Millennials (members of Generation Y) are quickly becoming the majority of the workforce. They are already the largest generation in United States history with 92 million members. Companies who want to stay relevant and competitive should adapt to this influx of new talent and new challenges. Our most recent survey of millennials in the US and Canada showed that career advancement opportunities, meaningful engaging tasks, and work culture/environment are three of the most important factors that attract Gen Ys to join and stay at a company. While these values are shared amongst all generations of workers, what sets the millennial generation apart from other generations is how they define and understand these key decision factors. Our series of guide posts will provide insight into millennial identity, how that identity was formed, and how, through understanding Gen Y culture, employers can both attract and retain millennial talent.
In order to tap into top millennial talent, employers need to understand how millennial experiences shape their perspectives and behaviors. “Millennials have come of age during a time of technological change, globalization and economic disruption. That’s given them a different set of behaviors and experiences than their parents,” says Goldman Sachs. Millennials have been influenced by the constant influx of new technologies, social networking, a challenging job market, and an extensive, modernized education. The result of these influences is a generation of workers that has an expectation of constant self-progression, a need for social and professional connections, and a multidimensional definition of success. PEW Research Center described them by saying as a generation, millennials are “confident, self-expressive, upbeat, and open to change...They are history’s first “always connected” generation. Steeped in digital technology and social media, they treat their multi-tasking hand-held gadgets almost like a body part - for better and worse.” These unique experiences and expectations are what set millennials apart from previous generations.
Our society has undergone an unprecedented era of technological progress, and millennials have been the first generation to develop in this environment of constant and rapid advancement. Because of that, millennials have become “the first digital natives”. Technology enables millennials to connect with people and information in immediate ways that were never before available to previous generations.They dominate other generations in their playing video games, chatting online, downloads, and using social media. They have fused their social lives into their technology are more social and connected through text messaging, social media, instant messaging, and blogging. Millennials’ need to connect does not end with technology. Finding their work meaningful is especifically significant to millennials because they want to connect to their career as another part of their identity. “[Millennials] embrace multiple modes of self-expression. Three-quarters have created a profile on a social networking site. One-in-five have posted a video of themselves online.” They want to fuse their career into their identity just as their social life is married to their technology. “Millennials see no difference between work and life...All efforts in both are interwoven in a greater purpose, mission or passion.” They need both their online social identity and career to merge with, and become part of, their self-image.
However, millennials are facing a challenging job market that is making it difficult for their to integrate employment with their identity. “[Millennials’] entry into careers and first jobs has been badly set back by the Great Recession...at the moment, fully 37% of 18- to 29-year-olds are unemployed or out of the workforce, the highest share among this age group in more than three decades.” The influence of this hostile job market on millennials cannot be underestimated. “Lower employment levels and smaller incomes have left younger millennials with less money than previous generations,” and the financial impact is only one facet of the complicated consequences of this difficult job market.
Consider next the fact that millennials are driven to further their education by this employment vaccuum. “Millennials are on course to become the most educated generation in American history, a trend driven largely by the demands of a modern knowledge-based economy, but most likely accelerated in recent years by the millions of 20-somethings enrolling in graduate schools, colleges or community colleges in part because they can’t find a job. Among 18 to 24 year olds a record share – 39.6% – was enrolled in college as of 2008, according to census data.” Generation Y is impressively well educated. However there are negative consequences to millennials being this well educated in this economy. “Research shows that young people who graduate from college in a bad economy typically suffer long-term consequences – with effects on their careers and earnings that linger as long as 15 years.”. Even this educational investment is providing millennials with new hurdles to conquer. And yet, Millennials value their education and are pushing themselves to make the best of their employment situation and overcome these external challenges.
By understanding the experiences that have shaped millennials’ mental models of the world, employers will be able to adapt and change their work environment to be a place where millennials succeed. Deloitte Millennial Survey describes millennials by saying “ they believe business might help create the type of world they wish to inhabit. The outside world might be increasingly unstable, but millennials give reason to believe that, by working together, there is hope to improve performance of both business, as well as society as a whole.” and as an employer, that attitude is something your organization can greatly benefit from. Companies that want to attract millennial talent should focus their talent acquisition and retention strategies on clear and consistent advancement strategies, giving millennial’s meaningful work, and helping them feel a sense of value. We will delve into each of these topics in our guide series “How to Attract and Retain Millennial Talent”.