I understand that making sweeping generalizations of any generation is foolish. We all are individuals with unique characteristics, stories and experiences. However, I have read business articles that have characterized, berated and mourned the Millennial generation. I think that’s because the authors don’t see past the actions and understand the reasoning beneath them.
The simple secret to Millennials is this - we esteem meaningful life over money.
We have seen and felt the pain of violence, divorce and death from a young age. We are constantly face to face with the reality that life is short. We haven’t sought to deny that reality. We have accepted it and sought to prioritize our most precious resource - meaningful life - over money. We want to do meaningful work in our lives. We want our time spent a job to have meaning beyond simply earning a paycheck.
When you see us texting at work, realize that we simply esteem meaningful relationships with those in our lives over money. We have seen our parents slog away at jobs they don’t love, working for borderline abusive companies, exchanging their precious minutes for money. We don’t want it. We’ve realized that our precious, short lives are of more value than money.
We may seem lazy. We are not. We want to work. But we want our work to make a difference in the world. There is nothing more difficult than not having meaningful, impactful work to do. It feels so distressfully life-wasting.
We may seem brazen, arrogant and disrespectful. We are not. For the sake of using life purposefully, we are very pragmatic and practical. We are not trying to be disrespectful, but doing meaningful work trumps hierarchy for us. We desperately want to use our resources to make a difference and see no reason why position or age should determine our ability to do so. We may seem to scorn structure and be disrespectful of “the way we’ve always done things”, but that is simply because our goal is to use our lives meaningfully, not defend the way things have been done previously. We are not content to punch a time clock, as was done in years past, because we are seeking to work effectively and efficiently to make a difference, not simply exchanging hours for money.
We may seem like a transitory generation. We are. We have had so many jobs. This is largely because employers can’t understand what we are looking for and haven’t made it clear that they can offer it yet.
If you want to attract and retain Millennials - simply value what they value. If you’re running your company only to make money, we will sniff it out and be turned off. We want businesses that value making a difference in the world over preserving hierarchy, a time clock and “the way we’ve always done things.” We want employers to provide the framework for us to make a difference in the world. We want businesses that are doing meaningful, world-changing work. We want businesses that esteem changing lives, improving lives and preserving lives over profit for themselves.
value meaningful life over money in your business and you will be an undeniably attractive employer to Millennials.
For more on the Millennial mindset:
How Are Millennial Employees Changing Companies (by Hilton Worldwide via Fast Company)
How Millennials Are Changing The Workplace - For The Better - by Lindsey Pollack (containing a curated list of five articles on the subject)