By Michelle Adams, Staff Writer
Despite the growing population of millennials in the corporate world, many employers are hesitant to hire from Generation Y. False accusations and misconceptions have forced employers to shy away from young employees – when they should really be doing the opposite.
Many studies show that the younger generation prioritizes different workplace values than their employers. This can lead to misunderstandings, which in turn raise misconceptions about the generation as a whole. Millennials have been called lazy, unskilled, unmotivated, and selfish.
But those who criticize the younger generation fail to realize that while there are distinct differences between them and their older colleagues, millennials can provide new and improved insight that benefits the company. In reality, they are largely family-oriented, concerned about the world around them, and driven to succeed as individuals and as team members in an organization.
So let's address the misconceptions one by one.
Misconception #1: Millennials are lazy employees.
Anthony Hennen from Red Alert Politics accuses Generation Y of having an “anti-work attitude” that is displayed through demands for flexible hours. According to an Intelligence Group study, it is true that 74 percent of working millennials would push for a more flexible work schedule, but this is not out of laziness or a desire for more free time; in reality, they want to spend time with their families.
Generation X’s children – the millennials – had to deal with childhoods featuring stressful family dynamics and, oftentimes, divorce and all the uncertain conditions that come with it. Additionally, as women increased their presence in the workplace, many families became dependent on two incomes, leaving Generation Y in daycares for much of their early years. This hectic lifestyle has led to an increase in family values in millennials as they reach the young stages of adulthood; parents want to spend time with their children and make irreplaceable, lifelong memories with their families. Some fathers are even pushing for paternity leave, an employee benefit that is beginning to grow as fathers are making a growing presence in the lives of their children.
This is not to say that the typical family dynamic has gone unchanged since the twentieth century for the young generation, however; more than half of millennials are still willing to travel often or even move to accommodate work necessities. Even so, around three-quarters of working millennials claim to not be “willing to compromise their family and personal values” in the workplace.
Simply put, millennials are not leaving work to go out partying or sleep all day – they just want valuable family time.
Misconception #2: Millennials are unskilled employees.
According to ABC Chicago, when Generation Y was tested, United States millennials failed to even make the top ten in the world in literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving abilities in technology-rich environments (PS-TRE), despite being some of the most educated people in the world.
Backing this assertion, Hennen goes on to claim that millennials expect and even require too much from their employers, including “extensive training…that goes beyond the financial interest of the business.”
This belief is again false, though. While the standardized testing may say otherwise, millennials are like sponges: their young minds can quickly absorb information and create problem-solving solutions more creatively than their elders. They are more open-minded and willing to change, as well, as a result of growing up accustomed to technology. Additionally, their large amount of formal education shows a willingness to learn that will extend into the workplace.
Millennials take courses throughout their higher education years that are more career-oriented than ever before, so while other countries’ millennials may be better test-takers, Generation Y in the United States is working to get the job done.
Misconception #3: Millennials are unmotivated.
It has been argued that millennials do not fight as hard for career advancement as older generations did. While 65 percent of those surveyed ranked career success as, “very important,” in their lives, the younger generation is much more willing to leave a job due to poor conditions than their parents and grandparents were. Hennen blames Generation X for instilling poor values on their children by bribing them, leading to their need for “external motivators” and incentives, like extensive benefits and a joyous work environment.
While these claims are statistically true, the reasoning for these beliefs is engrained into millennials as simply different values.
This generation wants to make a difference, and, according to Bentley University, “know that their work matters.” This is a deal-breaking incentive for many young employees; if they feel unimportant, millennials may leave to find a more fulfilling position.
The solution that millennials have developed to heed to their desire for a happy and productive workplace is entrepreneurship. Self-employment is on the rise, and this option is the perfect way for individuals to maintain their personal values in their careers. It also may benefit the more than three-quarters of millennial workers that would prefer that their bosses “coach” them in the right direction, rather than merely giving them monotonous instructions. Luckily, this independence is beneficial for society, as an increase in the desire for productivity will lead to a more efficient economy and a better nation overall.
If millennials end up happy at a company, though, they are not afraid to stay there until retirement; almost half of those surveyed said they would be satisfied working for, “only one or two companies over the course of their careers,” so long as the company follows their values and beliefs.
Misconception #4: Millennials are selfish workers who put themselves before the company team.
It is no secret that millennials have different priorities than previous generations. From family values to a need to “do good,” the current young adults are constantly considering their own impact on the world. In fact, a whopping 84 percent of millennials have said that they would rather “make a positive difference in the world,” than be recognized for their career moves.
Despite this, it is still argued that millennials are selfish in the workplace, because they wish for so many costly benefits that bring the company down. This could not be farther from the truth.
Millennials want a community in the workplace. They loathe tense environments; about nine out of ten millennials prefer collaboration to competition. They are “eager, dedicated people who score high on ethics and integrity. They take responsibility for their actions,” rather than letting punishment be divided amongst the group. Millennials are truly team players in a corporate environment.
It is important that prejudices toward and misconceptions about the younger generation be cleared up with employers soon: an Intelligence Group study expects 40 percent of the working population to be made up of millennials by 2020.
Millennials struggle to fit in with older generations in the workplace simply because they have different, more timely, values. They want work to fit into their lives, rather than dominate it, but they want to feel satisfied by a job well done. They want to work together to make a difference, rather than work for their own career advancement.
Millennials are strong, open-minded individuals that deserve a chance in corporate America.