A month ago, MTV released a study on America’s millennials: in this case, American youths in the 16-24 years age group (though millennials are broadly defined as those born after 1980). The research study, which was conducted during January-March 2014, by MTV Insights titled Millennials & #Mericauncovered “a significant shift by young people away from the traditional concept of unquestioning patriotism to a more balanced definition of what it means to be an “American” today – proud of country but highly attuned to its strengths and weaknesses.”
According to an MTV press release on Millennials & #Merica, “Millennials are as loyal to America as any generation. But they are redefining patriotism as an active commitment, rather than an unquestioned obligation,” said Stephen Friedman, President of MTV. “In our global era where young people have witnessed peers around the world face oppression for speaking out, American Millennials are asserting their beliefs through the fundamentally American acts of questioning, challenging and, ultimately, trying to make this country better.”
Although the MTV study is on millennials in the United States and deals with their response towards patriotism, we find that the study has uncovered several characteristics of millennials in general (and not uniquely about American millennials or their patriotism) which are true across the globe. From our experience of working with millennials, we find, for instance, that millennials do take pride in their work and the organisation they work for. However, they are highly conscious of and attuned to the strengths and weaknesses of their jobs and their employers.
Contrary to popular belief, millennials are passionate about and committed to their jobs. But, they reserve the right to question their job roles and their employers openly; especially when they experience discomfort in executing their responsibilities or dissonance in accepting decisions made by their managers. Millennials are guided by their self-confidence and they are reluctant to accept any unquestioned obligation that may be expected from them. They prefer a more questioning and challenging approach to management which, sometimes, does not gel well with older colleagues and managers.
We have also found that millennials respect and value learning, skills, talent and knowledge that directly deliver results. Hence, they tend to ascribe less value to job positions or promotions which are, traditionally, outcomes of experience and time spent in the organisation or the industry. Talented and hard-working millennials have high expectations from their employers, and they expect their employers – in particular, their next-level supervisors/managers – to be both attentive and appreciative of the effort millennials put into their work.
It’s not that millennials are brash by nature and disrespect organisational structures or their seniors at work. It’s just that millennials have re-defined traditional organisational structures and styles of management and leadership to create a world of their own. It’s a world which is flatter in structure, more open and democratic, performance-oriented, and built on relationships across levels. In fact, contrary to the notion of being disrespectful to seniors, most millennials look forward to building relationships with their supervisors and being mentored by them to achieve personal higher goals.
In an article titled Future of leadership: Looking at today’s Millennial managers and how they lead in The Electrical Distributor, Diane Thielfoldt of The Learning Café says,
“Members of the Millennial generation look for a relationship with their boss. They want their managers to be coaches, mentors, and even friends. They prefer to spend time with their direct supervisor and have plenty of interaction; they want to seek advice and, perhaps most importantly, get feedback on their performance. This does not typically mesh with Generation X’s (defined as those born between 1965 and 1976) love of independence and a hands-off work style. If a Millennial is lacking these manager-employee relationships, he or she is likely to seek a new position that provides that connection.”
In the article, Ms Thielfoldt outlines eight characteristics which define millennials and differentiate them from their colleagues from older generations. According to her, millennials are
- Technically savvy;
- Adaptable and open to change;
- Educated and education oriented;
- Willing to improve;
- Inclusive and environmentally conscious;
- Authority challenging.
In terms of leadership styles and values, Ms Thielfoldt says millennials prefer
- Working as a team;
- Pitching in for success;
- Valuing mentors;
- Ensuring training for employees;
- Taking risks;
- Receiving recognition;
- Adding fun to the mix.
To organisations old and new, managing millennials is an immediate and a daunting task. More so because millennials are slated to comprise 75% of the global workforce by 2025 – with India sharing a large portion of this young workforce. Of course, organisations across the globe are rising to the challenge. In a recent Times of India article titled Making Millennials Work, Sreeradha D Basu and Devina Sengupta present case studies from some of India’s reputed organisations on how they are managing their millennial workforce “with a mix of workplace flexibility, great HR policies and fun-at-work initiatives.” Here are some excerpts:
Flipkart: “Our average employee base is 25 — even our founders are young. As a result, the way we think and function, the work culture as a whole, is spontaneous and informal. Given this DNA, any policies and programmes we come up with tend to be more out-of-the-box,” says Mekin Maheshwari, CPO, Flipkart.
Philips India: “Every employee looks for three things in a job — challenge and learning, an opportunity to make a significant contribution and be recognised for it, and an empowering work climate that enables camaraderie, collaboration and openness. Millennials expect all of these in ‘significant doses’— and every company needs to raise the bar to provide an environment that delivers these,” says Krish Shankar, head of HR for South Asia, Philips.
Intel India: “Millennials make for 50% of Intel India’s manpower strength. College offer acceptance ratio in 2013 is at 95% which is much higher than the industry average,” says Preethi Madappa, director, HR, Intel South Asia.
Coca-Cola India: “Millennials are important because one-third of the workforce is under 30 years. Also, they are more inclined to give back to the lesser fortunate and, therefore, take a few days off a year to pursue those interests. Membership of hiking and trekking clubs is highest amongst the same group,” says Sameer Wadhawan, VP, HR & services, Coca-Cola India & South West Asia.
On the surface, it may seem millennials are re-defining the organisation because they simply want things done on their own terms. But if we look closely, we may find that some of the values that millennials are infusing into organisations today – such as transparency, flexibility, results orientation, relationships, a work-fun balance, a questioning nature, or a breakdown of hierarchical structure – are helping us to create a new kind of organisation in order to face the challenges which are yet to come.
[Citation: Millennials & #Merica, New MTV Study Finds Young People To Be Redefining Patriotism, MTV Insights Press Release; Future of leadership: Looking at today’s Millennial managers and how they lead, Diane Thielfoldt, The Electrical Distributor; Making Millennials Work, Sreeradha D Basu and Devina Sengupta, The Times of India.]