Millennials at work have gotten a bad rap. Why? They approach work differently from older workers. It’s time to stop complaining, start working with Millennials, and enjoy the skills they bring to the workforce.
This is the first time in decades (1970’s) that being at the young end of the workforce is a significant detriment to becoming and remaining employed. Some common complaints set the context of the issues: Younger employees seem to want rewards just for showing up. No one wants to be “entry level” any more. “Millennials” tend to think they should be valued as a “person” instead of as a worker. Attention span is notably shorter. Every task, system, and request seems to result in a debate. Rather than fight all these traits, how can we work with them to make the entire organization grow?
The most successful approach to working with Millennials and blending the generations I have seen has been to institute a grading/seniority system. A company may have 10 levels in each tier: administrators, manufacturing, logistics, sales, management and executive, for example. Each level comes with an ops manual or thorough job description, a distinct review interval, and a defined pay scale. Unless the ops manual specifies a particular methodology, employees can individualize as long as the goals and benchmarks are consistently met.
The assets to a system like this are it clearly defines expectations based on the job title or level; gender, intangible talent, and seniority are now all under consideration only at review times. Compensation goes hand in hand with responsibility level instead of perceived worth or chronology. Because everyone participates in training when they enter certain levels, it creates a standardized knowledge base instead of perceptions of success or failure.
Putting it in perspective
Youth has always been the enemy of tradition, and this generation is challenging traditions all over the place. Is it just a case of growing pains? The road to my office was once a path, then a dirt road, then cobblestone, and then pavement. Things evolve. Due to the explosion of technologies since the 1980s, the millennials literally grew up in a different world from their parents, and they feel like they’re waiting for the Boomers and Gen X to catch up. They see things differently. It’s very helpful to hear them out. When they’re right, your organization improves. Stop fighting it!
The evolutionary jump created over the last 35 years is unparalleled in history. Millennials are no more different from their elders than the Woodstock generation was from theirs. That said, they are different from Boomers and Gen Xers, and they should be accepted. Some of the beliefs and systems they challenge will stand the test of time. But some, like the cobblestone street, need to be put aside.