I am a Millennial. I also have never worked for a major corporation -- or any corporation for that matter. So I am both deeply connected to and detached from the Millennial workplace experience. I find myself fascinated by the widespread belief that Millennials struggle to become, and stay, employed in today's workforce.
After speaking to an array of both successful Millennials and non-Millennial employers, a unifying set of reasons emerged to shed interesting light on why many Millennials struggle, and how they can improve.
Lack of work-life separation.
Older workers often adhere to a strict separation of their work and personal lives, one many Millennials neither respect nor understand. This is becoming a particularly difficult cultural barrier at the office, as many Millennials seek more locational flexibility.
"Millennials often disregard traditional boundaries between work and personal life while paradoxically holding up an ideal work-life balance as a deeply held value. Millennials will often spend the minimum required hours in the office, but paradoxically, will answer emails at all hours," said Raul Gutierrez, who is currently CEO of TinyBop Inc, a growth-stage startup that employs mostly Millennials.
Expectation of collective decision making.
The expression "Who's boss?" exists for a reason: in the old employment paradigm, the boss sets the rules and those go down the chain of command. Millennials expect more communication and collective decision making. It is not enough to know a decision has been made, many Millennials want to understand the reasons for the decision so they can buy into it philosophically before proceeding.
This works well in startups: many of my portfolio companies use team meetings, Slack, and Skype to create constant-use communication channels and include even more junior employees in decisions. But large corporations struggle with it, and in the process alienate many of their Millennial employees, who churn far more quickly on average than their older colleagues.
This gap is probably the hardest for employers to overcome. The easy answer is to give Millennials more reasoning behind decisions and agency to ask questions, but this is easier said than done.
Lights on and lights off.
Many older employers expect Millennials to keep their heads down, work very hard in lights on, lights off fashion, and consistently ask for more work in order to ultimately receive promotion up the ladder. Millennials, on the other hand, seek more agency and are willing to work hard and seek more assignments but prefer to work on projects where they have passion or a connection.
Employers can bridge this gap by spending more time finding out what their Millennial employees are passionate about at the company, and applying more of their assignments with that in mind.