When you think about the global workforce, what thoughts come to mind? Many people imagine a multinational company that values cross-cultural communication and searches for the most effective global networking and production practices. There are many factors that affect the global workforce and its approximate 3 billion workers, but one of the most important is effectively communicating across generations in the workplace.
Communicating with individuals from multiple generations is bound to bring about certain stereotypes about the way each generation works, speaks, thinks, etc. Many of these stereotypes involve the influx of millennials in the workforce. However, stereotypes are dangerous to the whole of society, so it’s important to focus on statistics when making generalizations about groups of people. Whether it is nationality, race, gender, a physical characteristic or economic status, stereotypes about people are common. They also paint distorted perceptions, and they are damaging to our social – especially our global – relationships.
One group of people often the target of stereotypes is millennials. Millennials are often misunderstood – especially in the workplace. As global organizations struggle to attract and retain millennial talent, it is wise to investigate the statistics. Doing so proves that their values are, on the whole, different from those of the generations that came before them.
Who Are the Millennials?
Also known as Generation Y, the Millennial Generation is the generation following Generation X. They are also known as Generation We, the Global Generation, Trophy Kids and commonly The Generation of Entitlement.
Millennials were born in the early ‘80s through the beginning of the new century, and there are more than 2.5 billion millennials around the world. Examining global statistics about this diverse demographic provides useful insight into their shared values and implications about their differences.
Millennials Around the World
A 2011 survey conducted by PwC asked 4,364 millennial graduates across 75 countries questions about their attitudes toward the workforce. All respondents were under 31 years old at the time of the survey. Consider the following survey statistics:
- 75 percent of millennials believe they will have between two and five employers during their lifetime. This implies that millennials are not worried about loyalty when it comes to sticking with a single employer.
- They place a great deal of importance on the balance between work and life, most saying this is more vital than financial compensation. Time might be the new money when looking at what millennials value in the workplace. They are committed to personal growth and development more so than making money.
- More than 41 percent prefer to communicate electronically rather than face to face or on the phone. On the whole, technology dominates and is integrated into their lives in a variety of ways. Furthermore, millennials said that technology is often a catalyst for workplace conflict among the generations as they often feel they are held back due to outdated working atmospheres.
Another study conducted in 2012 by Viacom International Media Networks interviewed 15,000 millennials from 24 countries in 19 different time zones. Some of the findings are as follows:
- Three out of four millennials say they are very happy.
- The millennials who reported being most happy are from Mexico (96 percent), Brazil (93 percent), Netherlands (93 percent), Argentina (91 percent), India (91 percent), Saudi Arabia (90 percent) and Canada (89 percent).
- Only 68 percent of millennials from Japan reported being very happy, and the percentage was the same for millennials in Egypt.
- When asked “How do you define success?” 46 percent responded with “Having a job you enjoy” and only 36 percent responded with “Being rich.”
- However, 73 percent of millennials responded with “Being happy” and 58 percent responded with “Being part of a loving family” when asked how they define success
- On average, millennials report having twice as much happiness as stress.
- Millennials in China report being the most stressed (51 percent) and millennials are the least stressed in Poland (23 percent).
- National pride is increasing, particularly in France, Germany, Japan, U.K., and USA.
- Preserving local traditions is becoming increasingly important according to 76 percent of respondents.
- However, 76 percent of respondents also reported that it’s great to have people from other countries living in their home country.
Further studies show that U.S. millennials want flexible work schedules and are also concerned with their overall happiness and well-being. Consider the following two statistics:
- Many millennials want to work for themselves; 72 percent claim to want to be their own boss.
- 78 percent believe that companies have a responsibility to better the world.
While cultural differences in the global workplace are aplenty, there are many similarities between millennials around the world. Investigating surveys about millennial culture on a global level helps to dissect the demographic, debunk the stereotypes that mislabel it and better understand its unique characteristics.
Millennials’ Shared Global Values
Statistically speaking, millennials believe in themselves and shared power to create a better world. They believe that access to the Internet changes the way they think about the world. They believe, largely, that technology enables and empowers them.
Millennials know crisis, chaos, and change.
