Millennials are getting a bad reputation at the moment, for being the laziest, least motivated, and most disloyal generation in history. But, is this necessarily the truth? Undoubtedly, the Millennial Generation is flawed, but is it really as bad as all the hype?
We've talked about millennials before in our whitepaper 'Rise of the Modern Retailer | 5 Trends Shaping the Future of Retail' - where we explored what the rise of this generation, in their capacity as consumers, meant for the retail landscape. But, more topical is the impact this generation is having on the retail workplace.
Given that the Millennial Generation is now the biggest population since the baby boomers, it’s important for employers to understand this generation... that is, what actually makes millennials them tick.
This will then help them find out how they need to construct their strategy moving forward.
Retail brands must be wary when building a strategy for growth, and not let the myths throw them off-course!
So, without further ado, here’s 8 millennial myths we, and others, have debunked about today's workforce.
Millennial Myth 1: They’re All Just Wayward Teens
While it’s easy to assume that millennials are the young-uns who were practically born with an iPhone in their hand, millennials are actually considered to be anyone born between 1984 and 2004.
Sure, the iPhone wasn’t actually launched until 2007, but there’s still a large proportion of millennials who grew up around phones that looked like this:
...And let’s not forget dial-up internet!
Nowadays, millennials are professionals; millennials are home owners; millennials are parents. Sure, some of them may be just entering high school, but is it really fair to tar them all with the same brush when the age range is actually quite diverse?
If this isn’t enough perspective, or you still need more evidence, read on!
Millennial Myth 2: They’re Lazy And Entitled
Okay, so we know it’s hard to take millennials seriously as hard working individuals, when someone like Ariana Grande is the self-proclaimed “hardest working 23 year old on earth”, but a lot of Millennials actually understand the value of a hard earned dollar, being raised in a recession.
(And for further clarification, Ariana would also like everyone to know that she’s #cute, a #CEO, and that she #hasntsleptinyears [sic])
Not only have millennials grown up more money-conscious, they’ve also entered the workforce at a time where wages are at a twenty-year low.
Now, let’s couple this with the fact that things, which are deemed societally important, are more expensive than they’ve ever been. In New Zealand for example, the average house price is 9.5 times the median household income.
Demographia, an international housing survey, ranks properties as being severely unaffordable when they’re 5.1 times the median household income.
Millennial Myth 3: They’re Dirty Job-Hoppers Who Won’t Stick Around Long
In his book, Disrupted, Dan Lyons describes employees as widgets, which is all part of a term he’s coined as ‘New Work’.
With the New Work, businesses create a purpose (because that’s what millennials value more than money, right?), and they create a team environment. On the surface, this looks like the makings of a great working environment, but there’s a darker purpose to it.
Businesses of today value money over the individual, we see this with big corporations and the uneven distribution of wealth.
Lyons points out that the culture of business has changed drastically. LinkedIn’s multibillion dollar cofounder, Reid Hoffman, put it plainly in his book, ‘The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age’, “Your company is not your family.
”So now, a job is just a job, not a career. Hoffman says employees need to think of it more as a “tour of duty”. Why? Because as soon as someone better or cheaper comes along, you’re toast. As Lyons says:
“We are living in a period of huge economic transformation, in which entire industries—retail, banking, healthcare, media, manufacturing—are being reshaped by technology. As those industries change, so does their approach to treating workers.”
Millennial Myth 4: They’re Arrogant, Self-Aggrandising A-Holes
I mean, perhaps the biggest, most arrogant, self aggrandising a-hole on earth today is Kanye West...and he was born in ‘77.
“Bro! By fifty percent, Stanley Kubrick, Apostle Paul…Picasso… f***ing Picasso and Escobar. By fifty percent [I'm] more influential than any other human being” - Kanye West
Sure, millennials have a reputation for over-sharing when it comes to social media, but in an article by Fortune.com it was found that millennials are actually quite conservative when it comes to social media.
