5 Myths About Millennials in the Workplace

On a recent episode of HR Insider, we had the chance to talk with Mary Larocca, Vice President of Global Business Development at Cornerstone Relocation Group. She debunked five common myths about millennials and shared insight into how best to approach this generation from an HR and Relocation perspective.

Myth #1: All Millennials Are Alike

A big mistake companies make is overlooking the individual needs of millennial employees because they assume certain likes and dislikes about their generation. “Everyone is unique and everybody has different things that contribute to who they are,” says Mary. “So try to find what’s individual about the person and what’s going to make things important for them. I think that’s a big thing that can be done even from the recruiting stage over to the HR stage.”

A great way to avoid the pitfall of generalizing the wants of a generation is to acknowledge people’s different needs by offering choices to your employees. It is unrealistic to individualize each policy, but your company can offer a set of options that employees can choose from. This is especially important when it comes to relocation. Mary suggests, “Give someone three or four choices that your company is okay with providing, then whoever is making the choice will feel like they’re invested in [what they have chosen] … Remember that somebody might want to just pack themselves up and move and one might want to have an option to use that money towards pet sitting or some other thing.” Millennials are not a “one size fits all” generation. Acknowledge the individual needs of your employees by offering options.

 

Myth #2: Millennials Have Social Interaction Issues

A big stereotype about millennials is that they are more comfortable with sitting behind a computer and chatting online than they are with talking on the phone or face-to-face. While it is true that the former is a more common way for millennials to communicate, it doesn’t mean they are anti-social. The fact that this generation communicates and shares their interests online can be a real asset to HR professionals because it can give them insight into what their employees like and need.

Mary recommends using the internet to HR’s advantage with a little online research to help form connections between employees. Identify some of your employees’ interests by searching online and find a way to bridge those interests with team building activities. She says, “When you’re having a relocation program, maybe think about things like shared housing or doing social outings that have a purpose. We recently, here in Arizona, went out to a food bank and handled giving out food to people who needed it in the Phoenix community. Things like that help people feel connected and make our world feel a little smaller.” Though it may seem like millennials prefer to stay behind their computer screen, they still need connection and purpose. Motivate them with meaningful causes and opportunities to spend time with their team.

Myth #3: Millennials Have No Loyalty

The millennial generation has gained a reputation of having no loyalty because it is much more common for them to work at multiple companies throughout their career compared to previous generations. While it is true that changing employers is much more common for millennials, this doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a lack of loyalty. Mary points out that millennials have loyalty to themselves. “Being loyal to yourself, to the process, and making yourself happy is much different than loyalty to a big company or a manager,” she explains. This commonality among millennials is beneficial for companies to know. Mary says, “From an HR perspective, think about what’s important to the person that you are managing or the person that you’re bringing on.” By listening to what your employee wants, you will know how to keep them at your company.

Therefore, it is more about companies adapting to a generation that has different desires and wants to be loyal to themselves. In knowing this, companies can retain millennials by allowing them opportunities to do something that they love. Mary points out how critical it is for the HR community to ask each person on their team or each person that they are moving what’s important to them. She says, “Sometimes [managers] just don’t want to ask the question and I think they’re missing out on an opportunity to really make someone feel loyal and connected, and [millenials] do that by being passionate about things.”

 

Myth 4: Millennials Can’t Take Ownership

A common trait in millennials is that they are about a shared economy. Mary points out that “[Millennials] want to have things, but only when it makes sense. [They] don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a purse, for example, when [they] can rent one and just use it for the season or an afternoon.” There is a shift in the mindset of ownership in which millennials want to use objects when needed and let others enjoy their use when they are not needed, rather than just sitting unused.

To expand upon this myth, Mary highlights how experiences are more valuable to millennials than accumulating material goods. From an HR perspective, she suggests, “Think about the experience you can give an employee… Is there an experience that you can give that employee that might make them be able to stay with the company longer? Is there an assignment overseas that they could go for three months because they don’t have all the things that can tie them back home in the U.S.?” Use the new perspective on ownership to help motivate your millennial employees by providing them with the option to collect new experiences through your company.

Myth #5: Millenials Can’t Make Decisions

The myth that millennials are indecisive has evolved from the ability to research and comparison shop. Millennials make decisions, but they tend to research ahead of time online before making those decisions. The common practice of online research is an important factor for businesses to consider when recruiting millennials. Mary suggests, “Research yourself and see what impression you are giving…  If you’re trying to portray something, make sure that’s really what’s coming across from a technology standpoint because that’s where everyone’s going to go first to look.” Having the insight that millennials do make decisions, but they shop around first, will help ensure that your online presence is properly representing your business and attracting your desired candidates.

When it comes to stereotypes about generations, it’s helpful to have an idea of what to expect and how to handle interactions; yet, in the end, we are talking about individual human beings, and no one person is the same. Mary sums it up perfectly when she says, “You really can find real connections and real loyalty when you find out what’s important to a person and what makes them an individual.”