• Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

You’re probably wrong about millennials

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Managers routinely complain about their Gen Y employees as entitled, disloyal and lazy – and as a result, conflicts arise.

In a study in partnership with American Express for my new book, we found that employees from this generation generally have a positive view of their managers.

Employees feel that their managers have experience (59%), wisdom (41%) and are willing to mentor them (33%). On the other hand, managers feel that Gen Y employees are easily distracted (46%) and have unrealistic salary/compensation expectations (51%) and a poor work ethic (47%).

While there is a tendency to blame their employees for generational conflicts, managers in today’s companies may need to rethink their own management styles.

The first step is to drop generational misconceptions and give Gen Y employees a chance to prove themselves.

One of those misconceptions is that millennials are “entitled.” Managers fail to realize that millennials want to make a big impact, get connected with executives and engage in professional development opportunities. This isn’t entitlement – it’s being personally accountable for your own career.

Another stereotype is that millennials lack the company loyalty held by their older colleagues, and this is at least partly true:

The average tenure at a firm for Gen Y is two years (compared to five years for Gen X and seven years for Baby Boomers). But those numbers don’t tell the whole story.

The real issue here is that managers fail at setting expectations with their Gen Y employees, and often don’t inform them of criteria for promotions or suggest a path to upward mobility. Millennials need regular feedback and a set of expectations in order to improve and feel engaged. For the same reason, a manager may also get frustrated with a “lazy” Gen Y employee who isn’t performing at the expected level – but most of the time it’s because the supervisor is not dictating what that level is.

Companies simply can’t afford to lose Gen Y talent because in the next 10 years, they will become the majority of the global workforce.

The real opportunity to bring both generations together is mentoring programs that connect Gen Y talent to senior leaders.

PepsiCo has accomplished this with a mentoring program called Conn3ct, a global network of young professionals within the company. Through the program, Gen Y employees’ voices are heard, their ideas are implemented and they receive executive exposure and sponsorship. Gen Y employees benefit from networking, training and development, and their careers are accelerated in the process.

Managers benefit from learning about new trends and how to leverage the latest technology from Gen Y employees, who don’t know a world without computers.

By understanding how to work with Gen Y employees and creating programs that allow them to network, learn and feel part of the company, you will retain them and they will become your next leaders.

Otherwise, you will lose them to your competitors.

(Dan Schawbel is a Gen Y career and workplace expert, the founder of Millennial Branding and the author of “Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success.”)