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Millenials in the Workplace: A New Generation of Workers

The multi-generational workplace is common and the biggest age span to date is currently occurring.  As a leader, does keeping pace with the work get in the way of making everyone happy?   With four (or more) generations in the workplace, personalities differ and challenges are present for each generation.   The diversity is desirable but how do you keep them all motivated and communicating?

First, you should know the workplace generalizations about your own generation.  Second, you have to know what you are dealing with among your team.  The differences, if unconscious, can create resistance or conflict.  Get curious to find a deeper understanding of others and improve workplace performance through a stronger team.  This curiosity starts with a deeper understanding of your own quirky personality.  In thinking about someone with whom you would like to smooth your conversations, what do you think you need to know or understand about them to talk it over?  What do they need to know about you to “hear” you more effectively in the workplace?   Knowing the similarities and differences will make motivating, retaining, recruiting and generally enjoying your team in the workplace much easier.

What do you think about these generational workplace myths?

workplace millenials

Myth: Millennials are only in it for themselves.

Reality: The Higher Education Research Institute has surveyed college freshmen and found the highest levels of social concern and

responsibility since 1966. In 2006 “the importance of helping others” was the third highest common value held by incoming students.

Myth: Generation X’ers aren’t willing to work hard compared to Baby Boomers.

Reality: Generation X’ers are willing to work hard, but believe it’s unfair to expect a 70-hour week for 40 hours of pay. Generation X’ers want a life beyond work.

Myth: Millennials are motivated by constant recognition.

Reality: Learning Café found that nearly 60% of Millennials said boredom and feeling unchallenged were their top demotivators.

Myth: Baby Boomers have quit learning.

Reality: Baby Boomers are enrolling in adult education and college programs at record rates.

Myth: Older workers are just “putting in time” before they retire.

Reality: A 2005 AARP study reveals that across all industries, employee engage­ment is highest among workers age 55+. There is a direct connection between high engagement levels and increased revenue, decreased turnover, and positive customer experiences.

If you were surprised by any of these and you are leading a team of millennials in the workplace, you may need to learn more to not lose valuable future talent.   The age span can be four or five decades and we know that there is a vast difference of workplace perspective.  With life expectancy being higher, people are sustaining longer careers.  People want meaningful contribution as we “mature.”   Leaders need to find ways to grow their Millennials to ensure the future while nurturing the Traditionalist and Baby Boomers to foster the technical and emotional maturity to effectively handle their work.  Gen X’ers, moreover, need to be supported in defining structure to be productive in the workplace.

For this discussion, we will use the following general dates, which vary by research project:

  • Traditionalists or Silents were born right after the stock market crash and value respect and privacy.  1928 to 1945
  • Baby Boomers were born right after the war ended.  1946 to 1964
  • Gen X’ers were born after we went to the moon and before the internet.  1965 to 1980
  • Gen Y’ers / Millennials / Nexters were born with the internet and are connected.  1981 to 2000

Within each category we have our sensitivities and preferences.  All diversity and cross cultural experiences provide rich creative ground for development, but if we are annoyed it is lost.   To know yourself, find your category among the workplace generation list below.  Then identify some of the members of your team.

Workplace Motivation Tips for Millenials and More

Knowing how to motivate your team in the workplace is a true success factor for any leader.  Beyond the rule of reciprocity and the other motivators talked about by Cialdini, knowing the generalities preferred will help you keep your team engaged.  All groups were motivated by work that is challenging, stimulating and varied.  So, above all workplace motivation is about the work they are assigned.  TIP – find out the definition of that to them and help them find it!  Here are some thoughts about their values and thought processes.  Below are tips on what motivates and demotivates each category.

Millennials – Remember mellenials are just coming out of a very structured life with lots of measurable milestones.  They perform best with structure.  They are very used to talking directly across hierarchical lines and do not have the same respect expected by other generations.

They respect education and are eager to keep learning.  The Learning Café found that nearly 60% of Millennials said boredom and feeling unchallenged were their top demotivators, which could shut down their productivity or even lead them to depart for greener, more challenging pastures.   Many articles suggest enhancing the training budget for this group.  Millennials work well in groups and preferring team project and work groups to individual projects. They grew up with parents who ensured they were in sports, music, and social activities after school.  They are used to a full load.

Gen-X – Independence and recognition by being accountable for productivity without micro-management.  They will make the rules and create structure for processes. They need work life balance and will leave without some fun.  Gen X’ers are the generation who came into the marketplace with hiring freezes and layoffs.  The shift from company loyalty to professional career and relationships appeared.  They are more comfortable with flexibility in their career path.

Baby Boomers – This is the largest population of the workforce.  This generation brought in the workaholic trend.  They work hard because they like competition and see it as a way to progress with personal accomplishment.

Silent generation or Traditionalists – Silents are not done contributing and growing by learning new things. They are willing to invest the effort before enjoying the reward.  They are team or group oriented.  Their word is their bond, so, trust and loyalty define how they approach the workplace.

Workplace Communication Tips – from Millenials to Traditionalists

To communicate in the workplace effectively, it is not about the output – it is about the interpretation.   While Traditionalists value formality and privacy, Millennials value a personal touch.  Gen X’ers are more pragmatic; wanting sound bites and direct communication, while Baby Boomers are more relational.  Start where you are now, but tailor your workplace message to the person you are trying to reach.

With this in mind, you will find yourself noticing how the teams in the workplace challenge and misunderstand others.  You might even be included in that behavior without really understanding why.  Given the right care and attention, all types thrive in the workplace that exists as it is today.  When the Millennials come into your office to talk about their career and how they need something more interesting to do, listen to them.  Then create career path and strategy for them to rise to the top of the chain.  Give Millenials projects on special teams and expect them to produce amazing results in the workplace for a long time to come!

Contact Us Today to Strengthen Your Leadership Abilities

When you want help being with communicating across generations, coaching can help.  If you need ideas on how to create workplace strategies to engage generations from Millanials to Traditionalists and retain the talent you want, contact Pat Weiland, Executive Coach and President at Sage Strategies.

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