Millennials get a bad rap when it comes to their performance in the workplace. To me (a millennial), the people who complained about young workers were just relics from another time, painfully stuck in their antiquated ways.
I found accusations of our sensitivity, narcissism, and sense of entitlement to be personally offensive and dismissed them as wholly unfounded. However, after I started my own business I came to a startling realization: We Millennials might actually be the worst...unless we're the best.
Are Millennials The Worst?
Let's start with some statistics. According to a recent study performed by Red Brick Research, over 80% of hiring managers claim that their Millennial employees display narcissistic tendencies. Perhaps even more troubling, only 27% of managers believe that their young employees are team players. The negative sentiment expressed by the hiring managers surveyed stands in stark contrast to the view that Millennials have of themselves.
For example, over two-thirds of those surveyed see themselves in a management role in the next five years. At the same time, 58% of the same respondents reported that they intended to stay in their current role for fewer than three years. Unsurprisingly, 52% of Millennials viewed the concept of employee loyalty as being overrated. When asked about what they value in a job, the top three responses were exciting work, flexibility, and control.
At first, the statistics that the study presented filled me with dread. It turns out I was a lot more of a typical Millennial than I thought. Prior to founding BodeTree, the longest I've ever stuck with a job was just over three years.
I always held the opinion that I should be in management, and I viewed loyalty to a company as antiquated as the concept of pensions. These traits seemed perfectly reasonable at the time, but now that I owned my own business I found my expectations changing.
Once I was in charge, I found that the very traits I rebelled against earlier in my career were the ones I found most valuable in my employees. The best members of my team were loyal, dedicated, and humble. I expected that most people we hired would have these traits hardwired to some extent, and that overall performance would fall in the middle of the typical bell curve.
My Millennial employees, however, did not often fit into this simplified model. Some couldn't cope with the workload or complete the boring but necessary daily tasks, but still maintained high salary expectations, wanted leadership roles and needed regular positive reinforcement and praise.
Or Are They The Best?
Despite the challenges, I now have a mostly Millennial team. They are frequently brilliant when working on projects they find interesting and I can always count on them for fresh, creative solutions to problems. It turns out; I'm not the only business leader who noticed this phenomenon. The hiring managers interviewed by Red Brick Research report that, in general, Millennials are more creative, entrepreneurial, and open to change than older workers.
As a leader AND a millennial, the big question on my mind was whether or not the benefits they brought to the table outweighed the challenges associated with managing them.
To try and answer this question, I spoke to Carey Smith, "Chief Big Ass" of Big Ass Solutions. Carey has been a major advocate of hiring Millennials and has garnered a lot of acclaim for his management style.
According to Carey, "Millennials keep things fresh, and they have a lot of potential, but you have to invest in nurturing them. They are the people who are going to run the company in 20 years. I've noticed that if you give people the opportunity to succeed -- if you've hired the right people -- they're going to succeed."
Finally, the pieces started to fall into place. Millennials are either the worst or the best. The traditional performance curve has changed, shifting so that there are fewer of the middle of the road employees that were once so dependable.
When you hire a Millennial, there is a good chance they're going to fall on one extreme of the performance spectrum. The silver lining of this new hiring process, however, is that it forces you to clarify what really matters to your business and the role you're filling. Hiring Millennials demands a new set of questions: Is creativity, innovation or long-term loyalty more important to a position? Will good benefits or workplace flexibility keep your team performing at their best?
Despite the challenges voiced by many leaders and entrepreneurs today, there is a common thread that connects this new generation to generations before them remains, as Carey Smith points out, "If you've hired the right people, they're going to succeed."