Millennials? Really? What about the rest of us?

It is interesting that for a number of years now there has been so much talk about the importance of addressing the needs of Millennial workers. A recent ADP Research Institute article even phrased it this way: Are Millennials Driving Change in the Workplace? I mean, I get it – as of 2015, Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. Workforce. By 2020, they will make up half of the global workforce. Certainly not issues to ignore, but let’s take a closer look.

For example, the 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce study finds that 53% of hiring managers say it’s difficult to find and retain Millennials, and 58% of Millennials expect to leave their job in 3 years or less.

What are Millennials looking for? Motivating Millennials Takes More than Flexible Work Policies breaks it down this way. In addition to work-life balance driving their career choices, Millennials:

  • Are keen to see their work as addressing larger societal concerns. 60% of Millennials said a sense of purpose is part of the reason they chose to work at their current employer.
  • Want communication (feedback) from the boss more frequently than any other generation in the workforce.
  • Want to be able to readily use technologies to exchange ideas in open forums and collaborate across functional and geographic boundaries.
  • Like companies that embrace a risk-tolerant culture and promote learning and experimentation – companies that develop initiatives aimed at creating a more dynamic, transparent innovation forum.
  • Expect to work in communities of mutual interest and passion, not structured hierarchies (career ladders) – for companies to provide key growth opportunities that allow people to develop new skills and knowledge, but may not represent traditional upward progression.

I understand there are generational differences, personality differences, and personal preferences. But can I go out on a limb here? Consider this: in 2014 according to Gallup, the average time worked by full-time employees has ticked up to 46.7 hours a week, or nearly a full extra eight-hour day. That’s the average mind you – we know many folks work a whole lot more. Bottomline? We spend a lot of time at work. It only makes sense that quality of life issues at work are important!

So my thought is this: what part of having a sense of purpose, getting clear feedback, participating in collaborative exchanges and ongoing learning, and being exposed to key growth opportunities does not appeal to all of us? A healthy work environment? A vibrant workplace? I say – bring it on!

Work environments continue to evolve. The pace of change has not been the swiftest. Different generations have had to learn how to cope with this slow pace of change. How about the stubborn endurance of the “one-size-fits-all” corporate ladder model by which “companies have managed their work and their people since the beginning of the industrial revolution.” This has not been without consequence. I coach clients who continue to have large chunks of their energy sucked up on a daily basis attempting to maneuver through the maze of biases that accompany these kinds of limiting business models.

Changes in the composition of our workforce (the growing presence of Millennials amongst them) need our attention. But to recruit and retain skilled talent today, organizations and their people need to take a broader view. That view must see the desire to participate in a healthy and vibrant work environment as intrinsic to our increasingly diverse multigenerational workforce.

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