According to Forrester Research, there are four generations of workers currently comprising the American marketplace: Veterans (born between 1922 and 1945), Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), Generation X (born between 1965 and 1979), and The Millennials or Generation Y (born between 1980 and 1995).
The picture of how these generations interact and relate to one another, however, has been the source of much recent media coverage—and is at the core of our mission here at Care.com. Baby Boomers are retiring en masse and leaving huge gaps in the workforce. The Veteran generation is living well into their golden years, needing care from younger family members from both the Boomer and Gen X groups—some of whom are already struggling to support children of their own while maintaining a career. And this youngest generation, The Millennials or Generation Y, is starting to apply for and fill the jobs left behind by retirees and those who dial down their careers to juggle the care needs of their loved ones—but employers are finding it hard to relate to these youngest workers.
So, what makes Millennials different?
Unlike their predecessors, this newest generation grew up with digital technology and, by and large, were raised by more mature, better-educated parents who were very active participants in their development well into their college years. Because of these and other factors, some employers are finding it difficult to relate to and manage Millennial workers, and are finding huge philosophical gaps between Millennials and their Boomer or Gen X managers (like the one I mentioned between my friend Stacy and her babysitter).
According to numerous publications*, what typically makes the Millennials different is their:
- Confidence (often misconstrued as arrogance or naïveté)
- Can-do attitude
- Innate multi-tasking ability
- Hopefulness (an optimistic yet practical outlook)
- Globally connectedness
- Civic mindedness
- Goal- and achievement-orientation
- Inclusiveness and expectation of diversity
- Determination not to "settle" and tendency to job-hop
- Ability to become bored easily
So, how do you relate to and manage Millennials as an employer?
Scarlett Johannson's recent movie based on the popular novel, The Nanny Diaries, is a good example of the employer/employee generational gap. In some scenes, Scarlett's character was looking for something as simple as respect and equality. Millennials expect to be engaged in an ongoing dialogue about their position, and aren't afraid to leave one job in search of a better one—no matter how long they've been there.
CBS also recently covered this story in 60 Minutes, sending Morley Safer on assignment to interview a handful of experts on handling Millennial employees. What I took away from that segment, along with what I've learned employing Millennials as colleagues and as caregivers for my sons and my dogs, is that Millennials can be extremely hard-working, dedicated, and great contributors if you can learn to work with them and speak their language.
Some of their values and criteria for a position are not so different from my own values as a CEO:
- A job should be challenging, and regular performance reviews are key to high achievement
- Digital media should be embraced and not looked upon as a diversion—workflow, communication, and projects can become more efficient when used correctly
- Work-life balance should be a central mission and on-going dialogue
- Hitting stretch goals and milestones should be rewarded
- Openness to ideas from all levels of the organization should be welcomed
Since the Millennial population is very large and an important source of employment, we need to figure out how to relate to them and retain them. Some may deem them as entitled, demanding, and ungrateful of the pay-your-dues tradition, but we should look to their ideas and experience with technology, in particular. They are after all the new generation of "socially networked" individuals and they are in touch with digital media and new technologies. They are the ones constantly multi-tasking—on their cell phones while watching TV and chatting with their friends via instant messenger.
At the same time, it is important to develop a mentoring relationship with Millennials. As the mom of teenager in the Millennial generation, and having recently lived with our Millennial nanny, Amanda, I've learned to play much more of an advisory role, one that is approachable and not condescending. It has certainly helped me at work and also in managing our Millennial caregivers.
Here's some of my best advice for managing Millennials:
- Focus on defining parts of the job that will involve learning and growth for them. For example, if they are caring for your kids and they would like to eventually teach, work with them on researching ways (games, books, etc.) in which you can educate the kids together.
- Give them projects they can own and feel proud. For example, if they are helping you organize things at home, give them a project they can own such as putting your old electronic items on eBay and give them a commission on their sales. When the kids are napping they can certainly do projects for you around the house that are fun and at the same time help you out.
- Most importantly, treat them with equal respect as you would peers at work or even your age group. Seek their advice, ideas, and thoughts. They have plenty of knowledge regarding digital trends and what your kids are now interested in doing.
Have a story about managing Millennials, or tips and advice? Share them with the Care.com community by leaving a comment!
*For more information on Millennials, check out these recent publications: