The challenges of working with millennials could become opportunities to do business even better. Is there a way to turn their expectations into smart business practices? We review three examples.

Working with Millennials


Quick takeaways if you’re in a hurry

  • Millennials (Generation Y) may not all share the same characteristics, but they are renowned for their high expectations
  • The Deloitte Millenial Survey 2016 showed that 66 percent of millennials surveyed expect to leave their jobs by 2020.
  • Expectations can be turned into opportunities to enhance the employee experience.

Read on: Making the most of millennial expectations

(estimated reading time: 7 minutes)

When you hear conversations about working with millenials, there are often comments made about whether they are hard workers or hard to work with. While it’s unfair to act like all millennials share the same characteristics, it does seem they share some specific expectations. The challenge if you run your own business is working out how to manage these expectations to stop them leaving. The Deloitte Millenial Survey 2016 showed that 66 percent of millennials surveyed expect to leave their jobs by 2020.

If you have been wondering how to retain your millennial workforce, read on for our suggestions on how to turn their expectations into actions that have a positive impact on your business.

Some context

Millennials are also known as Generation Y. They were born between 1980 and 2000, and are one of the most nurtured generations, both through their education and the way that they were raised. The combination of their supportive home lives and education have created a group of individuals who have specific needs from the businesses that they work for. Historically there has been a clear distinction in an employee’s values with regard to personal and business life. Not so for Millennials. They apply the same values across personal and business life, and they expect their needs to be universally met. There’s no surprise that many leaders see this as such a challenge. But is it also possible to see it as an opportunity?

Let’s look at three main expectations of millennials in the workforce, and review ways that they could deliver a positive business impact.

1. The challenge of achieving work-life balance

The working generations before Generation Y were raised with the belief that they had to ‘work the hours necessary to get the job done’. In contrast Generation Y sets greater importance on their own time, valuing it over financial reward. So if you hope that your millennial employee will still be in the office after six pm, you’re going to be disappointed. How do you make sure that they have access to their own time while your expectations about deadlines are met?

Your first consideration could be for any support or development they may need to understand and manage deadlines effectively. Task management is often developed successfully through experience. If your employee is new to the workforce they may not understand the tools available to them to successfully manage a project to completion. Then you may like to review whether they are successfully achieving what they need to. If they are, is it really an issue if they leave on time? It might be worth revisiting your expectations of when employees should be at their desks. Millenials value personal time so highly that they will work extra hard during working hours to ensure they can leave on time. And there are many positive outcomes from having sufficient personal time to relax and recharge. Indeed, you probably have other employees who could benefit from developing their work-life balance.

2. The expectations of a fast promotion

One of the more frustrating expectations of millennials in the workforce is that they should be promoted quickly. Their desire for leadership often demands rapid progression, which may exceed their ability or experience. But rather than just considering their expectations unrealistic, it’s worthwhile addressing them and considering whether this is an opportunity for your business.

With the focus of millennials on feedback it is no surprise that they crave promotion: this is one of the best ways to demonstrate that hard work has been recognised. Take some time to review their job description and the role of the employee in question. Why not use their desire for promotion to create a structured plan for progression. Include detail on current responsibilities, and consider giving the opportunity to take more on as their skills and achievements progress. Leadership doesn’t need to be of a company to be rewarding to a millennial. Allow them to take charge of some collaborative tasks as their experience develops. This planning will ensure your millennial is progressing in the workplace even if they are not getting the promotion they originally desired.

Progression planning is an important small business tool that is often overlooked because there may not be tangible roles to progress into. Taking the time to understand the long term career goals of your team will allow you to integrate opportunities for development into their role. It’s also possible to offer career progression through training and skill development. Focusing on the ways that your business can support the goals of your team will allow them to stay in your organisation as long as possible while still working towards fulfilling their career plans.

3. Continuous feedback

Because millennials have been nurtured by both their families and the education system, starting in business can be a bit of a shock to the system. It’s not easy to transition from an environment where you receive continuous feedback on your performance. That is why they crave feedback from their leaders and their peers. And if you fail to provide it then they will believe that your business does not value their input. Performance reviews are too infrequent to provide the feedback that they are looking for. They require weekly or preferably daily input to ensure that their contribution is being recognised.

Providing feedback is a great opportunity for you as an employer to drive the behaviour that you value. So if they want feedback, why not give it? You don’t need to make every comment positive. Your millennial wants you to be clear and specific so that they can use your feedback to drive their actions and improve the way that they work. Compliments especially need to be specific to be meaningful. And in fact, giving continuous feedback is a great opportunity to put a focus on the opportunities and achievement of all of your employees. The process of creating it drives your understanding of exactly what your team are working on and how they are performing. When delivered well continuous feedback is motivating and drives improved performance and productivity.

The millennial workforce has their own set of expectations that can sometimes be difficult to understand or meet. It’s easy to consider Generation Y employees hard to work with, but actually meeting their needs could be an opportunity to be embraced. A well rested workforce is able to contribute more and think more creatively about the problems at hand. Progression planning is an excellent tool to drive the development of your team with a focus on retaining staff as they gain new skills. Continuous feedback is an opportunity to reaffirm your expectations and reward behaviour that aligns with company objectives. Millennial expectations may feel like hard work but if you turn them into opportunities they could yield positive results. And of course your millennial employees will feel a lot happier along the way.

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