What do millennial expectations look like in the workplace that signifies a paradigm shift from existing norms?
- Self-actualization - Looking at work as a means for realizing one’s true potential, beyond one’s paycheck or designation. In other words, mere climbing up the organizational ladder without personal growth is out.
- Making a difference - The need to believe that one is working towards a bigger cause, beyond the day-to-day business. This naturally leads to an expectation of a clear definition of work goals and how they are linked to the larger organization vision and mission of the organization.
- An aversion to communication hierarchies - The ability to question superiors, and expect rational answers in return, about the broader context in terms of business goals. In contrast to one-way communication merely around tasks, this drives a broader conversation towards objectives and open, structured feedback.
How can you use these expectations to effectively deal with the millennial transition of the workplace?
- When recruiting, the organization's vision has to be clearly defined and communicated at the level of every individual. The CEO should do this for startups and small companies, beyond which the relevant business unit leader should step in.
- On a quarterly basis, business unit leaders should take the time out to give an in-person update to team members about business goals and priorities, and the reasoning behind them. This cannot be delegated to a canned email coming from HR, as it should be interactive, with employees given the chance to question without hesitation.
- During interviews, take the time out for informal conversation, and not in a prepared format, but rather by making an honest effort to connect as a person. Trying to understand someone’s journey so far, and hopes and dreams, with genuine curiosity, will go a long way in making someone feel at home when they do join.
- Look at evaluations as a holistic exercise, beyond a laser-focus on numbers and deliverables, keeping an eye on personal development goals. If someone over-delivers on certain parameters while lagging in others, it might be time to encourage flexibility in career paths, without being hung up on a conventional growth ladder.
- Team building activities should not fall back on the usual tropes of dinner and a movie. Getting a team together for a worthy social-cause (planting trees counts!) not only makes individuals feel better about themselves, it also creates opportunities to create bonds that last. As a gift that keeps on giving, when prospective employees walk in and see photos and other memorabilia of such events, it creates an immediate positive reinforcement in their minds.
While the world seems uniquely obsessed with millennials at this moment, it’s good to see things from a historical perspective - generational change mixed with technological upheaval has always caused disruption. But from those disruptions, new paradigms emerge that become the new norm. We are at that juncture now, with a choice between responding thoughtfully or being tied to the past.