Millennials. How do we define them as a group? What distinguishes them from earlier generations?
What do they want from work and what needs to be done to recruit and retain them? These are all questions on which a very great deal has been written and which seem to be occupying the minds of a very large number of employers.
But are we trying too hard? Abby Miller, a college-to-workforce researcher and author, certainly thinks so. Or at least, she thinks that much of our effort to accommodate Millennials is misplaced. In a recent article, she asks why are employers “so concerned with making sure we meet their needs?”
Her essential point is that Millennials, fundamentally, are much the same as earlier generations were when they were in their twenties. “They want to be promoted, they want to be experts, and they want it to happen right away, just like Gen X recent graduates did in the 1990s.” Making the transition from school, college or university to the world of work can be a difficult process for anyone at any time. Expectations have to be re-evaluated. Ambitions may have to be modified. A sometimes wholly different culture has to be absorbed and understood.
However, according to Miller, one thing has changed. Instead of expecting Millennials to fit in with the prevailing norm – which was the experience for previous generations – many employers today appear to believe that everybody else should be fitting in with the Millennials.
Her concern is that in doing so, employers are not doing their young employees any favours. Of course all organisations these days operate in an environment of constant change and the presence of Millennials in the workplace will undoubtedly influence that. But it doesn’t mean that change should be driven by a perceived need to adapt to their expectations.
Far better for everyone, argues Miller, to invest the time and effort in helping Millennials to adapt to the realities of the workplace, rather than the other way around.