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Myths About Millennials

Understand the Myths to Retain Millennials


Business executive shaking hands with his clients
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You've hired Millennials. Now how can you keep them around?

Things aren't always what they seem with Millennial employees. If I could give you one bit of advice about dealing with the latest generation of employees to come under your management, it would be to remember those words. Things aren't always what they seem with Millennial employees.

If you are like most business leaders, you've no doubt noticed a trend in the way employees behave in recent years. Most likely you consider it a negative trend - too much entitlement, not enough loyalty, no work ethic, only interested in themselves, and on and on.

But I challenge you to consider that perhaps these are not negative trends, just different ones. Things aren't always what they seem with Millennial employees.

To better understand who your Millennial employees are and what drives them to succeed, perhaps it's easiest to understand who they are not. You. That's right. They may even be your offspring but in the workplace they bear little resemblance to the "you" of yesteryear.

Gen Xers (born 1965-1979) and Millennials (born after 1980) are operating in this world with a completely different perspective. Their definitions of loyalty, time, and success are often quite different from yours. Rest assured they do recognize all of these concepts and value them in very important ways.

The key to your organization's future success is understanding how the Millennials view the world and using that knowledge to motivate them in a way that works. Here's a hint: meet them where they are and they will achieve your underlying goals; try to force them to fit your definitions and they will run for the door every time.

So let's take a look at some of the pervasive myths about our youngest generation in the workforce and discuss why these changes are happening. You can tailor your workplace to meet your needs and your employee needs. In meeting these needs, the company will thrive.

Myth: Younger generations of Millennials have no work ethic.

Reality: Millennials have a self-centered work ethic. This is not necessarily the negative that it may seem at first. Millennial employees are dedicated to completing their task well. They have not been raised in a way that demands them to look around and see what should be done next.

Instead they ask "what is my job" and go about figuring the best, fastest way to complete that task. Then they consider themselves done. This is a key differentiator between your employees and yourself.

The younger they are, the more your employees view their jobs as "something to do between the weekends." For most, early employment has nothing to do with a career path; it is a way to earn money to have fun in their free time. And that is okay.

When you understand what motivates your employees you are better able to set mutual expectations for success. Instead of being frustrated that your youngest employees are not interested in climbing your corporate ladder, embrace their true motivation - reliable spending money - and use it to your advantage.

When you tell an employee, "I understand this is not your lifelong career, but to earn the paycheck every week, here is what I expect." They are much more likely to respond than if you try to motivate with promises of promotions and titles down the road.

Understanding that being at the job isn't as important to Millennials as completing the assigned task also opens up new opportunities for motivation and reward. Younger employees are very likely to respond to offers of paid time off.

A leading retail organization has recognized this new way of thinking with its Working Hard Card: When managers witness an employee rising to a challenge, exceeding expectations or otherwise giving 110%, they can hand the employee a Working Hard Card on the spot. Each card is worth a set amount of paid time off to be used at the employee's discretion. It is a simple strategy that rewards employees in the currency they value most - their time.


Myth: Millennials don't want to put in the hours to get ahead.

Reality: Millennial employees are willing to put in the time to do the job, however they are uninterested in "face time." Gen Xers and Millennials view time as a currency. While Baby Boomers tend to see time as something to invest, the younger generations view it as a valuable currency not to be wasted. These are the generations that demand work-life balance and paid time off. They want to get the job done, then put it behind them and enjoy life.

Boomer managers have a tendency to lose the interest of their Millenial employees by looking too far into the future. Millennials live in the time frame based on right now. Their world has proven that nothing is a guarantee - from nationwide layoffs to war to soaring divorce rates, they have decided that there's not a lot you can count on.

As a result they are not interested in promotion plans for five years from now. They don't even want to know what will happen at the end of the summer. Life is uncertain. To reach the Millennial employee and reduce turnover, make it certain.

Tell your employee that you have a plan. Take pains to ensure it is in a time frame short enough for them to envision. Be prepared to fulfill your promise - once fooled, the Millennial employee is forever jaded.

This approach feeds into their reality, while simultaneously building trust and buying you more time. Reward small successes along the way, string these milestones together, and you will soon realize longer tenures among your staff.


Cam Marston is a consultant who specializes in multigenerational communications and marketing, educating executives about the workplace expectations of different generations. He speaks to thousands of executives each year and leads intensive, on-site training sessions for companies. For more information about Cam Marston and Motivating the "What's In It For Me?" Workforce, visit his Web site

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