They were shaped by the 9/11 attacks, Lula Da Silva’s election, the 7/7 U.K. bombing, Barak Obama’s election, the Arab Spring, the tsunami in Japan, and the launch of iPhones and Facebook.
Millennials know economic uncertainty, as well as a fear of job security.
Common Misperceptions Associated With Millennials
There are many misperceptions associated with millennials, many of which stem from the workplace. By 2025, millennials will comprise 75 percent of the global workforce. Since the early 2000s, when millennials first began entering the workforce, there have been struggles with opposing ideologies.
After examining the common misperceptions associated with millennials and the workplace, it’s clear that they are just that – misperceptions. Debunking the stereotypes and understanding their origins can help employers make the first step in learning to attract and retain them.
The one word used most frequently to describe millennials is entitled. Millennials were born to late Baby Boomer parents who might have coddled them or Generation X parents who may have been inclined to spend more time with them. Millennials, on average, were constantly told how special they were and that their dreams were achievable. Largely, they have been rewarded for everything and given a “trophy” for participating.
On the surface, it’s easy to see that millennial culture radiates the perception of being spoiled or entitled. Digging a bit deeper, though, it becomes much more complex than that. Millennials want to feel as though they are completing good and meaningful work, so it’s vital that managers offer them constructive criticism that builds their confidence. Millennials must understand that their bosses will not coddle them even though their parents might have, and accepting criticism is a part of growing as a professional.
Millennials grew up with technology – and watched it evolve and transform the world. They are excellent multitaskers, and they are prone to finding easier ways to complete tasks in order to save time and resources. Employers should understand that millennials often seek multiple ways to complete a task. At the same time, millennials should work to be sure their efforts accurately reflect their hard work – and that they are working just as hard as everyone else.
Misperception: Lack of Respect for Authority
Millennial workplace culture often comes with the image of a young professional questioning an older boss about the way things are done. To Baby Boomers and members of Generation X, this can come off as disrespectful. The truth is that the Millennial Generation was raised to ask questions. If they don’t understand why something is done a certain way, they will likely ask for an explanation. As a whole, the demographic is not afraid to test the status quo.
It’s important that employers realize that properly answering questions can lead to a greater understanding and better work from the millennial workforce. Plus, questioning the way things are done is not necessarily displaying a lack of respect. It is possible that there is indeed a better, more efficient way to complete tasks. Motivating millennials in the workplace can be as easy as listening to their ideas – and implementing them when they’re worthy.
However, millennials must learn that it is not wise to question every decision made within a workplace. There is often a delicate balance of authority within a place of business, and every company culture is different. Millennials should be patient as employers get to know their work styles and adapt to their way of completing tasks.
Misperception: Poor Work Ethic
As the statistics prove, motivating millennials in the workplace comes with the chance to complete meaningful work. Also, the statistics prove that, largely, millennials put life before work and expect their bosses to understand that fact. Millennials have a strong work ethic, but not in the sense that may be typical to Baby Boomers and members of Generation X.
Millennials seek a unified work life and home life, rather than a failed attempt at balancing the two like they might have witnessed with their parents. Generational diversity in the workplace is clearly shown in this perception of work ethic. The older generations seek to separate work and fun. Millennials want work to be fun. To find a common ground, millennials should readjust their ideas of entry-level work at an established company. Part of this may be accepting that they must earn their place and climb the ranks. Employers should work to offer flexibility whenever possible and learn that there are other, more innovative, ways of completing work than traditional methods.
Misperception: No Loyalty to Employers
While it is often perceived as a lack of loyalty, millennials realistically understand an unsteady job market. They watched as their parents, aunts, uncles or possibly grandparents lost their jobs and struggled to find work. They watched as the housing market crashed and retirement funds were lost. The Millennial Generation is also the most educated generation, meaning they feel confident moving from one job to the next if they are unhappy.
A perception of knowing what they want and having the confidence to seek it out can be misconstrued as a void of company loyalty. Millennials should learn to put some trust into their employer if it is deserved. Employers should work to develop programs that build trust with the millennial workforce.
What Millennials Want in the Workplace
After debunking the misperceptions associated with millennials and the workplace, it is appropriate to take a close look at what exactly millennials look for in a job. The statistics prove that the majority of them want to be their own bosses, and that they value meaningful work. Besides that, millennials place high value on the following:
- Open Communication. Millennials want to be heard. They believe in honesty and truth, regardless of seniority or level of authority within a business.
