There’s a whole lot of amusing anecdotal evidence out there about Millennials in the workplace. It’s usually the same type of stuff talked about when it comes to how Millennials make buying decisions. The brouhaha sounds a little bit like this: “Millennials customers want to do business with companies who convey a sense of community and social values. This generation isn’t just about the money.”
Here is, of course, the funny apart about most of that evidence. It is done by surveying Millennials.
That seems normal, right?
There’s just one huge problem: people report their best self, not their real self.
I’ll prove it to you with a simple example. Ask anyone the following question: “Do you prefer to shop at stores that share your social values?” You can probably guess the answer. Of course people have that preference! This is easily manipulated data.
Real Behavior Says It All
A recent survey by Deloitte about Millennials in the current economy focuses on employee loyalty. It shows loyalty is dropping as Millennials expect to move on to a new job sooner than others.
Here’s one of the funny facts: this group changes jobs partly because it is far easier to raise your salary when you “job hop” rather than asking for a raise. But please keep telling me that Millennials care more about the social values than the money.
Sure, you can show me statistics on Millennials moving out into the gig economy. There’s a sense of entrepreneurship going on there (but it often happens under the umbrella of another corporation like Uber, so I’d be wary of going too far with that conclusion - unless you’re talking about true freelancers). The gig economy doesn’t pay as well. So Millennials really aren’t about the money then, are they? Well, it looks like most of the people who move into the gig economy are doing so because of existing poor pay… so again, it looks like money is a motivator.
I’m not ignoring other factors. Your employees also place a premium on flexibility and opportunity. Many of the potential employees I interview for BenGlassLaw want to know what opportunities for advancement there are with the law firm. And you can get away with not paying bonuses by just giving people a Friday afternoon off from work - even if the bonus is technically more valuable. But that really comes down to what I’ve got to say in the next section…
The Truth is About Humans, Not a Generation
As Millennials age, get married, and have children, their needs will evolve - just like every generation before and after. Ultimately, the interest in making good money at a good job remains. The problem for employers is that people now have easier access to job boards and employment ads thanks to the internet. Your employees can search for better compensation over a lunch break. They don’t need to break open the newspaper or attend job fairs.
You manage real people who have needs.
If you appear unforgiving about a mom or dad needing a day off to take care of a sick kid, get ready to deal with turnover. There are more dual-income households these days than decades past, so that’s a reality.
If you aren’t proactive about creating a progressing payment structure, employees will look for a job that pays more. Families still need to be fed. Homes are still desirable for people with young kids. Money must be made.
When you find a superstar employee who creates more revenue via productivity or closing clients or whatever else, fulfill their human needs. It’s not about the needs of a Millennial. It’s usually about the same stuff you wanted when you were the same age.
Yes, Values Are Still Good and Useful
I am not saying you should ignore values. PEOPLE (not just Millennials) like working for a place that has a purpose. They want to be part of something bigger. You can and should develop core values. But then you need to actually live by them. You’ll end up with turnover if you say one thing but do another.
Values help in many, many ways. They dictate interoffice exchanges and inform the way you handle day-to-day business. Values are even useful in your marketing, since potential clients like working with an attorney who professes actual principles and values.
Just remember: people are people.
There are small differences between generations that are usually exaggerated in the media because it makes for a good story.
Technology exacerbates the appearance of change, but people are usually doing the same old things on new devices. Employees still surreptitiously search for jobs during their lunch break, but they no longer need to grab a “Wanted Ads” to do so. Now they pull a phone out and open an app. The sooner you come to realize this, the better you will be able to increase retention of your employees.
And This Comes from a Millennial
I am technically part of the Millennial generation. But more than that, I’m married with two kids and a dog. It’s the second part that best defines my economic behavior. The generational label is just that - a label.
My purchases are more about what my family needs and finding the right fit for us. It’s not a decision between social values. And even if there is a social values reason, it’s one that would ring just as true 50 years ago as it does today. For example, I like to buy “Made in the USA” products. So did my Grandpa. He wasn’t a Millennial. But US-made isn’t the only barometer I use. There’s a lot more that goes into the decision.
Keep your eyes on economic trends and look at the patterns in people’s lives. If you want to retain your Millennial-age attorney, check in with him or her about how saving for a house is going. Can you refer him or her to a financial advisor? These are the human touches that make all the difference.