Is it time to ditch millennial stereotypes?

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Millennials are labelled as job-hoppers who demand instant gratification and expect a gold star just for doing their job, but an expert says the Gen Y stereotype is often misguided – and could explain why your organization is struggling to retain young workers.

Though the youngest generations of workers have vastly different career expectations and life goals to those who came before them, it’s important not to typecast them, says KPMG partner and national lead of people and change services Soula Courlas.

“I haven’t been able to pigeonhole millennials into one type, other than very eager to learn, eager to contribute, eager to just find meaning and to challenge the boomers or challenge whoever else is in leadership in the organization on ‘where is corporate social responsibility? What are we doing that is meaningful?’.”

Courlas – herself a boomer – encourages and welcomes that challenge, saying she’s yet to find herself disappointed by a millennial staffer.

“I haven’t seen one that is fussy, flighty and not wanting to contribute in the most meaningful way.”

Of the cliché that Gen Y lacks staying power – jumping between jobs every year or two in search of new experiences – Courlas says she’s seeing more indications of those workers wanting to be loyal to one company for longer, as well as organizations giving them reasons to stay.

One of her millennial team members, people and change consultant Kara Anderson, says the shift in workers’ expectations demands increased flexibility from employers.

“In the past, the careers available were much more straightforward and you would climb the corporate ladder and you would know what your next step was. Now because of LinkedIn and the internet, there’s so many things that [millennials are] exposed to and interested in,” she says.

“[They] want to be exposed to all different types of work, have those opportunities to explore different career options, and that’s what employers need to be flexible in, in giving your employees opportunities to pursue different types of projects, different types of work.”

Courlas suggests if employers want to encourage their millennials to stick around, they need to broaden their view of work, as well as their offerings to staff.

“Millennials are looking for what they can learn, what they can contribute, how they can make a difference, what’s meaningful, and if that can be gathered from a role that’s, say, lateral rather than a rung up, then that’s part of the conversation.”

Employers should consider how they can be more flexible – with options to work different hours or remotely – “and not just saying we can’t make it work because it’s difficult to balance it”.

All of those incentives, Anderson says, often hold more appeal than money – though she adds that employers shouldn’t assume that all millennials feel the same.

“Raises or bonuses … definitely do matter and I don’t think you can forget them, but I do think there are a lot of other things that matter just as much: the work that you’re doing, the advancement opportunities, the people that you get to work with can be just as important as how much [you’re] getting paid, if not more.”

Related stories:
Why millennials have changed their mind set
Competition vs collaboration – what do millennials really want?

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