Enough With The Millennial Bashing
If you are like me, you’ve come across countless articles attempting to demystify the millennial generation for their workplace colleagues. Maybe you have formed certain perceptions of who these people are and what makes them tick. Or maybe you can’t figure them out at all. Either way, the odds are good that there’s a millennial sitting (or standing) at a desk near you right now and, even more likely, that you’re surrounded by them. That’s because millennials are the largest generation currently active in the workforce.
Humans have probably been griping about younger generations throughout civilization, but now seems a good time to stop. Millennials are our future leaders. Dismissing them as lazy or entitled isn’t the best way to understand or motivate them.
My company just completed a survey of millennials, and we learned a few things that may reshape your preconceptions. Armed with this data, allow me to debunk some unkind millennial stereotypes and offer some suggestions for engaging with this generation in a way that brings out the best in everyone.
Learning to work, working to learn
Millennials give their educational preparation high marks, and 73% also recognize they’ll have to continue gaining new skills. They’re ready to put in the effort, and 86% have confidence in their ability to keep their skill sets up to date. However, less than half (42%) said their current employers provide learning, development, and training opportunities.
Having fun isn’t a career goal
“Fun” office perks may grab media headlines, but millennials actually want substance from their employers, including ongoing learning opportunities. In fact, 42% say learning and development is the most important factor in deciding where to work, after compensation. They also want respect and fairness. Only 52% of millennial women believe they’re paid fairly now, and 86% of all millennials feel undermined by stereotypes that label them lazy or entitled.
Ready to work hard, but on their own terms
Millennials want greater flexibility in how, when, and where they work—not because they’re spoiled but so they can work smarter and more efficiently. While 44% say a flex schedule is their ideal work arrangement and 30% would like to work remotely full time, less than half of their employers permit either option.
Commitment is a two-way street
Millennials also want to be loyal and stay with a company, not hop from job to job, but they need employers to show they’re equally committed. It may come as a surprise to learn that 59% of millennials have been in their current jobs for more than three years.
What sets millennials apart professionally may be their insistence that the working world is overdue for change. Employers can retain millennials and bring out their best by meeting them halfway and respecting their workplace preferences.
In truth, what millennials want isn’t very different from what most of us want: a satisfying career that fits the way they want to live (not the other way around) and support for their efforts to learn and grow.
Don’t wait for the groundswell
Given their numbers, millennials have power to demand and effect change, but employers would be better off taking proactive steps to build the cultures and workplaces millennials want. Now is the time to invest in people and, in so doing, prepare for your company’s future.
- Nurture a learning culture where employees are empowered to upskill in their moments of need — or just because they’re interested
- Don’t limit training options to hard skills but provide learning around soft skills, too, so today’s younger workers grow into the leaders your company will need in years to come
- Offer flexible schedules and remote work options; trust people to fulfill their responsibilities
- Hire for potential and ability to learn, instead of focusing narrowly on the skills and experience younger workers possess upon graduation — 67% in our survey said there is a disconnect between what they feel capable of and what employers believe they’re qualified for
- GIve them reasons to stay, not just reasons not to leave, by acknowledging that people can have personal lives and still excel and advance in their jobs
By speaking up about what they want, even if they sometimes appear “demanding,” millennials are doing employers a favor. They’re telling us how to develop their talent and grow them into committed members of the team. It’s time for us to listen and respond.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.