Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Overcoming ‘Restless Entitlement Syndrome’ In Young Workers

A colleague at an energy company recently told me about his team. "Half of them are young and have what I call restless entitlement syndrome. They think, I've been to college, and I need to be a manager now. Not in five or ten years, but by December."

While I hate to stereotype an entire generation of younger workers, I'm hearing sentiments like this more and more from executives. Just a few weeks ago an insurance executive told me about a new hire her team wanted to make. The winning applicant was a recent college graduate, and she had beaten out more than 100 others for a coveted entry-level job in the company's marketing department. When the executive met the young woman for the first time—a formality my friend assumed—the college grad laid out her needs before she could possibly accept: $80,000 a year, her choice of assignments, and six weeks of vacation (so she could work on her philanthropic activities). Seriously.

According to the Wall Street Journal, more than 85% of hiring managers and human-resource executives say they feel that Millennials have a stronger sense of entitlement than older workers. The generation's greatest expectations: higher pay (74% of respondents); flexible work schedules (61%); a promotion within a year (56%); and more vacation or personal time (50%).

Now, on the flip side, realize we need Millennials. Not only will they fill the job openings left by retiring Baby Boomers, but this group has stronger than average skills in teamwork, technology, social networking, and multitasking. They were bred for achievement, and most will work hard if the task is engaging and promises a tangible payoff. The question is: How to effectively energize a team with these vastly different expectations and backgrounds? How do managers get younger workers to leave their baggage at home while convincing them to contribute their full energy, ideas, and even their patience?

It obvious that we must learn how to bend a little to engage the Millennial generation, and we are going to address this subject more in our new book on corporate culture coming in April. But here's a sneak peak: To engage this generation just entering the workforce, managers must learn how to energize. In April we will unveil one of the largest workplace studies ever conducted on high-performance teams, and our research shows some creative ideas to increase energy in younger workers. Here are just a few key thoughts:

  1. Provide clear career opportunities.
  2. Give them a say in decisions.
  3. Ensure they have interesting work.
  4. Keep them informed.
  5. Recognize above-and-beyond work.

It's a simple list, isn't it? But it's better follow through on these specific basics that will help you start connecting with younger workers. Smart managers communicate with their people more than average or poor managers. They trust their young employees' and give them some say in decisions. They ensure all employees have interesting projects to work on—as well as the mundane things we all must do— and they recognize employees when they achieve their goals and especially when they exceed.

But most importantly, employers detail career opportunities available to Millennials if they'll just stick around awhile. Indeed, career-pathing has proven to be the most effective retention tool.

Thanks to Adrian Gostick / Adrian Gostick / Adrian Gostick. Making Work More Rewarding


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