Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Harnessing the talent of Millennial employees.

Post 486 - A recent worldwide survey of high-school students ranked Americans 25th in the world in math, 21st in science, and 1st in confidence - not exactly an encouraging combination! So just who are these Generation Y or Millennial employees?

They can truly be called the “technological generation.” They grew up comfortable using sophisticated devices and this has come to define many aspects of their lives. They're accustomed to using the latest technology and expect it to be engaging and fast-paced, filled with energy, excitement and surprises. Plus they've spent, on average, more hours in the classroom and more days in school than previous generations. They've also participated in after-school tutoring classes and untold numbers of enrichment and private-tutoring programs. They're the products of the most over-involved parents in the history of parenting! Their Baby Boomer mothers and fathers have become famous for a parenting style that included lots of praise and support with plenty of parental hovering, for which they’ve come to be known as “helicopter” parents.

To many Boomer managers, it often seems that the Millennials have little to no work ethic. But I don't think this is true. As well educated and technologically savvy as they are, Millennials simply don’t look at the requirements of getting a job done in the same way. They expect a workplace that caters to their needs and their sense of time. It isn’t that they’re not adaptable. It’s just that they see the world of work in very different terms. Rather than accepting the need to work long hours, they ask, “Why does it take you so long to get the job done?”

According to Ashley Grayson, VP Business Development at Criteria. "The Millennials are a self-absorbed community who can only talk incessantly about themselves in 'shrt msgs.' As a result they have low comprehension and low retention of abstract material. They've been exposed to a lot, but have mastered little. As one software manager told me, 'They think they know a lot, but they have no clue what they don't know.'" That said, there's a lot of them and outstanding individuals can be found in every generation ... The big challenge in getting them to do useful work is getting them to see where their favorite methods fail to deliver answers. We can't just tell them because they never listen."

The recession doesn’t seem to have changed young people’s attitudes very much, according to San Diego State University professor, Jean Twenge. “They may be thinking by the time they hit the job market, things will have smoothed out. But, considering the depth of this recession, their attitudes haven’t shifted much.” These younger workers as a group like informality and want to have a good work/life balance. However, not every young employee can work for Google, whose on-site perks — doctors, laundry facilities, volleyball courts and more — have young people clamoring to work there. The Millenials need to learn they can’t have it all — the status, the salary and the paid time off. They’ll have to learn to compromise.

And as for companies, they risk losing relevance or hurting the bottom line if they don’t recruit and retain young talent. That means they’ll have to adapt to attract and keep the Gen X and Gen Y workforce. That doesn’t mean that every company has to turn into a Google — but they’ll lose out on a lot of new knowledge if they don’t adapt. So, consistently rated top companies have worked to accommodate younger people's values and preferences. For example, eBay has set aside two rooms for meditation. SAS has an in-house gym. KPMG gives workers five weeks vacation on day one when they join the company. “At some point during that year, we ask our employees to work overtime, so they may end up working 60-hours a week,” according to Lionel Deschamps a partner in San Diego’s KPMG office. “So other times, we really want people to get away from the office and take some time to recharge their batteries. We want them to have a life away from work."

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