The False Label

There are way too many myths surrounding Millennials (aka Generation Y). To prepare for the way work will shift in the future, we need to dispel the notion that they are disloyal and difficult to manage.

The book I am writing on the future work has brought me into some thought provoking conversations with my favorite generation. I am particularly fascinated with what Gen Y brings to work and have personally loved working with them over the past 5 years, especially those from Emerging Markets like Turkey, Romania and South Africa. I also had the pleasure to lead the Early in Career Network in Cisco Canada and that again showed me how the workplace will need to change and adapt.

Why Should We Pay Attention?

Talent Gaps Worldwide

The reality is that by 2025 (that’s only 11 years from now), 75% of the workplace will be under the age of 30. If you look at the correlation of GDP and talent growth by 2025, what you’ll see is limited growth in the developing world (-40M workers). The talent is coming from the developing world (where there will be +1 billion workers) and they will have a different worldview and employability challenges in their own countries. And by 2025, workers can be anywhere as long as they can get the job done.

When Was the Last Time You Talked to A Gen Yer?

I would highly recommend you spend some time with Gen Yers as they have a very different perspective on life and work. Some of their views are refreshing. There is very little sugar coating, as they will share openly what is on their minds.

So if you haven’t had a chat recently, here are some of the many areas that you should know about.

The Loyalty Myth. Don’t tell them that they are not loyal and that they don’t commit to one company. They often wonder about the one-sided loyalty companies profess. On one hand, they are expected to be “loyal” to the company they work for and other hand, that same company can announce a major layoff and send them out the door. They call it as it is: hypocrisy.

The Lack of Commitment Myth. Talk to any Millennial and they’ll tell you that they are focused on getting their work done. But they don’t need to come to an office from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm to work. They don’t feel they need to be managed if their responsibilities are clear. As one recently shared with me: “who cares where you do your job?”

The Lack of Values Myth. For those in sales, they will not sell to an organization that they don’t believe in and need to work for a manager who will allow them this flexibility. They care more about living their values than hitting their sales targets, although I can assure you that if you provide them with the right environment, they will exceed your sales targets.

The Job Hopping Myth. The myth is they spend 1.5 years at a job. If you look closely, you’ll find that while many will have 7-10 jobs by the time they are 50, many will spend at least 4-5 years in a job to gain experience and also get to know the company. They tend to leave organizations because of limited professional development or lack of opportunities. Lack of leadership commitment to delivering on promises will also push them out the door. They want to be promoted as they see that as growth, which is one of their key motivators.

The Financial Myth. Money is also a motivator but it is a basic one. Many want a simpler life that is less encumbered with material possessions as a sign of success. And others pursue the life of a start-up entrepreneur more as a way to have flexibility and be able to take risks.

The Disengagement Myth. There are many in this generation who want to make a difference in their work in ways that have not been created yet. It goes beyond what we believe is their passion around corporate responsibility and making sure the organization gives back to the community and is responsible in its actions. They want side projects, outside their job, that focus on giving back.

The Age Myth. Ageism exists in the workplace. People will try to bypass the younger employees in conversations and decisions. They often find themselves in situations where they have to assert themselves. They want to be judged for their contributions and ideas; not their age. And when you spend quality time with them, you’ll realize you should be listening. When I launched the Reverse Mentoring program in Emerging Markets at Cisco, it was the first time very senior executives received some very direct feedback on their communication by these passionate employees who simply wanted to make a difference.  They find many senior executives detached from what happens outside of headquarters. Their recommendation to leaders is talk to as many employees as possible and if you are running a global company, visit as many countries and listen to people.

What Keeps Them Going?

One of the best ways to tap into this talent and help them stay motivated is to provide a great work experience and allow them to get involved in side projects. They also thrive in environments that provide ongoing feedback and growth opportunities (and this is not about the older generations desire to get ahead. This is about growth and personal development).

This is a generation that wants to leave a mark so help them find meaningful projects outside of their day job. While they want to feel valued, they also know that it is an unrealistic expectation. But many are idealistic and want to work for a company that is changing the world. They believe they can work for a for-profit organization and change the world.