How Millennials Are Flattening The Traditional Performance Curve In The Workplace
Much has been written about Millennials in the workplace, most of which has been overwhelmingly negative. Like most things in life, however, the truth is more nuanced.
Now, I think the jury is out as to whether or not I qualify as a Millennial. I was born in the mid-80’s, so my formative years were spent playing Oregon Trail and watching Ninja Turtles instead of posting on SnapChat.
Still, as a borderline-Millennial, I always found accusations of our sensitivity, narcissism, and sense of entitlement to be personally offensive and usually dismissed them them as wholly unfounded.
However, after I started my own business I came to a startling realization. We Millennials are simply the worst...unless we're the best.
We're the worst.
Let's start with some statistics. According to a recent study performed by Red Brick Research, over 80% of hiring managers claim that their Millennial employees display narcissistic tendencies.
Perhaps even more troubling, only 27% of managers believe that their young employees are team players. The negative sentiment expressed by the hiring managers surveyed stands in stark contrast to the view that Millennials have of themselves. For example, over two-thirds of those surveyed see themselves in a management role in the next five years.
At the same time, 58% of the same respondents reported that they intended to stay in their current role for fewer than three years. Unsurprisingly, 52% of Millennials viewed the concept of employee loyalty as being overrated.
When asked about what they value in a job, the top three responses were exciting work, flexibility, and control.
To be honest, the statistics that the study presented struck a chord. It turns out I was a lot more of a typical Millennial than I thought.
Prior to founding BodeTree, the longest I've ever stuck with a job was just over three years. I always held the opinion that I should be in management, and I viewed loyalty to a company as antiquated as the concept of pensions.
These traits seemed perfectly reasonable at the time, but now that I owned my own business I found my expectations changing.
It turns out, the very traits I rebelled against earlier in my career were the ones I found most valuable in my employees.
The best members of my team were loyal, dedicated, and humble. I expected that most people we hired would have these traits hardwired to some extent, and that overall performance would fall in the middle of the typical bell curve.
Many of my Millennial employees, however, were frequently unable to cope with tasks that were boring but necessary, and their performance suffered as a result.
At the same time, salary expectations were high, praise was expected, and everyone believed they should be in a leadership role. In short, much was expected from the company with very little provided in return.
We're also the best.
Still, despite these challenges, I have Millennial team members who are top performers.
They are frequently brilliant when working on projects they find interesting, and I can always count on them for fresh, creative solutions to problems.
It turns out; I’m not the only business leader who noticed this phenomenon. The hiring managers interviewed by Red Brick Research report that, in general, Millennials are more creative, entrepreneurial, and open to change than older workers.
The big question on my mind was whether or not the benefits they brought to the table outweighed the challenges associated with managing them.
To try and answer this question, I spoke to Carey Smith, "Chief Big Ass" of Big Ass Fans. Carey has been a major advocate of hiring Millennials and has garnered a lot of acclaim for his management style.
According to Carey, “Millennials keep things fresh, and they have a lot of potential, but you have to invest in nurturing them. They are the people who are going to run the company in 20 years.
I’ve noticed that if you give people the opportunity to succeed — if you’ve hired the right people — they’re going to succeed.” So according to Carey, the trick to making Millennials successful is to pick the right people in the first place.
Finally, the pieces started to fall into place.
One extreme or the other
Millennials are either the worst or the best. The traditional performance curve has changed, shifting so that there are fewer of the middle of the road employees that were once so dependable.
When you hire a Millennial, there is a good chance they're going to fall on one extreme of the performance spectrum, demonstrating either the best or the worst traits the generation has to offer.
As a manager, you have to put more effort into the interview process and source the right people who don't have the narcissistic, entitled personality traits that can make leading young workers so difficult.
The risk of hiring poorly is significant and the potential downside shouldn’t be underestimated.
However, if you know what to look for you can mitigate those risks and bring on board young workers who unleash a wave of productivity and creativity inside of your organization.