Debunking 3 Myths about Millennials and Gen Zers in the New Normal
Before the pandemic, the new millennium ushered in a generation of young adults now popularly known as the Millennials, the digital pioneers. Born between 1981 to 1996 and also known as Generation Y, much has been written about them in the context of the workplace. Shortly before COVID-19, millennials made up one-fourth of the total workforce in the Asia Pacific region. Adding to their numbers, Gen Z followed. Born between 1997 to 2012, these so-called digital natives are now the freshest graduates employed.
Unfortunately, due to a lack of understanding about generational differences, older generations have complained about both Millenials and Gen Z, calling them entitled, spoiled, and tough to manage.
We debunk these three common myths. But first, let us contextualize these misconceptions by taking a closer look at how the pandemic has impacted younger generations.
What are Millennials and Gen Zers like in the workplace?
The COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to shift and adapt. It also affected how and where employees choose to work. The Decoding Global Talent report showed how more employees worldwide prefer a hybrid of remote and on-site work. Workers also want more flexible hours and value work-life balance more than ever.
Millennials and Gen Zers lead in the numbers of those who want these changes to happen.
In the third and fourth quarters of 2021, a surprising phenomenon occurred. In June, July, and August, millions of employees resigned from their work. They called it the Great Resignation. Some CEOs and human resource leaders suggested it would be better to call it the Great Reshuffle instead because these workers – led largely by Millennials and Gen Zers -- are not just quitting their jobs, but also shifting careers.
Employees are not only changing how and where they want to work. They are also reassessing why. These younger generations are reevaluating their values and priorities. This has led them to realign their goals and career paths. Discontented with work conditions, they leave companies that do not satisfy their needs or sense of purpose and fulfillment.
To effectively hire, manage, and retain millennials and Gen Zers post-pandemic, you need to look at their context. What kind of world did they grow up in? What values do they prioritize now? As a start, it would help for us to first debunk the following three myths about them.
Myth # 1: They are entitled.
We can better understand this if we look at both sides of the generation gap. Older generations are used to a hierarchical organizational structure. Their seniority, role, and position in the company define who they are and what they are worth. In the old-school corporate world, companies evaluate and reward people based on how long they had served and how much they had contributed.
On the other hand, millennials grew up in a social-networking world. Relationships are lateral with no clear “role boundaries” or hierarchy. When the orientation in an organization is more horizontal rather than vertical, one is not higher than the other. Everyone is special and unique. In the new school of doing things, companies evaluate performance more than the length of time of service.
In the old system, people waited in line for their turn to be promoted. Older generations that went through that expect younger ones to undergo the same process. And if these Millennials and Gen Zers think otherwise, then they are “entitled.”
However, understanding the different perspectives can make all the difference. These younger employees can be willing to work hard and take opportunities.
Communication is key to managing expectations on either side of the age difference. Solutions are not impossible to find. Try gathering their feedback first. Then re-evaluate current methods of performance appraisal to find the right system to suit your workforce.
Myth # 2: They are needy and seek too much attention.
In general, older generations did not need to engage their bosses much in the workplace. They heard from their superiors when they did something wrong or needed correction. So, it was best when you did not hear anything at all. That meant everything was, as they used to say, “A-OK.”
It is not the same way for the newer, younger generations who are used to more interactive communication and getting constant feedback on how they can improve and develop their work. They may ask questions about everything. But employers can take this as a proactive desire to learn. Use this to bring out their best and fulfill their potential. This benefits both the employees and the company.
Myth # 3: They are disloyal job-hoppers.
Baby Boomers taught Gen Xers by example. They landed a stable job in an established company. They stayed there for more than 20 years, or until retirement. Gen Xers have followed this example. On the other hand, Millennials and Z can move from one job to the next if their needs are not met.
However, if we look more closely at older generations, they may be reluctant to try new things, preferring ways that are, as they say, “tried and tested.”
Millennials and Gen Zers, on the other hand, grew up thriving on change and innovation. They are also smart and know what is fair compensation. And they expect better benefits, rewards, and recognition.
More importantly, a lack of engagement may have to do with job-hopping, according to a 2021 study by Global Analytics Firm, Gallup. Therefore it is less a character flaw than an area for improvement worth addressing.
Here are more concrete ways to engage your employees, including having an open door policy, one-on-one meetings, and providing incentives. Ultimately, you want your Millenial and Gen Z employees to feel better valued so you can retain them longer.
A final note
Debunking these common myths about millennials and Gen Zers is just a start. Fair wages, additional benefits, and significant rewards are just part of it.
It is worth repeating that the pandemic has made people, especially the younger generations, assess their careers, not only in terms of how or where they work but why. They are re-examining their values and priorities. That is why they are also shifting career paths toward their life goals. And these need to be in alignment with the organizational culture and purpose of the company they work for. This is also a chance to rethink the work setup and how to best cultivate employee relations.
But whatever generation an employee or candidate belongs to, it is to your benefit to hire with diversity in mind. Candidates from different generations, genders, or even alma maters can bring their own unique strengths to your organization.