Genevieve Carlton

Helping Millennials in the Workforce be Successful

Millennial job candidates can be burdened with stereotypes painting them as selfish, entitled, and lazy. The harm this causes can go both ways

Millennials: That word seems to cross my clients’ lips frequently these days, and it’s often spoken in hushed tones, as if the subject is cause for concern—or fear. You, too, may be familiar with the bad press this generation sometimes receives, especially with respect to hiring and management issues. Article with titles like… “Why You Can’t Fill Sales Positions with Millennials” and “Why Millennials Struggle for Success” proliferate online.

Years ago, I was one of the first people to present on generational communication styles and differences in the workplace, but lately I find myself cautioning my clients not to judge their Millennial candidates too quickly.

I think the concern I hear on the topic of younger workers is based on some of the more pervasive media themes relating to Millennials: the conventional wisdom is that they are entitled, that they lack work ethic, and that they show no loyalty to their employers. In fact, a 2009 survey by the Pew Research Center found that three in four Americans believe today’s youth are less industrious than their elders, a belief that, according to the data, is  actually shared by Millennials themselves.

The Truth about Millennials

However, it turns out that the view of Millennials as less loyal and more likely to job hop than previous generations may be grounded more in myth than reality. To cite but one example, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that job tenure statistics for Americans in their 20s were almost exactly the same in the 1980s as they are today.

In fact, the BLS found that the three million Americans who quit their job in December 2015, the highest number since 2006, cut across all generational lines; apparently it’s not just the Millennials who are exploring their options.

It’s especially hard to “label” Millennials simply because they are so diverse. Based on the Pew Research Center data, Millennials are the most ethnically, racially and religiously diverse group in American history. They have now overtaken baby boomers as America’s largest generation—Millennials already form 25 percent of the workforce in the United States and, by 2020, will make up 50 percent of the global workforce.

Bringing Millennials into your Company

In the media buzz surrounding them, there are some important facts to consider about Millennials before you draw any conclusions and cross a younger candidate off your hiring list.

According to the CEA report on what generations value in the workplace similarities outweighed the differences among baby boomers, Generation X, and Millennial employees. All three groups valued teamwork, flexible work arrangements, work/life balance and a job that challenges. “When it comes to work, Millennials are mostly similar to previous generations: They want to be successful, and they want the type of prosperity that means that their children will be better off.”

Of course, some things are statistically true about Millennials; they are more liberal politically, less likely to be religious, and they really do say they want feedback more than other generations in the workplace. But obviously none of these things accurately predict what they’d be like on your team.

While I still believe that when you are born, your “age location in history” has an impact on how you see the world, I recognize that it’s important not to use that belief to draw conclusions about the twenty-something across the hall from me.

Each of us has our own preferences, work-style, worldview, and values. Some of the characteristics that have been assigned to Millennials may have more to do with where they are in their lifespans rather than to what generation they were born into. Thus it’s important to have a hiring process that ensures you look past generalizations and stereotypes to recognize the qualities and motivations of each individual candidate.

So how do you do that?

The proliferation of people analytics and big data has been useful for many companies, as well as my clients, so that they can gain an objective view into the candidates they’re hiring, bringing into the team, or promoting to high-level roles.

By analyzing the skills, abilities, and personality traits of your current talent and then combining that information with demographic, economic, and industry statistics, you can make data-driven decisions related to hiring, employee development, retention, and team selection to ensure that your business is successful now and in the future.

People analytics is not limited to just comparing candidates for selection. Organizations can also use these tools to help analyze and answer some more complex challenges, such as:
1. Rapidly assessing and analyzing hundreds of candidates for an entry-level position and predicting the potential fit for future positions
2. Career path and bench strength analysis for existing teams
3. Comparison of a recently promoted senior leader to her new teams or predicting the fit of a potential manager with various teams
4. Identification of high-potential candidates for specialized emerging-leader programs
5. Development of precise onboarding programs based on results of people analytics analysis
6. Assembling innovation teams with a proper mix of not only strategically focused individuals but also those who can facilitate, implement, and execute
7. Mining existing talent pools (full-time, part-time, and contractors) for people who can fit a wide range of positions

People analytics plays a critical role by allowing managers to compare individuals to a wide range of future positions and predict the potential for success

So rather than judging Millennials for when they were born or what generational bucket they fall into, look at their intrinsic motivations. Aligning that with the goals of your business, as well as their own career goals, can set them up for success at your company and within your team’s culture.

About the Author:

Genevieve Carlton is talent management consultant at Caliper, a Princeton, N.J.- based consulting firm that specializes in talent development and assessment.