The big millennial misunderstanding

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As millennials begin to dominate the workforce, many employers are increasing their efforts to attract and retain young recruits – but could a chronic misunderstanding be undermining HR’s attempts?

“It’s interesting when looking at the statistics for how millennials see themselves versus how HR professionals or management tends to view them,” says Shelley Brown, president of Montreal-based Bromelin People Practices. “The disconnect is huge.”

According to Brown, who heads up the HR consultancy, employers may be underestimating their younger workforce when it comes to loyalty and overestimating their abilities when it comes to tech.

“On a scale of 1 to 100, millennials see themselves as only being about 35 per cent tech savvy whereas management assumes that they’re at least 86 per cent tech savvy,” Brown tells HRM.

In fact, millennials are more likely to rate their people skills but employers are uncertain – young workers put themselves at an average of 65 per cent on the people savvy competency whereas HR view them at a significantly lower 14 per cent.

 “Management think millennials drive everything through technology when in fact that’s not how they see themselves,” says Brown.

“Perhaps the biggest and most surprising one was that millennials saw themselves as 82 per cent loyal to their employer whereas management scored them at just one per cent.”

Brown, who has more than 25 years’ experience in the HR industry, says that there is some truth in generational stereotypes but they’re not as severe as many people may think.

“The differences between generations are always being highlighted but not some of the similarities,” she says. Now, the firm has launched a Maximizing Millennial Mojo program in a bid to close the disconnect and help employers leverage the unique skills of younger workers.

“The program is meant to give a little bit of history in terms of some of the changes that have happened over the years with millennials entering the workforce and to look at some of the differences between the generations as well as the similarities,” she says.

Brown agrees that millennials have been the drivers behind multiple workplace changes, increasingly demanding perks such as flexible working, career advancement and constant feedback – but she insists the “entitled” label that they’re often stuck with isn’t necessarily fair.

“Definitely there are people in every generation that have this attitude of entitlement and maybe there is a little bit more with the millennials but they have some excellent qualities too,” she says.

“They’re hopeful about the future, they’re used to collaborating with others, they’re very confident, they’re very pro-education, they’re driven, they want responsibility, they want stimulation, they want new products, they’re very environmentally aware and eco-friendly and keen to bring that into the workplace – those qualities can really better an organization when they’re utilized properly.”

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  • Paula MacLean on 2016-10-31 9:43:18 AM

    Management will soon be millennials and this gap will close. Loyalty is two edged ... while you are employed and when you leave. Most Boomers judge loyalty as being about "staying" long term. My research (2008 7 New Rules for the Sandbox) showed that millennials believe that leaving an employer is not disloyal and most said that they left to learn new things. Easy fix, create coaching and mentoring programs to encourage Gen Y to grow where they are planted ... making it easier for them to stay. Bonus! Boomers will now think they are also loyal.

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