It's likely that most of us have read an article, or watched a news story, about millennial or Generation Y employees (individuals born between 1980 and 1994) and their struggles in the workplace. They tend to have repetitive story lines that rarely break new ground, and love to classify all young people at the beginning of their careers in the same light.
I shake my head whenever I am exposed to these stereotypes, because they are contrary to my experiences as a tech employer. After careful consideration, I've determined that not only are the specific traits of millennial employees completely opposite to these characterizations, but that a company can really capitalize on them to achieve their business objectives.
In the tech sector, young people are the driving force behind some of the world's most recognizable companies. As an example, if you combine the employees of Facebook, Google and Apple in 2015, the average age is just over 30 years old. In Canada Drives, 85 per cent of our employees are under the age of 30.
I want to discuss five of the most common millennial myths that I encounter, because I firmly believe that the tech sector is a model of how Gen Y employees who are properly valued can make a significant impact to a company's bottom line.
Myth #1 They Lack Drive
The new generation of employees are often pigeonholed as being lazy, or lacking the necessary ambition necessary to advance. Yet, according to a study of 90,000 employees conducted by CEB, a US technology company that focusses on monitoring business practices, Gen Y employees were the most competitive demographic, with 59 per cent stating that competition was what "gets them up in the morning."
This is the kind of enthusiasm that should motivate employers to foster a healthy but competitive atmosphere that improves productivity and output.
Myth #2 They Are Entitled
This is a common refrain that is hard to pin down. Does it mean that millennials expect everything handed to them on a silver platter? Or does it just mean that they walk in the door without any desire to put their time in at the entry level? Either way, it is not something that I find relatable.
In a tech environment, young employees are particularly interested in being judged on merit, and place a lot of value in processes like performance reviews. This in turn leads to careful attention being paid to meeting the requirements of job descriptions and a willingness to turn suggested changes into tangible action.
Myth #3 They Are Always Looking to Jump
Movement in the workforce is as much a symptom of the current economy as it is about the attitudes of Gen Y employees. In our experience, millennials are simply looking for the right "fit" for their career aspirations. While the tolerance to stay in jobs that aren't for them is far lower than previous generations, their commitment to the right opportunity is rock solid.
Many of Canada Drives' senior managers are not only Gen Y employees, but have been with our company from early on in the company's history. When an employer makes a concerted effort to meet expectations beyond compensation -- such as fulfillment, contribution and appreciation -- millennials are far more likely to want to stick around to grow with the company.
Myth #4 They Are Unable to Communicate Properly
This is a myth that comes about because employers fail to recognize that effective communications can apply to many different scenarios.
The fact that millennial employees have grown up immersed in technology, as an example, makes a huge difference in dealing with a company's customers and partners. Whether explaining how the online process works, or providing instructions about how to use a customized piece of software, there is a familiarity and confidence that really translates and resonates well.
There is also a social aspect to millennial employees that when given the opportunity, can flourish in breaking down company silos. Working environments that promote periodic activities, events and social outings can reap the reward of millennials who become more comfortable, engaged, and as a result, contributory.
Myth #5 They Aren't Team Players
Younger employees tend to be less set in their ways when it comes to completing a task, or tackling a problem, which makes them more likely to seek out other opinions, and to work with others to achieve solutions. In Canada Drives, working groups tend to be ad hoc rather than imposed, and operate in a fashion that puts utility ahead of ego. This has fostered an atmosphere of self-sufficiency at all levels of the organization, thereby allowing managers to avoid the need to become intimately involved in tackling every unforeseen problem that arises.
Canada Drives works extremely hard to foster an environment that allows the archetypical Gen Y personality to thrive. Early success with millennials set the company on a path to seeking out young tech talent as opposed to just accommodating it. The results have been far better than expected, as our workforce has dramatically shaped the company's culture, and led to increased productivity and profitability.
This has been our recipe for success, and employers might want to consider their own against millennial employees in their next round of hiring.
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