As business consultants, part of our routine happens to be a great deal of business travel. Every time I visit a new location I try to look at the local news, as well as all of the national and international publications. I only point this out because, lately, it has amazed me to see the number of business articles about the Millennial generation. In nearly every publication, and almost every day, an article about Millennials shows up somewhere.
One of the statistics that is being mentioned over and over again is that in 2015, Millennials will make up the highest percentage of the American workforce. This year, they will top Gen X.
As a student of this generation, I am always amazed at the take on the research and how these articles portray Millennials. As I have stated before, I do not think the issue is with how Millennials view the world, but how the world views Millennials.
Even when articles hit the mark, there is a tendency for the photographs or headlines to prey on prejudices associated with Millennials. If the headline does not have a negative slant, the photograph shows ping-pong tables and pinball machines. If one does not read the article, then the assumption is Millennials do not want to work and simply want to go to the arcade.
Once you dig into the article, these kinds of prejudices are usually broken very quickly. Sure, Millennials enjoy these additional perks. For anyone who likes ping-pong or pinball, who wouldn’t like to have these available at work?
These perks, in and of themselves, are not what attracts and retains Millennial talent. It is the meaningful work, respect, feedback, and the organization’s leadership. I would argue that perks like pinball machines are not needed if everything else is in place.
As I read many of these articles, it occurs to me that much of the research interpretation is being done by previous generations, and not Millennials. I think we are often missing the mark on cause and effect.
Pinball machines and ping-pong tables will not attract the most talented of any group. This includes Millennials. What attracts talent is the same across all generations: meaningful work, feedback, being respected, having your opinion heard, and good old-fashioned timeless leadership.
What keeps Millennials is what keeps everyone else. The difference is other generations would have quit, but stayed on the job. Millennials, when they quit, they actually leave. If a business is losing top talent, the first place to look is at the supervisors, and not at the departing Millennials. People quit people, not companies.
Conversely, people stay to work with a great team that surrounds them, the leader that leads them, and the ability to find meaning in the work.