Managing Millennials

New survey warns one-size-fits-all approach not effective

By Kevyn Burger
Tue, 2017-01-24 13:43

From business journals to HR conferences to employer-based seminars, there’s no shortage of information about how to bring the Millennial generation into the workplace and engage them in productive careers.
An extensive new research study from Bridgeworks, a Minneapolis-based generational consulting firm, suggests that to be successful, employers need to break the cohort in two—and manage them differently.
Using 3100 survey responses, focus groups and individual interviews, the study concludes that the so-called Early Millennials, born between 1980 and 1987, view the world very differently than their younger brothers and sisters, born from 1988 to 1995.
The defining issue in the split is the recession.
“The Early Millennials came out of school and graduated into a good economy. They had a lot of hope that they could pursue and accomplish their dreams,” said Hannah Ubl, research director for Bridgeworks. “They grew up in the self-esteem generation and the message from their parents and teachers was, you can do anything. They believed it and lived it.”
A very different reality awaited the later group, dubbed Recessionists, whose outlook was shaped by the economic downturn and the long, stubborn slog that followed.
“Everything and everyone told them, you are going to struggle, expect rejection, nothing is going to be easy,” she said.
As a result, Ubl says, the research indicates the two groups have starkly different expectations and will be not be motivated by the same approach in the workplace.
“The Early Millennials want autonomy in their jobs. To be successful, they want freedom in choosing where and how they get their work, who they work with and what their schedule is,” she adds.
The Recessionists are more likely to define success by their paychecks.
“For the later Millennials, workplace satisfaction is much more tied to their ability to pay the bills, earning a salary that will be enough for them to live where they want to live,” Ubl explains. “Money is always important, but for them it’s top of mind.”
The evidence would suggest that the concern about having enough funds will likely become a lifelong attitude. Like your grandfather who was marked by the harsh economy of the Great Depression, the recession is likely to be a pivotal lens for today’s twenty-somethings to view the future.
“The downturn happened while their brains were still developing. That will color and shape their impressions about work for a lifetime. They’ll be more wary and cautious; security will have a higher value,” she adds. 
She encourages employers to understand the subtle split in order to be effective in recruiting and retaining the next generation of talent.
“Many employers approach Millennials like they’re all the same, but there are profound differences,” she says.  “The Early Millennials believe everything will work out. The Recessionists are less trusting of that.”