Thu 23 Jun 2011
Yesterday I was reading an article that referenced a survey conducted by Mercer indicating that over 30% of employees are disillusioned and disengaged at work . For Gen Yers on the job, the number increases to over 40%.
The interviews I held with Gen Yers this past year validates the results of the Mercer survey. In fact, I found that over 80% of the Gen Yers I interviewed had already left an unsatisfying job or were aggressively looking to leave.
But here’s what I find most baffling. As I work with business leaders who want to get the most out of their Millennial staff, I find there is no desire on their part to change their way of leading or try something different. A surprisingly large group of business leaders still believe that the Millennials are the ones who are going to have to adapt to the way organizations work. I find that so many leaders are disillusioned themselves and are just plain tired of the corporate grind. They have no desire or incentive to try something different, to capture the minds & talent of their Gen Y staff. Many of them have gone as far as to tell me that they are absolutely NOT going to “rock the boat”. They are desperately holding on, keeping things the same until they can retire.
I find that to be sad and troubling. By 2014, it is estimated that 50% of the workforce will be made up of Gen Yers yet they will be reporting to bosses who are holding on to the status quo and are not that motivated to engage & retain their young staff. Many of them turn a deaf ear when it comes to understanding why Gen Yers are unfamiliar to them as new employees. And even more interesting than that is that many leaders show a disconnect between how they raised their own Gen Y children and what they expect from them as employees.
Here’s an example. Recently, I was working with a manager who talked constantly about how involved she was in her college children’s lives. She explained how she researched the universities they attended, talked with the dean and other assorted faculty & staff at the various colleges they were considering and countless other details that showed how involved she was in their selection and in their lives. She didn’t think anything of her deep involvement in her children’s decisions and the ramifications that would later have. After all, if someone is THAT involved in making decisions on behalf of her children, how can her children be expected to do things on their own.
While I worked with her, she was constantly receiving texts from her children & responding to them. She called them often & researched things for them. So you’d think that someone like that would have a lot of understanding and tolerance for Gen Yers that reported to her. Not at all. She constantly complained about how lazy & unmotivated her young staff was. She was frustrated at how much time she had to “waste” holding their hand through every minor detail of their work. She was appalled at their work habits but fully expected them to “get with the program” and figure things out themselves. After all, no one ever showed her how to get things done. She had to figure it out on her own and so do they.
See the disconnect? Like my client, many Gen Y parents were and are heavily involved in their children’s lives. But when these parents put on their “leader/manager” hats at work, they expect Gen Yers to miraculously figure things out on their own. But how can they when all their lives Gen Yers have had hands-on advisors helping them every step of the way?
Unlike other generations of young workers, Gen Yers have many more employment options than existed in the past. Many leaders mistakenly believe that with the recession Gen Yers are going to have to conform & “get with the program”. They may do that temporarily but here’s something you probably don’t know about your Gen Yers that you would if you spent any time trying to get to know them. Many Gen Yers have side gigs. I believe Pamela Slim, author of “Escape from Cubicle Nation” calls them side hustles. In their spare time, Gen Yers are following their passion, volunteering in non-profits, working part-time at a home-based business. The more disengaged they are at work, the more effort they’ll put into their side hustles.
They also have options around the companies they work for. There are many successful companies that have been started by Gen Yers that are attuned to the needs to Gen Yers & are extremely attractive to them. Think Google, Facebook and many in the non-profit world such as Invisible Children. And we haven’t even talked about the unprecedented access to angel funding & venture capital that is available to someone with an idea, a lot to offer and working for a boss who doesn’t care.
So my advice to leaders out there is this: If you want to attract and keep the best of Gen Y talent and prepare them to lead effectively in the 21st Century instead of the 20th Century, let go of the status quo and stop holding on until you retire. We owe it to our children, your young staff to give them the tools they need to be the great leaders of the future.