Job-hopping, self-centered, distracted, spoiled, lazy. The Millennial Generation receives a bad rap sometimes. Yet, people are fascinated with us, which has always intrigued me. For all our faults, though, we’re also tech-savvy, community-conscious, and loyal to a T. Could it be that our generation is just misunderstood, or struggling to fit into a corporate environment that doesn’t focus on employee engagement?
I find the fascination with my generation interesting. Why are people so suspicious of us? Why are we so often associated with such negative stereotypes? Sure, we can sometimes be a bit like bulls in a china shop, especially without the right kind of support and guidance, but we can also be extremely hard-working and dependable, especially if we’re working for the right kind of company, and we’re constantly on the lookout for ways to improve ourselves and the environment around us.
So, as we start to find our feet as leaders, what impact will we have on the workplace?
Growing Up Digital
Perhaps one of the most fascinating and unique things about us millennials is that while we enjoyed a childhood outdoors, we were young enough to adapt whole-heartedly to the digital world when it emerged. I remember my younger years spent outside with imaginary friends and actual physical toys. I wasn’t in front of a screen and when I did watch something, it was on a box television with commercial breaks or the highly anticipated Friday after-school trip to Blockbuster.
Being young kids during the digital surge, we were filled with innocent curiosity, developing an insatiable appetite for technology. I still remember how cool I felt standing at the tram stop with my Nokia 8250 playing snake or how revolutionary the iPod was. We have lived through so many technological and social launches that we are constantly intrigued by the ‘new shiny thing’. First, there was Instant Messenger, then Myspace. Then along came Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. And with each new platform, we’ve been young enough and digitally savvy enough to not only understand them all but also embrace them.
But, what does this mean for the workforce?
Job Hoppers Can’t Be Leaders… or Can They?
A recent report done by Gallup revealed that 21% of millennials have changed jobs within the past year, more than three times the number of non-millennials. It’s estimated that this costs the US economy $30.5 billion annually. According to PWC, millennials are also the most racially and ethnically diverse adult generation in history, who continue to “spearhead some of the greatest social movements of the day: think of Black Lives Matter, or Occupy Wall Street”. Importantly, though, and perhaps why millennials job-hop, millennials as a generation are searching for a connection to things they value and are loyal to movements that they believe in.
Millennials want to work for companies with ideals that align with their own. They want to work for companies that have a purpose they can believe in. Salary doesn’t dictate why a millennial chooses to accept a job, nor does job title. Millennials are searching for that X factor in their careers; a purpose they can wholeheartedly invest in. The good news is that according to a LinkedIn report, 39% of purpose-oriented individuals are more likely to stay with their employers for three years or more, compared to 35% of non-purpose-oriented people. The report states: “purpose taps a universal need. It serves as a motivator despite cultural differences – uniting everyone to contribute to something bigger”. This is how the millennial generation thinks. Give us purpose and we’ll give it back ten-fold.
The older millennials are now knocking on senior leadership doors. As with any new thinker, the question remains, how will millennials change the way the workplace is managed? If millennials are constantly labeled as job-hoppers and the distracted generation, how will they retain leadership roles and more importantly, actually lead a team and company?
As mentioned before, millennials don’t want to work for any old company. They require a management style that is very different from what is currently available. Of course, this is changing, especially as millennials themselves begin to step into management roles. Millennials want visionary leadership, they need an environment that resonates with their personal values and a leader who believes in the same. They want more and yes, they want more NOW. However, living in an ‘on-demand’ society only drives this thirst for instant gratification. So is this behaviour really a reflection on the millennial generation or the society we now live in?
So here’s what I believe will happen. As millennials, step into leadership and management roles, we will begin to shape the corporate environment in a way that will provide the structure and connectivity that millennials need to thrive. Social connectivity and technology will be embraced even further than it has already. Training and development will improve as will work/life balance, which we’re already seeing accepted due to COVID. There will be a greater focus on visionary leadership and companies becoming more purpose-driven. The corporate definition of success will slowly move away from being profit-driven, and more towards, as Michelle Obama describes it “the difference you make in peoples’ lives”. Through this focus on purpose and value, the profits will flow and I feel millennials will settle into their roles for the longer term.
Millennials Take the Lead
Think about it this way: if the purpose is the secret ingredient to success, then surely the millennial generation will thrive. Everything about the millennial generation is driven by purpose. They want purpose in their careers, purpose in their hobbies, they live in an environmentally-conscious world. Millennials want to spend time on things that matter, they dedicate their lives to value, and this could see a huge shift in corporate culture. Not only will this mean a better work/life balance, but it will also probably see a shift to outsourcing or automating the more ‘mundane’ tasks so that staff can focus on value-add components of the job.
As the older generations retire from the workforce and younger generations fill their shoes, there will undoubtedly be a shift in the way we work and in the way we lead. Change is constant and if you embrace it, companies will thrive. COVID has shown us that companies that are adaptable and innovative will ride out the disruption, coming out in front on the other side.
As the millennial generation takes the lead, finding the connection to the purpose we are all looking for, I hope some of the stereotypes change. I hope the ‘lazy generation’ label becomes the ‘efficient generation’. I hope we will be seen as the generation that works smarter, not harder, bringing innovative ways to work and communicate. As the corporate environment changes to be more purpose-focused, I feel the millennial generation will settle into their jobs developing deep loyalty to the companies they feel connected to.
I am the Australian women who defined doctors and taught myself to walk again through redefining my own version of success. I have been recognized by The NYC Journal as one of the Top 30 Women Disruptors To Look Out For In 2021 and Disruptors Magazine Top 30 Inspiring Women To Look Out For In 2022.