June 3, 2015 was a remarkable day at MSEC’s downtown Denver office. We hosted 68 people whom demographers have labeled “Millennials,” meaning they were born roughly between 1981 and 2000. It was a day of high-energy, small-group discussions on 20 topics. The questions had two purposes: to help MSEC understand these emerging leaders so we can best serve them, and to provide an opportunity for the participants to connect, create a learning environment, and build a network of individuals with similar experiences.
MSEC designed a format to ensure all voices were heard and to collect the “wisdom” of the entire group. It consisted of 20-minute sessions of small-group discussions with one question per table. People rotated to different tables and added to the previous conversations, thereby building off the earlier group discussion. The 10 questions in the morning were designed to uncover the Millennial experience in work and life. Participants talked about how they like to be supervised, the best learning environments, their expectations from employers, handling stress, and ways to stay engaged and motivated at work.
In the afternoon, individuals in the groups presented questions. They created the subjects and talked about anything that was pertinent, again in small groups. One topic was how Millennials can effectively work with Baby Boomers. Another was what kind of onboarding program would keep Millennials motivated and wanting to stay with the company.
While we can’t generalize about all Millennials, some key themes emerged from this group of 68:
- Millennials want their leaders to earn their respect, which is accomplished in several ways: a) committing to transparency, b) the use of constant and open communication, and c) providing regular feedback. Millennials want to be inspired by their leaders. They want their leaders to be passionate and positive role models.
- Millennials find it challenging to gain respect from both management and customers because of their age.
- Millennials feel wrongly stereotyped when people say, “They act entitled and are non-committal.” On the other hand, Millennials realize they also benefit from positive stereotypes. The perception is that Millennials are: a) tech-savvy, b) entrepreneurial, c) capable, and d) optimistic.
- Millennials want to know what is expected of them and given flexibility to complete a task.
- Millennials don’t see compensation as just money. Compensation is the ability to enjoy work-life balance, which equates to more time and flexibility to focus on life outside of work. Millennials also believe they receive valuable compensation when the organization helps them live a healthier lifestyle with benefits such as health, vision, and dental insurance and a wellness program. Millennials experience a sense of compensation when they experience internal satisfaction from the intangibles, such as the feeling they are needed at work.
- Millennials want constant and continuous feedback. They want to know where they are hitting the mark and how they can improve. Constructive feedback is preferred because it helps them grow professionally.
- Regular face time with the supervisor, through goal-setting and/or regular meetings, is very important. They like leaders to take an interest in them as individuals and develop them with training and new skills.
- Millennials believe that work should provide a platform and opportunity to explore who they are and what they want to be, both personally and professionally. They want coaches and mentors at work: people they can look up to and learn from.
- Millennials want to change the perception that they are “lazy.” It is important for Millennials to be proactive in finding solutions.
- They want to be challenged and have an opportunity to use their creativity to better themselves and their organization. If these Millennials don’t see opportunities for growth with their current employer, they will look elsewhere.
- The two key words for Millennials in their work environment are flexibility and freedom. Millennials would like to see flexibility around work-life balance, the ability to work from home, and the development of new ways of doing things.
- Accountability and work ethic are paramount to Millennials. They want consistency across all departments and would like cross training and promotions offered to those who work the hardest, as opposed to those who have been there the longest.
- They wonder if there is a way to balance work structure and update the “outdated” and sometimes inefficient models organizations use for operations, procedures, and work compensation policies.
- Millennials want management to let them do their jobs and trust that it will get done right.
- Cutting edge innovation is crucial. They want trust, honesty, and candor with healthy discussions.
- Teamwork is also a key component to work relationships. Millennials want to see that the team is moving forward and making decisions together.
- Management transparency is imperative, which means Millennials want to understand the “Whys” behind the “Whats.”
- Keep the trainings short, varied, interactive, with hands-on exercises and a personal touch. The learning environment needs to be a safe place to ask questions and where it is okay to make mistakes.
- Millennials generally believe that the connection to the people in a company is the most important aspect of work. They are loyal to the people in the organization. Loyalty to the company itself is secondary.
We encourage you to take this information, embrace your emerging Millennial leaders, and think about how you can innovate. The work environment is changing as Millennials become the majority workforce generation. Consider what shifts are good for your organization and support this critical set of new leaders.
The full Executive Summary Report is available on our website. Please let us know if we can assist you in working with this amazing group of employees.