Roestenburg, W. (2020). “Millennials in the workplace, the managerial nightmare – or challenge?” A review of current literature. 1-11. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/344453427_Millennials_in_the_workplace_the_managerial_nightmare_-or_challenge_A_review_of_current_literature
Background & Theory:
As organizations develop, so do the people who work for them. Nowadays, organizations can have employees who come from one of five different generations. With the presence of multiple generations in the workplace, conflict is bound to arise. This is seen most commonly today between older generations and Millennials, the newest generation to enter the workforce. This literature review explores past studies about Millennials in the workplace and how organizations can better integrate them into intergenerational workplaces.
Research was consolidated by Willem Jan Roestenburg to answer the following questions:
- What are the characteristics of the Millennial generation?
- What must be done to manage Millennials effectively in the workplace?
- How can intergenerational employees work together productively?
17 studies were analyzed to find common themes relating to guiding millennials in the workplace. For the purposes of this review, a Millennial is defined as those born between 1978 and 2000, a mix of both Generation Y and Generation Z individuals.
Many studies have claimed a common theme of characteristics of the Millennial generation. Millennials are better educated than other generations like Baby Boomers, but often stay in lower-paying jobs to learn appropriate skills required by today’s workplace. Some studies have indicated that Millennials are more narcissistic than previous generations, although there is a danger in asserting that label onto a whole generation of people.
While some say that Millennials have less drive at work than previous generations, it would be better to say that Millennials are driven by different priorities. Work life and personal life are more integrated for these individuals, as well as multitasking. Millennials have less respect for hierarchy compared to previous generations, believing that respect is earned through bringing something to the table. Finally, technology is a big part of the Millennial work experience because Millennials grew up with more innovative technology than previous generations.
One of the hallmark aspects of the Millennial generation from the organizational standpoint is high employee turnover. Compared to previous generations, Millennials are more likely to switch jobs and weave their own career path rather than stay with one company for a long period of time. This fact considered along with the others listed above, raises the question, “How can companies manage Millennials in ways that allow them to be themselves and integrate with intergenerational differences, company values, and organizational culture?” There is no one right answer to this question, but rather several insights into how organizations can incorporate Millennials into the workplace:
- Management should lay clear expectations for employees and provide role clarity, showing Millennials how their individual role contributes to the company.
- Organizations can utilize the technological strength of Millennials by asking them to use this ability to access information through projects and tasks.
- Implement communication and skills-development trainings to build workplace interpersonal competency among employees.
- Allow Millennials to manage themselves, but also be there for their needs as a leader.
- Incorporate team-based projects and learning. Millennials grew up working in groups and in collaborative atmospheres, so this method of working plays to their strengths.
- As managers, recognize there are fewer intergenerational differences than may be expected. Studies have shown that younger people’s readiness to change is not much different from older people’s readiness to change.
- De-emphasize generational competition and emphasize intergenerational collaboration to foster creativity and innovation.
- Implement mentorship programs that allow Millennials and older generations to learn from each other.
The author additionally noted the importance of finding a balance between recognizing intergenerational differences and labeling individuals based on their generation. On one hand, it may be important to understand the realities of how younger people are different from older people based on how they were raised. As Millennials and Gen Z’s enter the workplace, older generations must accept the differences of younger generations instead of trying to mold them into the older generational framework. However, it is equally important to be careful of stereotyping someone through a generational lens. Taken to the extreme, generational labeling can lead to forms of ageism and discrimination. The author suggests that understanding generational differences is similar to understanding cultural differences and diversity in the workplace.
What We Can Learn:
Looking over this research, we can take away the following key insight:
- Strategies such as laying clear expectations, utilizing technology, and implementing trainings can be helpful in integrating Millennials into the workplace. However, it is also important to recognize that intergenerational differences may not be as large as they may seem. Different generations of employees should be encouraged to work together and learn from each other.
For Consultants: Trainings that recognize intergenerational differences may be helpful for organizations experiencing intergenerational employee strife. Teaching employees the value of generational differences and the importance of working together may be helpful in fostering positive collaboration among generational groups.
For Everyone: Although personality differences based on age certainly exist, try not to label someone a certain way because of their age. This only limits your ability to see them fully and limits any meaningful interaction with them.