Millennials Wreaking Havoc on Employers, or Vice Versa


Millennials Photo

“Quick, help me, the inmates are running the asylum” is what is running through the heads of most business owners with multi-generational employees these days.  That is another way of saying those business owners are struggling with the rapid rise of the Millennials generation in the workforce, and how these younger employees are not behaving the way their predecessors have behaved, and it is creating a wake of chaos in the human resources department.   Let me explain further.

There has been plenty of research done and articles written on the Millennials generation (people born between 1982-2004, which includes employees aged 21-33 today) and their impact in the workforce (summarized in this article).   I never paid much attention to it, until one of my clients was experiencing the impact of the Millennials first hand, and I wanted to share those learnings with you.  And, since Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2030, only 15 years from now, you need to incorporate such learnings into your employee recruiting and retention programs . . . and fast!!

What Employers Are Seeing

  • Recruiting, Retention & Loyalty. Many millennials do not see the need to stay at any one employer for more than a year, and worse yet they actually think it benefits their career to move from company to company.  This is the extreme opposite of the Baby Boomer generation, where workers could stay at one company for decades.  This is creating torture for recruiting.  Positions that used to be filled for an average of three years at a time, are now turning over annually, creating 3x as much work for the HR department.  And, companies are not hiring 3x the recruiters to keep up with that additional work, so recruiting is taking much longer, positions are not getting filled fast enough, and work productivity has slowed dramatically in recent years.
  • Changing Demands. Many millennials are driven by: (i) a desire to have a big impact and “change the world” (so they want to work for companies that have a greater purpose than simply driving revenues); (ii) jobs that offer management responsibilities out of the gate (not simply being a cog in the wheel); (iii) managers that can relate to them as people, friends and equals (not a boss and subordinate relationship); and (iv) incentives that are material and more than simply cash (maybe including equity or other meaningful upside).

What Millennials Are Seeing

  • The Complete Opposite of their Parent’s Generation. This includes: (i) many Millennials not being able to find jobs after college graduation, as the older generation of workers is not retiring as early, and not opening up jobs at the bottom end of the jobs funnel; and, hence, have many Millennials (ii) living with their parents longer, often into their 30’s; and (iii) saddled with tons of college debt costs and no way to pay them down.  Not a great position to be in.
  • Mismanaged Expectations. Many Millennials have been raised as kids in a culture of “everyone wins a trophy”, regardless of your skills or performance (as early as the little league soccer fields).  And, they are not seeing that same treatment or experience as they enter their adult years, and it is a reality check right in the face.

So, My Recommendation to Millennials

Embrace the fact that you are a part of an economic society of workers, not the center of it.  Where your managers and peers may have years of learnings and experience to share with you.  Life is a two-way street, where give and take, and common courtesy (e.g., two week notice before departure, plan to stay at least a year), should be the norm.  Help educate your employers on what your desires and motivations are, so they can learn.  And, be sensitive to your employer’s needs, and the direct impact your actions have on compounding those painpoints.  And, for goodness sake, if you find a good company with a good manager, stick with them.  There is no rule you need to leave after a year.

And, My Recommendation to Employers

It is time to wake up and smell the coffee.  If you are waiting for the workplace to return back to the “good old days”, forget about it.  Figure out how to better mentor Millennials to your desired behaviors.  Or, better yet, take some mentorship from them, so you can better learn what they are looking for out of their employers, and give it to them.  Give them the challenging roles, with friendly managers and “change the world” goals they are looking for, and good things will happen to your company culture and employee retention in the process.

Millennials and employers need to learn to play nicer together in the same sandbox of employment.  Be sensitive to and respectful of the needs of the other party, and do your best to create an environment and actions that will be well-received by all involved.  Now, start with this “clean slate” fresh perspective, hug and make up and let’s start building something great together.

For all you startups out there, be sure to read my companion piece on how to build the right company culture, right from the start.  And, build your culture around the ever-changing needs of this newest generation of workers.



Reprinted by permission

Image credit: CC by George Deeb

About the author: George Deeb

George Deeb is a managing partner at Red Rocket Ventures, a Chicago-based startup consulting and fundraising firm with expertise in advising Internet-related businesses. More of George’s startup lessons can be read at “101 Startup Lessons — An Entrepreneur’s Handbook.”

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