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Millennials in the workforce: what really matters to them

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By Shelly Kramer, Co-CEO, V3 Broadsuite

The generation born in the 1980s and early ’90s, sometimes called Gen Y or, more commonly, millennials, are now making an impact in the workplace. Born into the emerging world of technology and communication, the expectations of millennials and their outlook on the workplace generally differs from that of their predecessors, meaning that a greater understanding of this cohort is needed in order to find, manage, inspire, and retain this much-needed part of the workforce, especially in the IT world.

As the technology sector booms, IT leaders are more interested in attracting and recruiting the best and brightest young talent than ever before. But attracting millennials and keeping them happy and satisfied in the workplace is entirely different than it was for prior generations. Generally speaking, this group cares less about job security, paying their dues, and working their way up a corporate ladder than their Generation X and Boomer counterparts, and are exponentially more interested in careers that suit their personalities, their needs, and allow them to have a life outside of work more than their predecessors.

That’s why a think-tank hosted by Dell and moderated by the Intern Queen, Lauren Berger last year caught my attention. The workshop, with contributions from entrepreneurs, employers, recruiters, and students was designed to kick off a dialogue about millennials in the workforce, to identify what matters to them, and to discuss how this evolution can best be managed to the benefit of both employers and employees.

What millennials value in the workplace

The event highlighted some of the things that not only the participants thought important, but which research has also confirmed as things generally valued by millennials in the workplace. Let’s take a look:

  • Ownership – Millennials reported that being able to take responsibility and ownership of their work projects is important to them
  • Understanding expectations – Millennials are interested in having a clear understanding of expectations, whether it’s related to an internship experience while still in school or a job experience after graduation. They like to know what is expected of them and are always looking for information that helps them more clearly understand that.
  • Training – Students reported that they understand the concept of a personal brand and how important that is, and that they are interested in training from universities as to how to use social media to establish and build a strong personal brand. They understand this is also important to them as they look for employment opportunities. This extrapolates out to employers as well, as many times employees at all levels are uncertain about corporate expectations about personal brands, the use of social media, what is acceptable, expected of them, etc. As such, when you’re recruiting, hiring, and managing millennials, it’s important to make sure that training in general is part of what you offer them on an ongoing basis, as well as affording them the ability to build and enhance their own personal brands.
  • Flexible work options – Students were very interested in information about work options extended by future employers, including things like flexible hours and office work versus the ability to work from home. In addition, a focus on finding a good work-life balance was a recurring theme from the participants. This is something not traditionally seen at early stages of a career with earlier generations and important to understand and factor into your overall corporate culture when it comes to keeping this younger generation happy and motivated.

What employers recommend to millennials in the workplace

It’s not all about what the new members of the work force want of course; the employers in the room also had some advice for millennials. Their advice included things like:

  •        It’s important to be resourceful, adaptable, and willing to learn new skills.
  •        Be sure to establish your own learning objectives from an internship.
  •        Seek feedback on a regular basis and be open to advice and constructive criticism.
  •        Make yourself indispensable by using your specific skill set to set you apart from the competition.

How to create successful work environments and opportunities

Millennials are a generation of digital natives—constantly plugged into devices of some nature—and a culture focused on technology and innovation are often the hooks that get them interested in working for a particular organization. Obviously, this is a highly sought-after and rich source of potential talent for the IT industry in particular. The challenge for employers is not only on recruiting the best and brightest tech talent, but also creating an environment and delivering work opportunities that keep them satisfied and motivated.

The participants identified several key steps that all involved in integrating millennials into the work force needs to consider:

  • Align employer needs with millennial values. This is important to ask about on an individual basis as part of your recruiting efforts and interviewing process. Millennials often choose companies to work for that are committed to the communities they serve, who focus on work-life balance for their employees, and/or who have values and corporate ethics that they respect and admire. Knowing what’s important to this group, on an individual basis, will help you recruit and retain a group of committed young professionals.
  • Deliver on commitments made to interns and new entrants. This isn’t a patient group. If you promise them something, know that they’ll remember and expect you to deliver.
  • Ensure employers and educators work together to identify areas that need improvement, then provide ongoing training and mentoring.
  • Equip students with social media skills to improve not only their employment prospects, but also their ability to perform well on the job and to enhance their careers and personal brands moving forward.

A new generation, a new methodology in the workplace

Code.org, a foundation dedicated to growing computer science education, reports that by the year 2020, there will be 1 million more jobs in computer science than there will be people to fill those jobs.

Think-tanks and conversations like this one hosted by Dell can go a long way toward helping students and young people who are getting ready to enter the workplace. It can be equally as beneficial to employers looking to attract and recruit millennials. Beyond that, an understanding of the millennial mindset and what motivates and inspires them can be extremely valuable in the corporate world when it comes to retaining these young people. We are facing a dearth of workers in the tech industry, and IT managers in particular are and will feel the pinch when it comes to finding and retaining workers.

A comment made by millennial Jackie O’Shaughnessy on the blog post that Lauren Berger published about the event sums it up quite nicely:

“I think one big difference between our generation and our parents’ generation is the reason that we look for jobs – and our drive behind keeping them. Our parents were encouraged to find jobs in order to buy a house, raise a family, and essentially ‘bring home the bacon.’ Our generation seems to search for jobs that fulfill us. We’re looking for an entire experience, rather than focusing on the money we receive to purchase goods. All in all, we want jobs that we like and that like us, and I think we’re less likely to settle into a career that we don’t enjoy.”

Millennials are interested in things that are wholly different than their predecessors. Conversations with them about work includes concepts like:

  •        We value experiences
  •        Busy isn’t cool
  •        Community service matters to me
  •        I want my voice heard
  •        Your job won’t love you back
  •        Options are important to me
  •        Flexibility in a job is key

If you’re interested in recruiting, inspiring, and retaining a millennial work force, for your IT team or otherwise, you should check out the video at Dell Gen Y Workforce Think Tank. It’s a little over two hours in length, but well worth the investment of your time. If you want a shorter summary try thisgraphic representation of the conversation.

Another resource that might be valuable to you as you think about your Millennial work force is my friend, Jeff Fromm’s book Marketing to Millennials, which provides as much insight into working with millennials as it does about marketing to them.

What do you think? What has your experience been recruiting and hiring millennials? What about the millennials on your team? What differences have you seen between their work mindset and that of others on your team? What have you done differently as a result? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Other resources on this topic:

10 things millennial CEOs will reimagine in America

Study reveals surprising facts about millennials in the workplace

8 things you need to know about millennials at work

This post was written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. To learn more about tech news and analysis visit Tech Page One. Dell sponsored this article, but the opinions are our own and don’t necessarily represent Dell’s positions or strategies.

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