By Janice Estrada, International HR at Daymon Worldwide. 

Millennials in the workplace
Millennials in the workplace

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]t the recent Red Shoe Movement event in New York City, I was given the opportunity to participate as one of the RSM Event Ambassadors where I co-facilitated, alongside Annerys Rodriguez a Mutual Mentoring Circle around “Understanding Millennials in the Workplace.”

The circle was a safe environment where two groups of about 25 people each were able to have a casual and informal dialogue about their experiences and insights about the topic. The group consisted of “Experts” and “Explorers”. (For our events we consider Experts those individuals who have knowledge and experience on a specific topic and Explorers those who are interested in better understanding that same topic.)

It was clear that all participants came to this circle to learn and share perspectives about the different generations and to avoid miscommunication when it came to younger workers.

What is really a Millennial? Someone asked.

According to Lily Benjamin, an Expert, Millennials —also known as Generation Y— are individuals who were born between 1980 and 2000. They might also be further divided into two groups those of 18 – 24 years old, and those older than 25. “Millennials are considered the smartest generation in the history of America, they value meaningful work, autonomy, teamwork, and are able to multitech and multitask. The Millennials comprise 34% of today’s workforce and that number is projected to increase to 48% by 2020,” Benjamin explained.

Some of the concerns on Generation Y expressed by Explorers included:

  • It’s harder to enforce policies on this generation than in previous ones.
  • They have a reputation for not being very loyal to their employer.
  • They text rather than use proper email communication. They are also prompt with their responses as they seek immediate gratification, and texting provides such an immediate response within their groups.

    Tapping into the Energy of Millennials
    Tapping into the Energy of Millennials

The top advice for Generation Y in the Workplace offered by the Experts in the group included:

  • It’s important to set clear expectations to keep this group engaged. (As part of their upbringing they are used to have structure and expectations set for them by their parents, teachers, coaches, etc.) Their sense of structure differs from the one of other generations, so clarity on deliverables, deadline, and processes is needed.
  • Let them have an opinion. Millennials will work 16 hours a day if they feel their voice matters. They also don’t see their bosses as the expert because they have an ocean of information at their fingertips. They are great researchers and seek information on everything, so they have pretty strong and well-based opinions.
  • Make sure they feel their work is meaningful. They want to make a difference!
  • Set the bar high and they’ll rise to it. And if they don’t, you may want to reassess what is missing, skills, motivation, or attitude?

One of the Experts, who is a member of the generation in question, pointed out that Millennials are people from 13 to 33 years of age and that that is a big bracket. She reminded the group that we should all try to avoid blanket statements that put large groups of people in the same bucket and that participants should use all the distinctions shared during the conversation as guiding points in dealing with the group while making allowances for individual differences.

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