Business leaders everywhere know they have to hire younger workers. But what about all their supposed quirks?
As a 25-year-old, let me break down some stereotypes that you hear about Millennials and Gen Zers - basically, workers born after 1981 now in their 20s or 30s.
Stereotype #1 - Younger workers don't want to work hard.
You got me there. (Wait, kidding.)
Millennials and Gen Z workers simply need the right motivators to work hard.
I've been with the same company for four years now (Colonial Chemical, Inc., in South Pittsburg, Tennessee), and I knew from the beginning I wanted to work up to a bigger position with greater responsibility and greater rewards.
I grew up seeing the effects of the Great Recession on my family, and I knew I wanted to make myself as financially secure as possible. The reward for me was more money and more autonomy in my role. Today, money is a big motivator for Millennials. They're becoming old enough to have to deal with things like medical bills and this crazy housing market.
Gen Zers, on the other hand, have had more stability (so far) and are more focused on perks than money. These are the people begging you for remote work opportunities and flex time. Office pizza parties aren't cutting it any longer for Gen Z. These people have to find meaning in their work. The idea of punching a clock and doing the same desk job for 40 years is unimaginable to them. They need purpose, and simply making enough money to maintain a household isn't on their mind. They're not going to be getting married and starting families for some time.
Born in 1996, I fall in between these two generational groups and therefore often feel impulses in both directions. I'm very financially driven but also need fulfillment from my job. You'll find this in a lot of in-betweeners. We're very hard to please.
Stereotype #2 - Millennials are job hoppers.
This circles back to the whole money thing. Millennials have seen the research that shows how much more you can make by changing jobs every two to three years. Obviously this is a scary prospect for hiring managers focused on retaining talent. There's a radical idea going around you might want to look into: It's called paying more money for top talent. You need to evaluate who your top performers are and do what you can to keep them. If your company is strapped for cash, then at least try other perks such as flex-time, more affordable health insurance, or higher 401k matches. These are all benefits that are on Millennials' minds.
Stereotype #3 - The "in-my-feelings" generation is too sensitive. (Looking at you Gen Z.)
Older managers might look down upon this group of sensitive young 'uns as too delicate for the workplace. You wonder if what you say is going to offend them and land you in hot water. You think they're too open-minded, perhaps. They have pronouns, and you're confused. They openly talk about what their therapist told them.
Consider this, sensitivity can be a great thing for a workplace. You'd be gaining a new level of thoughtfulness and empathy that older employees may lack; or, more likely, are just keeping bottled up. I mean, wouldn't it be nice to work with people who actually work their problems out in therapy and not in the break room on a Monday morning?
It will take a certain level of awareness by older managers to effectively handle 20-somethings. They don't deal well with confrontation and would rather work through problems via email or messaging than face-to-face. You'll need to adapt to these communication styles to get the most out of your youngest employees.
It really just takes emotional intelligence, arming yourself with the appropriate data, and a willingness to be flexible to manage younger workers. Regardless of the stereotypes you have come to believe about them, realize they will be the future of your company.
Invest in them now and nurture them as the individuals they are, not as members of often over-generalized generations.
Carmen O'Hagan is a regional sales manager for Colonial Chemical, Inc., in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. She is a graduate of the University of the Tennessee-Chattanooga, and president of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce.