Millennials are entitled, self-absorbed, and lacking commitment, right? But what about the 25 year old programmer who developed a more customer-friendly interface for your business in just one week…or the 28 year old marketing associate who helped design last year’s highly successful campaign…or the 30 year old who was the top regional salesperson last quarter? One of the most pervasive and counter-productive Millennial myths that I want to debunk is our apparent lack of loyalty.
People are quick to assume that Millennials—people born between 1981 and 2000—are lazy, unmotivated, and lacking loyalty. We are labelled as a generation unable to settle, instead thriving off jumping from one opportunity to the next. In reality, Millennials are just as loyal as any other generation if they are given the right opportunities. Our ambition and desire for real career development is often mistaken for a lack of commitment. According to this study, more than eight in ten young workers say they are loyal to their employers, but only one in 100 human resource professionals believe that these young workers are loyal. That is a huge disconnect! At a time when executives claim to be facing a scarcity of skilled workers, Millennials are eager to develop new skills and become valued members at these companies.
As we all know, Millennials are going to make up the majority of the workforce soon, and we are going to do a lot more than just entry-level work. There is a growing gap between middle managers and higher-level management that is becoming increasingly hard to fill. SAP recently partnered with Oxford Economics to conduct a global study on the workforce of the future. Complete results and survey statistics will be published next month, but according to initial findings, only a small percentage of executives say talent available in leadership positions is sufficient to drive global growth. The obvious solution that likely makes older generations uneasy? Millennials are going to fill those crucial holes in organizations across every industry. If that scares you, think about what companies can do to provide training and development to help Millennials succeed. What I find more worrisome than younger people taking leadership roles is that only a small fraction of Millennials are satisfied with how their managers support them for formal learning and development opportunities and in providing a well-defined career path.
Breaking down the Millennial myths is the first step to building trust and respect between the generations. Listening to us is the next step to ensuring employee engagement and loyalty. Less than a tenth of Millennials surveyed by Oxford Economics say they have experienced most of their professional development through networking. At our young age, we have not developed a wide network of contacts yet, meaning we rely more on formal training and mentoring to develop our skills. Millennials do not just randomly decide to leave a position for no reason. We are looking to take care of ourselves—short-term and long-term. We want feedback, we value mentoring, and we demand career development if we are going to stick around. Give us the opportunity to learn and grow, and you will be impressed with our hard work, innovation, and success. We have a natural talent for technology, social connectedness, and creativity. Combine that with the right training and development, and you have an incredibly capable workforce. In fact, The Global Leadership Forecast found that the presence of Millennials in leadership positions related to the company’s growth rate—companies with a 30% proportion of young people in higher roles saw “aggressive growth”, while a 20% proportion saw “little to no growth”. Companies need to invest in training, mentoring, and career development for their younger workers. Rather than blame Millennials for lacking loyalty, how about providing us with career paths that inspire us to dedicate ourselves to your company? If a company hesitates to invest resources in real succession plans, any Millennial would be foolish to believe that a long-term commitment to that company will be mutually beneficial.
As with any generation in the workforce, loyalty is something that must be earned among Millennials. But when it is earned, it is given whole-heartedly. Effective leadership makes all the difference when engaging younger workers. So don’t spend time comparing our motivations to your own, and don’t waste time wishing we were different. Listen to our desires for development in the workplace, and you will find that we have a lot to contribute. Millennials are ambitious, creative, and technologically-savvy, and we are soon to be the leaders of our hyper-connected, ever-evolving world.
Note: There will be a keynote and panel discussion at SuccessConnect 2014 in Las Vegas titled “Workforce 2020: Building a Strategic Workforce for the Future.” Ed Cone, Managing Editor, Thought Leadership at Oxford Economics will present the results from the research. Dr. Karie Willyerd, SVP Learning & Social Adoption at SuccessFactors, will moderate a panel discussion featuring Ed Cone and Jacob Morgan, Founder of Chess Group.
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