- Witnessing leaders in action. Millennial workplace culture places a high value on action. They want to see their bosses in action and learn from what they see.
- Progressiveness. Millennials crave the ability to work in a progressive environment where they can collaborate with their colleagues and complete meaningful work
Common Generational Conflicts in the Workplace
Generational diversity in the workplace has created a unique set of conflicts that arise. While generational conflict has always been present in the workplace, it has become increasingly apparent as the youngest generation has settled – and become comfortable – in the workforce. Some of the few common conflicts are as follows:
- Different values. Baby Boomers tend to seek money and status through a suitable career, while millennials aren’t looking for a lifelong job. The statistics show that millennials believe happiness is more important than wealth.
- Opposing views about schedules. Boomers are statistically known for being workaholics, but millennials want work to be fun – and they subsequently place a higher value on their free time away from traditional work.
- Differing views on teamwork. Baby boomers and members of Generation X tend to value autonomy while millennials typically want to brainstorm and work collaboratively.
- Opposing views on the role of the boss. There’s an idea that the older generations tend to micromanage younger employees, but millennials want to be trusted to do their jobs without micromanagement.
- Varying levels of comfort with technology. Baby boomers did not grow up with smartphones. The idea of work-life integration is strange to them. Millennials, though, embrace the idea of working from their phones.
How to Attract Millennials
Attracting and retaining millennials in the global workplace comes with particular struggles that become easier to overcome after analyzing the statistics and looking at the facts. To attract and keep millennials, consider the following:
- Connect them to a cause. Millennials are not working to complete a mission or make themselves rich. They want to connect with a common cause, or work toward some kind of greater good. Offer them a place and a purpose, and they will be interested. US Company David Weekley Homes – ranked number 13 of Fortune’s Best Companies of 2014 – retains a workforce composed of 27% millennials. They claim that a career with David Weekley Homes is fulfilling because of its heavy focus on philanthropy and integrity.
- Allow them to complete meaningful work. Millennials want to know that they are valued, that they are doing a good job and that their desires are being fulfilled. Discover their passion points and allow them to measure their own personal growth as they complete work. Some successful companies known for hiring and retaining millennials, such as Ultimate Software, allow employees to work on passion projects during work hours.
- Offer flexibility. Motivating millennials in the workplace must include a degree of flexibility. There are many ways to offer flexibility, such as options to work from home, start at later times or dress casually.
- Let them be heard. Millennials demand to be heard. They also want to know that they are making an impact. Google, for example, is known for employing a large number of millennials. Ninety-six percent of employees at the tech giant report that leaders challenge them to share their ideas. If you want to retain millennials at your global company, give them a voice and let them share their ideas. Consider what they have to say, listen to them and give them your honest feedback.
- Show your awareness. Millennials care deeply about environmental issues and social rights. Let them know that their values are aligned with company values. Find ways to show that the company is socially responsible and everyone benefits.
Blur the Generational Line of Separation
Communicating across generations in the workplace is difficult when there is clearly a separation. Aim to provide a workplace that values the individual characteristics of each employee rather than classifies people into groups according to his or her age.
Statistics help human beings form intelligent opinions and plan or make changes accordingly. Stereotypes, however, are in general harmful and damaging to the progression of an organization – and to society as a whole. There are a few ways to blur the line of generational separation in the workplace and work toward a unified organization across every demographic.
Create and Implement an Inclusive Company Culture
Create an atmosphere that is conducive to comfortable, happy employees who complete valuable work. For that to be possible, an understood company culture should exist. Allow employees to share their values and give input about what the company culture should reflect. Consider the following ways to implement an inclusive company culture:
- Record and display. Be sure the company values are written and displayed in a way that everyone can see them, whether it is on the website, a weekly email or other way. This will serve as a reminder of the existing companywide values, beliefs and goals.
- Value diversity. It should be understood that every generation – and every individual within a generation of people – has something valuable to share. Everyone should be encouraged to voice his or her concerns at the appropriate time. Everyone should understand that conflicts and differing opinions can be used as learning experiences in the workplace.
