By TAMARA JAYNE
It’s easy to conclude that this generation would rather spend on 12 ringgit lattes, demand flexible working hours without the hardship, and get bored way too easily.
Thirty years ago, staying loyal to a company for many years may have been a common occurrence.
So what are they looking for then?
The popular perceptions of millennials can be debated until the cows come home (or until they move out of their parents’ homes) but it isn’t going to get us anywhere until we try to understand why people do what they do.
Here’s what some of us think.
To our dear management,
1. We’re not all about the money.
Millennials earn less than their older peers did at that age before the recession and have 60% lower wage growth.
Contrary to popular belief, money is not always the biggest long-term motivating factor for some of us—purpose and ownership to what we are doing is.
“Give employees a reason to stay and they will stay,” says Jonathan Yabut, leadership speaker and author of the book From Grit to Great.
Safe to say that 67% of this generation are willing to take a pay cut to their salaries if it meant a more fulfilling career path in the long run.
This is a relatively ‘big’ sacrifice considering that we may be 50 thousand ringgit deep in student debt loans to attain the degree that ‘promised’ us a higher pay.
“Employees today want a purpose-driven and meaningful job. They want more than just to work for an organisation that’s only concerned with numbers. Many are looking for a place to belong,” says Joseph Tan, expert on culture and CEO of Leaderonomics Good Monday.
Thought to ponder:
Research shows that employees who stay longer than two years in a company, get paid 50% less. Loyalty is a two-way street.
Instead of whining about employees job-hopping, what are we doing to compel them to stay?
2. We know the stereotypes.
We can’t put our phones down. We’re drowning in debt with a lifestyle we don’t need.
We have our instant gratifications fulfilled at the click of a button.
We are non-committal to work, life, and even marriage.
We hear the stereotypes.
Funnily enough, stereotypes go both ways. Millennials are supposedly unhappy for a myriad of reasons—lack of work life flexibility, annoying bosses, feeling unappreciated, lack of career growth, yada yada. . .we’ve heard them all.
The best way forward is for us to drop the stereotypes in order to be on the same page. . .or to keep us from driving each other insane.
Thought to ponder:
No one enters a company with the desire to ‘check out’ of their jobs and be disengaged.
No company sets out to not appreciate their employees either.
Stereotypes placed on each other only breeds disunity among the generations.
Before labelling them as all the same, perhaps it’s time to take a look at why employees feel this way?
3. You tolerate low performance.
One of the most demotivating things that could happen is when you have poured blood, sweat and tears into your work and Yes-man-Richard gets noticed for having spent 60 hours a week being ‘busy’ with unnecessary tasks that carry no real weight.
Thought to ponder:
When leadership praises ‘mirage workers’ and fails to appreciate or recognise the actual players, it’s not going to be long before employees start looking for other places.
Don’t be surprised if this kills the morale of your top performers as well.
4. Culture is more than bean bags and free coffee.
While we appreciate having the PlayStation and ping pong table in the office, they aren’t what will motivate us to wake up in the morning and be innovative. It is being seen and heard.
It is being surrounded with people who are able to think innovatively and are driving towards a similar purpose and vision. It is the mentorship and the ability to grow in our strengths.
There’s really no point in giving us free snacks and a nice coffee machine if our ideas and voices are shoved aside or not heard.
Thought to ponder:
When purpose is vague or communicated poorly from leadership, employees will start to set their own.
“If there is no direction from above, employees are forced to find their own direction, which results in disengagement or ‘misalignment’ as human resources departments call it.
Right rituals encourage right behaviour and right rituals may include team bonding, and truly listening to employees’ opinions and feedback,” said Joseph Tan.
5. It’s ok to be honest.
So it’s been a tough year on the economy and the company is not doing well. It’s ok to talk it out. It’s ok to be real about the situation.
It may even help us understand why our bonuses didn’t come in this year.
Thought to ponder:
If I am treated as just another number in this company, eventually, the favour will be returned. I’ll end up living for my pay check and counting down the days ‘til Friday.
And before long, after many venting sessions with friends, I may have an epiphany that this is not the life I want to live, or I may turn into Yes-man-Richard in the company with little attachment to what I do.
What else can we do?
1. Identify the unique talents and strengths of each individual
Sarah may be good at bringing in the sales but perhaps her true talent lies in her ability to relate to those around her and has a way of connecting with the employees in the organisation. Her talent may lie in the HR department.
Michael may be great with hosting events and meeting clients but may be stuck behind a desk calculating company’s expenditures.
While it’s great that employees try new things and adapt, identifying their unique strengths motivates growth.
See them as individuals and how they can fit into the bigger picture.
Agility is great but imagine the force an organisation would be if all employees played to their strengths.
2. Encourage them to try something new
Now that you have identified their strengths and talked about what fits within their areas of interests, challenge is needed.
Challenge them to learn outside their comfort zones without limiting them to their job functions alone.
Teach them to go beyond what they know and are used to.
A different perspective to a task may even benefit your organisation as a whole.
3. Be a mentor, not a dictator
Over the years, the art of teaching has changed from one that used to be top down and instructional to one that guides and leads first. The need for mentorship goes both ways and often gets buried beneath the results-driven busy life of a leader.
Of course, mentoring (not spoon-feeding) feels like a lot more hard work, effort, and extra time spent for both parties, but the results pay off in the long run as opposed to demanding quick-results.
Provide feedback (not just at the end of the year) but through informal and casual conversations daily or weekly. Your employees will thank you and possibly see the benefits of staying on.
Being young, millennials have the opportunity to try out new things before stabilising in a job (given that they are financially able to do so) which is quite similar to the behaviour of generations before.
Not all millennials are hopping around like mindless rabbits at the first sign of danger. Perhaps they are jumping at opportunities. Perhaps they were poached with a promise of better income (so they actually have a chance of affording a home).
Perhaps more two-way conversations would foster understanding. Perhaps without the stereotypical notions, we are able to better understand each other.
Tamara was previously an assistant editor and writer with Leaderonomics. She loves thought-provoking conversations over cups of tea. If she is not writing, you might find her hiking up a mountain in search of a new waterfall to explore.