As mentioned in previous articles, Millennials will make up an estimated 75% of the workforce by 2025. Countless studies, reports and articles have focused on the differences (and difficulties) surrounding hiring and retaining Gen Y employees in the workforce. Matthew Goldman of Entrepreneur.com makes the argument that maybe we shouldn’t be focusing on the fact that they are Millennials, but more on the fact that they are simply young.
Goldman provides the typical descriptors for Gen Y, “entitled, narcissistic, idealistic, lazy, unfocused and spineless to name just a few.” He asserts that within the workplace, Millennials can irk previous generations, particularly Baby Boomers, for any or all of these characteristics. Goldman’s message to Boomers: “You raised them.”
So who are millennials? The arbitrary dates circumscribing millennials are less important than the historical events they experienced. I would say millennials share these five key historic markers in common:
- They can’t remember a time before the Internet.
- Their childhood occurred during a time of peak economic prosperity in the United States.
- They don’t remember the fall of the Berlin Wall (or have any Cold War memories).
- They were not yet adults when 9/11 happened.
- They were deeply affected by at least one other post-1990 event — perhaps the Rwandan genocide, the Great Recession or even the election of Barack Obama.
More than anything else, that list of events conveys that millennials are young.
Goldman’s startup company, Wallaby Financial, primarily employees those from Generation Y. He examines the key points he feels are important to keep in mind when pigeon-holing Millennials into a particular category of employee.
Entitlement and Idealism: This comes across as blasphemy to their elders who tackled the workplace with a mercenary, money-driven approach to careers and the Gordon Gekko mantra “Greed is good.” But remember, a large cross section of boomers had their idealistic, social cause phase, too. Baby boomers who disparage millennial attitudes are forgetting their own history and their evolution from idealism, anti-authoritarianism and activism to traditional work values.
Hire on Reality: If you don’t want to hire millennial employees that have the purported entitlement and idealism, don’t hire them. There are plenty of Gen Yers that are willing to work hard and earn their stripes. Goldman adds, “People in any generation can be awful, which is why I hire slowly.”
Criticism: Young people, not just Millennials are not the best at taking criticism. This may just come down to maturity. “Failing” can be a hard lesson to learn, especially for the Millennial generation that received kudos and trophies for just participating. This is mostly a sign of immaturity, however. Hire employees that won’t take criticism too personally and look to learn and grow from this feedback.
Vet Everyone: You aren’t just looking for Millennials that will be in it for the long haul, you are looking for any employee that will become a talent on your team and will last.
Goldman adds, “The issues my company has had to overcome with younger employees are those that any younger person struggles with: how to be a part of a team, how to communicate effectively and how to manage time. These are not generational issues. Some Gen Xers and boomers still have not mastered these skills. Hire people who have those skills or individuals who can learn them.”
Traci Kingery, PHR is an HR Professional and freelance writer based in the Midwest, specializing in immigration and talent management. When she’s not improving unemployment, she keeps busy with her husband and four children.