We're Misunderstanding the Millennials; Here's How.

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Millennials get a bad rap, and regardless of what’s said about them, they’re not nearly as adverse to hard work and dedication as is claimed to be the case—they simply want their lives to mean more—and as such, they’re not willing to settle for less than what they deserve. They’re hungry and ready for change, as well as capable of creating it.

Yes, they may be disconnected and disillusioned, but it’s not without cause—their overall prospects are poorstill live with mom and dad; and currently owe a collective trillion dollars in student loans, just to name a few of the struggles they face now and into the future. And even though they’re currently 36% of the workforce, and will make up 75% of it by 2025, according to U.S. Labor Statistics, they’re still undervalued and misunderstood—especially when it comes to their employability.

It’s easy to understand why they’re discouraged—especially because they’re basically broke. Take the depressing fact, that “Millennials are making 20 percent less than their parents did when they were the same age. In fact, a millennial with a college degree is only making slightly more today than a Boomer without one did in 1989.” Where is the motivation to be successful when you can’t even create a living from it?

What’s more, Millennials’ disenchantment is also not just a US phenomenon—it exists across the globe in a variety of forms, including ‘Sang’ in China.  Reuters explains, “Sang” culture, which revels in often-ironic defeatism, is fueled by internet celebrities, through music and the popularity of certain mobile games and TV shows, as well as sad-faced emojis and pessimistic slogans.”

The article continues, explaining how they turn their angst into irony,

“I wanted to fight for socialism today but the weather is so freaking cold that I’m only able to lay on the bed to play on my mobile phone,”27-year-old Zhao Zengliang, a “sang” internet personality, wrote in one post. “It would be great if I could just wake up to retirement tomorrow,” she said in another.”

There is no short answer to the question “What do Millennials really want?” because the easiest way to answer would be to say “everything.” And sure, they may be a classified as little idealistic, but that’s also what gives them the ability to have a better sense of what they desire in adulthood—and how they’re going to achieve it, and in turn, change the world, individually and collectively—well into the future.

Hiring managers need to understand what Millennials are really about to utilize them to their fullest potential. They possess the top qualities desired in larger numbers than generations before them and should be celebrated for their strides, not admonished by their shortcomings.

Firstly, they’re talented. According to Open Sourced Workplace’s article5 Imperative Reasons to Explore a WFH Policy for Your Organization,

“Onboarding ‘the best’ is one of the most attractive perks for employers to seek out remote candidates to hire. According to Flex Jobs,

“It’s often assumed that remote and flexible work options can help reduce turnover and improve retention, but this year, a survey of almost 8,000 Millennials demonstrates clearly that flexible work options greatly help retain this generation of workers.

In companies described as having the “least flexible work environments,” 45% of millennial employees said they intend to leave within two years. In the “most flexible” organizations, Millennials are more likely to stay longer—only 35% say they intend to leave within two years.”

Too, they understand the importance of work/life balance; most importantly they want to make an impact in a most proactive way. An article in CNN’s Money notes a study conducted by strategy firm Department26’s director Betsy Wecker where she provides greater insight in their minds surveyed 1,000 Millennials and led detailed interviews with a small group of young people.

“The most important thing isn’t building up this huge stash of money just to have it, Wecker says. “For Millennials the goals are totally different: if they can pay their bills and travel a little, what matters most is that they are doing something inspiring that they feel passionately about.”

Because they desire a feeling of fulfillment beyond the monetary,

“These days, Millennials are more likely to value work/life balance and a

flexible schedule than to value “mere” career progression. We also know they need to derive some kind of personal or social meaning from the work they do. In a Viacom study, 4,364 Millennials were asked about what they value in their professional lives. Nearly half, 46%, of respondents, replied “Having a job you enjoy” is the most important factor, while only 36% responded with “being rich.””

They’re also a generation ready to live in beyond the confines of a traditional desk.   Inc.explains,

“Millennials are the first generation to enter the workforce with access to technology that enables them to seamlessly work remotely, which 75 percent of Millennials want more opportunities to do. Millennials are eager to capitalize on the new technological capabilities (that they are already familiar with) to create more flexibility and thus a better work-life balance.”

