Business leaders can’t go a day without hearing the word millennial in one conversation or another. People ages 18 to 35 are one of the hottest topics in the work world, and for good reason – they currently make up the majority of the U.S. labor force. Yet they’re also very elusive, and experienced executives can’t seem to pinpoint how to best tap into their potential.
Greed, Leisure or Purpose?
Many news articles claim millennials are the laziest working generation. They’d rather text than talk – as long as they can use an emoji, of course. The emphasis on unicorn startups and their leisurely working environments doesn’t help the public opinion, either. In addition, millennials are plagued by the idea that they’d rather job hop or focus on get-rich-quick schemes than work their way through the corporate ladder.
Still, research suggests millennials maintain complex attitudes toward money. Many entered the workforce right around the time of the 2008 financial crisis when jobs were hard to come by. Although Gallup research found millennial attitudes toward the current economy are the best of any generation, many only earn enough money to buy the absolute essentials. The majority don’t earn enough to purchase a new car – or even a new couch – and home repairs are out of the question.
This reality definitely guides some of a millennial’s employment decisions, but not all of them. Although 48 percent of this generation would leave a company for a 20 percent raise, those engaged in their current positions are 26 percent less likely to switch. This suggests that while compensation is important, what millennials really want is purpose.
Providing Supportive Feedback
Part of providing purpose is giving millennials the feedback they crave. Gallup also noted millennials grew up constantly communicating with their parents, teachers and coaches. Unfortunately, these open lines of conversation seem to end at the office doorstep. Survey results found only 19 percent of millennials get feedback from their managers, and only 17 percent say what they do get is meaningful. However, only 15 percent ask for feedback.
The two groups – millennials and their managers – need a system that brings them together and supports an open conversation. This is why combining goal setting with ongoing performance management is such a beneficial exercise. Frequent check-ins allow millennials to get the feedback they desire on a consistent basis instead of waiting for an annual review. In addition, allowing millennials to visually observe how their goals align with the company while measuring their progress toward those goals makes them more active and engaged. They develop a sense of purpose and are therefore less likely to seek a different job.
“Organizations like Adobe, Accenture and General Electric have already eliminated annual performance reviews.”
If the concept of eliminating annual reviews inspires a little anxiety, managers should remember that some of the biggest organizations like Adobe, Accenture and General Electric have already done so. In fact, as Quartz noted, GE’s shift to frequent feedback stemmed from its millennial employees,
“It’s the way millennials are used to working and getting feedback, which is more frequent, faster, mobile-enabled, so there were multiple drivers that said it’s time to make this big change,” Susan Peters, the company’s head of resources, told the publication.
Millennials are here to stay, and employers should figure out what they want in order to make the most of this talented and enthusiastic workforce. The key to millennial productivity and job satisfaction is a sense of purpose supported by frequent feedback.