When it comes to respecting professional boundaries in social media, it’s the younger generation – not Gen X or Boomers – who are most likely to draw a firm line separating their personal and professional lives.
Millennial Myth 5: They Prefer to Hide Behind Technology
So, while the millennial generation is far more adept at using technology than any generation before them, they still prefer a good old chinwag around the water-cooler to IM’s, Facebook Messenger and the like.
According to Fortune.com, when it comes to learning, millennials prioritise face-to-face contact over digital alternative.
Millennial Myth 6: What You See is What You Get
Simon Sinek has a great talk explaining why millennials are the way they are, which basically boils down to millennials being a product of circumstance, of failed parenting, of technology and of the environment they’ve grown up in.
One of the greatest points he brings up is that, with the creation of social media, the millennial generation has become well adept at “putting a filter on things.” So, the old adage of not judging a book by it’s cover rings true with this generation more than others.
Millennials now report higher rates of mental illness than any other generation. As Sinek points out there’s a strong correlation between our bodies' chemical reactions to new media.
Research now shows that when we receive a notification on our mobile device, dopamine is released in our brain. This is commonly known as a feel-good drug, but if indulged too frequently it can create a dependency which often leads to depression.
You’ll find this type of dependency linked to things like alcoholism and drug abuse.
Millennial Myth 7: They Expect Kudos for Everything
Sure, millennials might expect feedback from their managers more often than the previous generation, but they’ve grown up with a parenting style that constantly seeks their input and is constantly giving them feedback.
The problem here is that asking for feedback is often misconstrued as needing a pat-on-the-back. In a survey conducted by Forbes.com it was actually found that some millennials, over older generations, feel they’re being praised too much.
“The common assumption is that millennials are a generation that has received regular praise and recognition and therefore managers need to provide them more praise. We asked respondents, “I feel that I am recognized too much.” We found that 12% of millennials agreed with that statement. Seven percent of other respondents agreed. It looks as if we are recognizing and praising some millennials too much. But the reality is that 66% of the entire population wants more praise and recognition. This is once again not a specific issue for millennials. Millennials want and need praise, but so does everyone else.”
Millennial Myth 8: They all Want to Work From Home
Yes it’s true, some millennials do prefer to work from home, but recent research conducted by Randstad found that 63% of millennials would pick a corporate office or co-working space over the 20% who would rather work from home.
For a lot of millennials, it’s less about “Can I work from home?” and more about working for a company which allows flexibility in the workplace, with a Millennial Branding report finding that 45% of millennials would choose workplace flexibility over a higher wage.
Let’s also consider the home-life of an older millennial. Ernst & Young’s Global Generations Research surveyed nearly 10,000 workers in eight countries to find out more about the differences between the working style of millennials to that of their predecessors.
Close to 80% of millennials surveyed were part of dual-income couples who both work full-time. Of Generation X and Baby Boomers just 73% and 47% has a full-time working spouse or partner, respectively.
More than one quarter of Baby Boomers (the generation who now occupy most of the top management roles) have a spouse at home, or who works part time and is responsible for taking care of home-duties.
Combine this with the fact that research has shown that, in the last five years, employees have been working longer hours, delaying or forgoing having children, or discontinuing education.
Professionals who work in companies which culled staff in the recession are still doing the work of two-or-more people, while salaries have stagnated and costs have continued to rise.
When you start to look at the bigger picture, wanting a better work-life balance seems a reasonable request, not just for millennials, but for every working generation.
So what does it all mean?
The crux of the matter is that employers need to be certain that they're not casting aspersions about a relatively broad generation. Particularly when the research suggests that they're not so different to their predecessors in many respects.
This is the kind of mentality which has a trickle-down effect.
Once the upper echelons of the business realise that it's important not to lump individuals into the same basket, they pave the way for growth in the business.
Practically, this means giving your managers the power to understand how individuals operate. Help them find out how to motivate, coach and encourage each single person on their team - because they'll all have different drivers.