And coworking is a favorite solution for the modern workforce, as Millennials become more entrepreneurial and start-up driven,

“Though the data has led to mixed conclusions, most Millennials love the idea of starting their own business, and many are following through on that entrepreneurial drive. Thanks to the availability of online resources, and the fast turnover rate for tech startups creating a startup from scratch happens fast these days and can be done with smaller teams. That increased, rapid-fire demand for startup space has been a boon for the shared office space industry; shared spaces are ideal for entrepreneurs with small budgets, uncertain futures, and a need for networking with other business owners.”

But it’s not just coworking spaces that satisfy them, they want to satiate their wanderlust. The New York Times Magazine details the digital nomad lifestyle’s blogger beginnings and rapid growth thereafter,

“It wasn’t until around 2007 that a coterie of bloggers began promoting the lifestyle and its possibilities. The trend lashed together backpacker culture, monetized web presences and the happiness-optimization schemes of Timothy Ferriss, whose influential book “The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich” was published that year.

One early advocate was Tynan Smith, a former professional gambler and pickup artist — he appears in Neil Strauss’s “The Game” under the pseudonym Herbal — turned blogger, who decided to go nomadic in early 2008. Traveling the globe became a way for Smith to regulate his cost of living according to how much his various online hustles brought in, a strategy that Ferriss called “geoarbitrage.” If you’re scraping together $1,000 a month, the logic goes, the money will go further in Thailand than in New York.”

Alas, they don’t want to roam forever. As the Silicon Republic notes,

“Shelley Osborne, head of learning and development at Udemy, said one of the more surprising findings from the [Udemy] report was the Millennials’ desire for stability. “One better-known millennial stereotype is their tendency to be job-hoppers. Surprisingly, our research found quite the contrary,” she said.”

In addition, employers have a lot of learning to do when it comes to understanding what it is that their future employees want, the article continuing,

“Osborne also warned that employers are in danger of stunting the millennial workforce with a lack of trust. More than two-thirds of Millennials say there’s a gap between what they feel capable of doing and what employers believe they’re qualified for. Additionally, 86pc feel undermined by negative stereotypes about their generation’s work ethic.”

What’s more, Millennials have a greater moral responsibility and want to do better than the generations before them. A Brookings study highlights this, pointing out that 83 percent of Millennials agreed that too much power is concentrated in the hands of a few large companies—they want to shift the focus to social responsibility,

“When it comes to spending money, Millennials are very conscious about how the purchases they make impact the world. Ninety-three percent of millennial consumers say they would buy a product because of a cause association. Companies like TOMS, Warby Parker, Roozt and others have seen great success marketing to Millennials, leading the way in cause-driven commerce. Not only are these brands benefitting from the halo of philanthropy, but they are also able to introduce consumers to global issues and opportunities — nearly 60 percent of Gen Y consumers credit companies with helping to educate them on issues.”

And lastly, they give their time.

“Part of the reason why Millennials have emerged as a champion of corporate volunteering is because it satisfies something we all need and deserve: job satisfaction. Millennials want it most out of their jobs, according to several studies. The same studies say employees who stay with their companies for extended periods of time very frequently cite job satisfaction as a major reason for sticking around.”

With all of these positive attributes it’s difficult to understand why we’re so hard on Millennials—as such it’s time to change the paradox into something positive. Technology makes us more interconnected than ever, and as the world evolves so does the way we work. We have the power to be more autonomous, especially when it comes to our overall employment opportunities in the future. With more options than ever, it’s imperative to look at the entire landscape to come—and that’s comprised almost completely of Millennials—it’s time to make them a more important part of the picture.

Overall, there are myriad ways that organizations can make themselves appealing to a younger generation of workers—but they just have to give them a chance to prove themselves first. There is enough proof to posit that Millennials are intelligent, driven and motivated to do good along with doing well—what more could a company ask for in a potential hire? The quicker that the stereotypes are assuaged, by giving Millennials the chance they deserve, the more fortunate the future will be for the best and brightest workforce we have yet to see.