation of a spouse.
– Use existing technology investment to improve communication and co-ordination of a flexible work force.
Beyond a flexible workplace, consultant Tracy Benson feels it's vital to give millennials a sense of purpose at work, showing how they contribute to society. You should also embrace technology and make collaboration a way of doing business, build an entrepreneurial environment, and loosen the corporate hierarchy, since they aren't adherents of structure. Commenting on that, Bryant University Professor Michael Roberto adds they need to be challenged – stretched intellectually – while providing them excellent learning and development opportunities.
To which Mr. Sackett might reply: Bah, humbug. The IBM data suggest people from every generation want those features of work, which, of course, may be more reason to provide them.
– The problem you can't talk about has just become two problems when you don't, warns entrepreneur Seth Godin
– In setting goals, consultant Mike Figliuolo recommends both a commit and a stretch goal. A commit goal is the minimum – what the individual should be expected to deliver no matter what and carries no bonus. A stretch goal is the furthest point that seems within the realm of possibility. The first 70 per cent of the stretch is understandable (even if it will require incredible effort to achieve it) but there will be little idea about how the last 30 per cent will come. Maximum bonus for attaining that.
– If your presentations are littered with "ums" and "ahs," that may not be a bad thing. Speaking coach Nick Morgan says it helps to give you time to think about what is next. Since the audience knows you are stalling to gather thoughts, research shows they actually listen more attentively to what comes next, assuming it is more thoughtful than what preceded it, and remember it better.
– Once a year, on the anniversary date at your job, consultant Liz Ryan suggests considering how to update your resume to indicate the wonderful things you have accomplished in the preceding year. Also, answer this question: "If I were job hunting, what I would say when asked what I learned each year at my current employer?" And take time to reflect on what you want from your career over the long term.
– Try the HabitMaster app for iOS to keep track of and build daily, weekly, and monthly habits for improvement.
– And in closing, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says, "The biggest risk is not taking any risk. … In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks."
Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. E-mail Harvey Schachter