- Recognize achievement. Every employee wants to feel valued. Make it a point to recognize individual and group achievements as well as personal milestones. This allows employees to feel like they’re progressing toward something and not just putting in hours and churning out meaningless work. Recognizing employees for milestones and achievements will improve morale and strengthen intercompany relationships.
- Make meetings fun. Spend adequate time planning company meetings. Employees will have something to look forward to if meetings are entertaining and allow them to share their ideas and concerns. Consider tracking statistics of individual and team progress toward a goal; then display the results during the next meeting. Friendly competition can also help with morale.
- Plan events outside of the office. Leaving office work behind, even if it is only for an hour or two, can make a huge difference in work performance. Gathering outside of the office for a golf outing, sponsored charity event or similar activity will help strengthen relationships and earn trust. Employers should aim to show employees that they care about their overall well-being.
Besides creating an inclusive company culture, generational diversity in the workplace comes with the need to implement proper management strategies. Older generations grew up with strict rules. Millennials naturally want to share their ideas and find more productive ways to do things. Simply put, the older generations tend to comply with authority and the younger generation wants to question it. This is why it’s vital to create a management system that makes everyone feel valued and appreciated.
Generational diversity in the workplace comes with an expected amount of conflict, but the key is to handle it properly and turn that tension into something positive. Consider the following tactics to help with building strong management in a global organization:
- Hire effective leaders. Good leaders will help resolve conflict in positive ways. When handled appropriately, conflicts in the workplace can lead to innovation and discovery. Adequate leadership will guide employees to work through their differences in a constructive way.
- Have processes in place. Even though every situation is different, there should be processes in place so that employees understand expectations and consequences.
Besides constructing an effective management model, it is also wise to find ways to allow employees of different backgrounds to connect on a more personal, and deeper, level.
Mentorship may be the single best way to promote effective intergenerational relationships in the workplace. It must be understood that both parties, the mentor and the mentee, have something to learn and gain from the relationship. For example, mentees can learn from the corporate experience of the mentors and gain valuable insight, and understanding, about their values. At the same time, mentors can take a lesson about technology or the work/life balance from millennials. Consider the following ways to appropriately utilize mentor relationships in the global workplace:
- Reverse mentoring. Pair a young employee with a senior executive, but let the younger person do the coaching. This will give the millennial boosted confidence and the chance to share what they know. The senior executive will learn a valuable lesson about how to use social media in the workplace or, perhaps, how to meditate at work.
- Anonymous mentoring. Using psychological testing and background reviews, millennials are paired with a mentor from outside the organization. This can be beneficial in many ways, but is particularly helpful with sharing deep and otherwise personal insight or advice. Because the relationship remains anonymous, the relationship’s boundaries are loosened – and it is in such an atmosphere that great learning often takes place.
- Group mentoring. Group mentoring requires fewer resources and is particularly helpful in that it allows millennials to collaborate as they are mentored. As a whole, they appreciate the chance to learn in groups. Group mentoring can take place in a variety of ways. The mentor group can be led a senior executive or the group can utilize a peer-to-peer model.
Beyond mentoring, advice from outside of the organization can be helpful in learning to appropriately manage and promote healthy relationships in the global workplace. When resources are limited or a fresh perspective seems warranted, there is always the option to hire a team of professionals to help.
If you want to attract and retain millennials to your organization and realize you could use the expertise of professionals at your side, consider Aperian®. The statistics prove that we are a trusted resource for many global organizations. Consider the following:
- 62 countries. That’s the length of our reach, which is continuously expanding.
- Over 50%. That’s the percentage of Global Fortune 100 companies we’ve worked with to deliver our world-class learning solutions.
- 14 languages. That’s the depth of our knowledge and a testament to the breadth of the 1,800+ workshops we’ve completed for clients last year.
- 150. That’s how many organizations and universities worldwide that license Aperian, an online learning tool with over 3,000,000 learners who have joined our mission to bridge boundaries.
The experts at Aperian are passionate about supplying clients with consulting, training and online learning solutions for global talent development. People innately want to communicate effectively, but individuals of different ages and backgrounds often struggle with learning how to work well across cultural differences. Aperian helps to minimize this struggle, working to seamlessly and compassionately build teams across boundaries for the global workforce.