Why are so many organizations struggling with disengagement amongst millennial employees and what will the future of work will look like as millennials become the majority of the workforce?
It’s not easy being a millennial.
“We’ve been brought up in an out-dated system that lacks the necessary support to strive in today’s day and age,” says Ryan Coelho, founder of the Millennial Engagement Movement. “We were sold on the idea of, ‘if you get a degree you’ll get a job;’ however, we know this is not the case anymore.”
Instead, you get the degree – and the debt that comes along with it – only to find yourself underemployed at the Starbucks up the street from your parents’ house. “Once we do enter the ‘real world’ we’re never taught how to navigate it in order to succeed,” Coelho says.
These are the cards we’ve been dealt, and while some may accept them as they are, for most millennials, it’s not enough. We want more. And while we’re still figuring out how to achieve this, organizations are slowly finding ways to respond.
But they’re going to have to stop dragging their feet, because employers cannot afford to overlook the millennial influence any longer. By 2025, Gen-Y will comprise 75 percent of the workforce. Companies need to be better equipped to engage with and respond to millennials’ ambitious career goals, their passion for societal change, and their desire for an improved working routine, before they miss out.
At the same time, millennials need to find new ways of approaching work. Jobs are still scarce, and with over 80 million millennials looking for a paycheque, competition is high. If you want to build a successful career today, you’re going to have to carve a new path; after all, we’re facing circumstances the generations before us never had to endure.
Enter the Millennial Engagement Movement.
The movement focuses not only on supporting millennials through coaching and training, but also in assisting organizations to better understand this misunderstood generation, Coelho explains. “My hope is that we can bridge the generational gap between millennials and older generations so that both sides get the most value from each other.”
Dissecting the Generational Divide
While many business leaders remain mystified by this massive cohort, the bottom line is simple: millennials want to excel at work.
They also want real-time feedback along the way so they can course-correct as needed. Unfortunately, employers confuse this trait as entitlement, rather than receptiveness.
“Many organizations are still operating with a mindset and systems that were created years ago,” says Coelho. “These systems are out of date and do not relate to the culture that millennials are currently living/growing up in.”
This has created a gap between what millennials expect out of work, and what organizations are prepared to deliver. Here are some common causes of disengagement:
1. The “instant gratification” effect.
Growing up in the Internet era, millennials are accustomed to immediate results. They can discover, connect and create with the click of a button. This fast-pace of change is built into our DNA. “However, many organizations have long, drawn-out processes for change and so millennials lose patience and, as a result, lose motivation,” Coelho says.
2. The search for purpose.
“Millennials want their work to be purposeful and meaningful,” says Coelho. “They want emotional fulfillment at work alongside the financial benefits.” But many organizations are not used to having to connect these dots for their employees. Coelho explains that as a result, employers rely on extrinsic motivation (which many companies cannot fulfill), without leveraging the power of intrinsic motivation.
3. The need for work-life integration.
Millennials have high expectations, says Coelho. “They’re looking for more than a job. They want an experience – one that is challenging, fun, emotionally fulfilling, financially rewarding, and fits into their lifestyle.” But this is new terrain for other generations who are accustomed to a “work now, play later” mentality. “Past generations valued a job and the financial benefits connected to it, whereas millennials value both the emotional and financial aspects of their work,” he says. “They want to make a difference while making money.”
Introducing a New Way of Work
As millennials become the majority of the workforce, Coelho forecasts a new way of work. “I truly believe we’re moving into an era of project based work,” he says. “What this means is that people will be hired to help with projects opposed to being hired for jobs.”
He notes that this satisfies millennial needs, as it brings a constant element of change while also presenting challenges that serve individual purposes. They’re also able to see faster results and achieve ongoing recognition.
And it’s not only millennials who would benefit from this way of working. “Organizations would no longer have to worry about motivating people for the long-term and they are not locked into long-term human resource agreements.” In other words, it would be up to the employees to continuously prove themselves – both in regards to their growing skill sets and their desire to be doing the work.
So how do we get there?
Coelho says it is up to millennials to initiate the shift. It is up to us to move away from the chains of underemployment and to start building the types of careers we love. “Young people need to become more clear on challenges they are passionate about solving and get creative in finding organizations that could use their help,” he says. “It needs to be less about applying for jobs and more about creating opportunities.”
After all, every opportunity presents the chance to demonstrate your energy and expertise, and if you really work at it, companies will start to notice you and demand your talents. From there, it will be up to them to adjust their culture to support the passion and effort of their young employees.
What do you think? Is project-based work in your future? How else can millennials and companies work together to improve their working relationship? Let us know in the comments below.