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The positive characteristics of millennials

Generation cohorts are composed of groups of individuals who were born and raised in the same period and thus share some unique characteristics and experiences from their childhood years. The millennials (also called the generation Y) are currently the youngest generation in the workplace and are between the ages of 23 and early thirties. Although many organisations regard millenials’ behaviour as challenging, it seems that many of the unique and positive characteristics that millennials offer are overlooked and not exploited to unlock value for businesses.

Studies show that millennials bring the following valuable characteristics to the table:

  • Millennials have been exposed to digital platforms, technology and the internet since a young age. Millennials are therefore less likely to take on technological change and are more adaptable to the so-called global technological disruption that challenges organisations to improve existing processes on a constant basis. Furthermore, the generation is also not reluctant to influence and support the development of technologically innovative products. As such, this group is used to large-scale changes and is more adaptable in today’s workplace.
  • Millennials tend to pay attention to public opinion, criticism and remarks and thus believe that organisations have a responsibility to respond to reasonable requests. They are therefore willing to adapt products and services and constantly grow a competitive advantage. In addition, millennials believe that businesses can make an impact and value their ethical behaviour and social challenges.
  • They value a work-life balance, family and personal time. Especially this aspect of balance differs reasonably from their predecessors from which terms such as “workaholics” developed. Millennials seem to believe it is healthy to set limits and understand the impact of working parents on families, especially because it is the first generation where, in the majority of cases, both parents are or were working.
  • Millennials show self-serving behaviour and do not hesitate to communicate their preferences and expectations. They do not consider it strange to ask questions about future promotion and growth opportunities and salaries. Managers are often not prepared for this level of questions from younger groups.
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  • It also seems as if the generation tends to pursue careers that support their personal needs and values, instead of climbing the well-known “corporate ladder”. Traditional promotions and positions of power are of less value, since personal growth and meaningful careers that support their future vision, take preference. Millennials are prepared to “make their hands dirty” for matters they believe in. However, it still means that millennials want to take on greater and more responsibilities that empower them to grow and develop.
  • Most millennials regard personal development as a motivating factor. They want to grow, learn and be challenged in the workplace. Therefore they find it difficult to accept leadership from leaders who do not support personal growth. Their attitude towards development is also being applied wider and it seems as if they tend to question existing organisational systems or methods, to improve them.
  • This group is further regarded as optimistic individuals who believe in their own abilities. There were reasonably equal opportunities for the larger group and both sexes, and individuals were encouraged to believe in their dreams. Apart from exaggerated optimism, a moderate and healthy degree of optimism is a positive psychological state that affects employee satisfaction and performance.
  • The generation is more likely to make use of a multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving, as they can understand the value of the approach, but also know the limitations of their knowledge.

There is no doubt that the world of work has changed over the decades and will continue to change in the future. Furthermore, generalisation is never applicable to all individuals and no claims are made that all millennials will exhibit the above characteristics and behaviour.

However, to attract and retain talent, management will have to think critically and consider these unique features. Some see this generation as self-centred and sensation-seeking individuals, challenging authority and not standing back to assert themselves. However, management must exploit the positive and ensure that this group has platforms where they can air their opinions and have the opportunity to give input. Their mindset should be welcomed instead of shooting down innovative ideas and challenges from existing methods and processes.

Build an organisation that employees can be proud of and make sure young professionals believe in the core values and livelihoods of the organisation. Involve individuals, although some are less experienced, and provide opportunities for input and ideas for future growth.

It is also crucial to provide challenging work for the group, to ensure that they remain cognitively stimulated. Personal development plans, combined with specific career and skills development planning, outlining opportunities for growth and development to a specific goal and personal vision, may contribute to talent retention.

ASL values personal development and encourages each employee to create a personal development plan with specific goals. If you are interested in an exciting career at ASL, please send your concise CV to hr@asl.co.za today.