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Millennials: Truth or a Myth?

Throughout the last decade millennials and their mindset has been a much talked about topic. Being a millennial myself I began to wonder, was all this much talk and debate a waste of time? Is the definition of millennials and the surrounding facts merely a myth?

After attending many conferences, referring to books and listening to expert talks regarding this topic what made me comprehend was millennials are perceived as the black sheep among the generations, especially the previous generations.

Globally accepted millennial mindset includes of being narcissistic, lacking social interaction, expecting quick results, feeling entitled, tends to move on when expectations not met and the list goes on. On a positive note, millennials are perceived as a generation with technology proficiency as oppose to the previous generations, with higher education levels, ability to multitask, constantly striving to do better and shows great enthusiasm to learn.

Yes, millennials are a unique bunch that has a mix of both positives and negatives. Perhaps due to the circumstance such as not having to put much effort to merely survive or earn a minimum wage in comparison to the previous generations (especially baby boomers and Gen X) and having the opportunity to be more exposed to technology and other advancements certainly provided this generation with the opportunity as well as advantage to learn and advance themselves more efficiently and effectively than those generations before them.

Each generation with their own life theme is hardwired differently and have certainly evolved with the learnings from the previous generation. Baby boomers value independence, rebellion and consumerism. Gen X believes in cynicism, challenges, self-reliance. Gen Y evolved to focus on acceptance, feminism, gender neutrality, inclusivity. And millennials progressed to give emphasis to adventure, entrepreneurialism, environmentalism, digitalization. Though each generation is separated through differences those can be regarded as minor.

Throughout my years of experience as an HR professional what made me understand was when it comes to employment and work opportunities, people of all generations are much more alike than different. Having the opportunity to interview and interact with people of all generations, my realization was that meaningful differences among all generations are less to none.

When I look back at my earlier years as a fresher joining the work force, progressing to an associate / executive level. I displayed all characteristics that would define a “millennial”. Being narcissistic was a common sight among many of the younger colleagues. I recall how the younger employees make certain demands such as pay raise, less stress at job, better work-life balance and so on with a sense of entitlement expecting quick results from the management. We demanded frequent promotions and good perks as well, if not met with we wouldn’t hesitate to move on in search of greener pastures. Many of us, myself included failed at certain jobs unable to cope up with stress.

At present myself and majority of those colleagues hold managerial and leadership roles in various local and international organizations. So, what got us there despite being millennials? What was our secret to success? In my view we all perceive tasks and roles differently than we used to do in the early years of our career.

Yet at times when I am in conversations with former and present colleagues occasionally a statement that passes by is “this new generation is not like us! They are too demanding and feel so entitled”. This struck a chord that got me to think, “is it really a generational issue? Were we not the same back then?”. Therefore, couldn’t it simply be the lack of maturity and exposure and not something to do with the generation we were clubbed in?

Those millennials who were labeled as narcissistic, feeling entitled, impatient and what not have now transformed in to becoming matured great managers, leading many successful ventures. So, once again, is it truly to do with millennials or simply the maturity level that needs to be developed and exposure that needs to be attained?

Quite a simple yet powerful incident during my professional career established this thinking even further, upon circulating a dress code policy I received resistance from few employees. When I inquired as to what made them not feel comfortable with the policy, they all said it felt as if they are bounded by rules, they went on to say how being comfortable and free was important (the dress code entertained business casual, and on TGIF its casual). Those who felt uncomfortable with the new policy were a mix of Gen Y, millennials and also Gen Z’s. So, it was not a generational matter, simply lack of maturity where the organization instilled a policy for a reason (example, business casual due to client interactions and to maintain a professional environment).

Millennials hitting the spotlight many times made me also feel, are we wasting our time and efforts trying to understand this generation? Instead, wouldn’t it be best if the organization focuses on the more meaningful matters?

Having conducted and participated in multiple employee engagement surveys the outcome was certain, end of the day employees simply wanted to be happy at work and enjoy a sense of achievement in what they do. Therefore, if an organization is to increase effectiveness and efficiency, it is important that the correlation between happiness and performance is well understood.

According to my understanding, happiness may come in many forms but the foundation to all those triggers in four folds. Every employee regardless of what generation they belong to expect the following:

1) Feeling of Pride

During my career I have felt pride in working for some companies, while in others not so much. All these companies having very good brand presence, regarded as best employers did not give me the sense of pride and I know the feeling was mutual among other employees as well. Yet in companies where I felt pride, it simply boiled down to the fact that leaders trusted and believed in the employees to do great things. Those leaders continuously empowered and enriched their teams. The result was, a sense of pride that naturally seeped in to all its employees.

2) Enhancing the Performance and Potential

Employees both present and future expect their employers to support in building their competencies. Whatever the strategies an organization may adapt as long as it is successful in enhancing the employee’s potential and performance, that organization is at a win in attaining and retaining the best intellectual capital.

3) Treatment Employees Get

During the years of my professional career, I have been in companies that provide some of the best compensation and benefit packages. Yet those companies also recorded high rates in employee attrition. Merely providing good packages would not do. Employees need to feel that they are valued and treated with respect. Centuries have passed since the period of slavery. At present employees need to feel they are treated fairly with dignity regardless of race, gender, marital status, disability, age, religious belief or sexual orientation.

4) Sense of Fulfilment

Conducting multiple numbers of exit interviews throughout my professional career, one reason that got my attention the most was regardless of the generation employees left due to the lack of job fulfilment. They wanted to feel a sense of purpose. Therefore, it is important that leaders communicate the output and outcome of the company’s progress and value employee efforts on a timely manner, irrespective of whether it is a townhall meeting or a one-on-one touch base, it is always great to let employees know how their efforts contributed towards elevating the organization towards greater heights.

With both internal and external pressures building up, companies are in a constant battle to attract and retain the best talent on a timely manner. The answer does not depend on the generation, the most attractive talent acquisition strategy or extravagant gift hamper you send for Christmas. If organizations want to win the talent game and have a competent talent pool, employers must strive towards achieving the above four elements, the meaningful elements.