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Are millennials really snowflakes in the workplace?

It’s difficult to escape talking about millennials when you’re hiring today. They’ve quickly become the generation that everyone is talking about, often because of a new trend they’ve embraced or discussions about their work ethics. They were born from 1981-1996 so now roughly aged between 22-37 and due to a surge in birth rates in the 80s and 90s, there’s a lot of them. They currently make up around half of today’s workforce and that’s set to rise to a staggering 75% by 2025.

When thinking about millennials, the first things that come to mind are the widely discussed characteristics of this group. Negative labels ascribed to this group can include ‘entitled’, ‘lazy’ and ‘overly sensitive’. Hence the term snowflake being popularised to describe them. Snowflakes or Generation Snowflake has become the derogatory slang for an entitled individual with an inflated sense of uniqueness and easily offended when met with opposing views. Can you really count an entire generation as being exactly the same?

Like it or not, millennials are a huge part of the workforce today and understanding what makes them tick is likely to help you when working with them. In fact, the overriding feeling for millennials should be about the amount of bad press they receive. The media regularly bashes them for their lifestyle but are they really any different from any other generation at that youthful period in their lives? Forward thinkers Medium highlight that “millennials are similar to their parents and grandparents when they were the same age, under new circumstances. They want roughly the same things regardless of when they were born: to be given interesting work to do, to be rewarded on the basis of their contributions and to be given the chance to work hard and get ahead”. The reality they have been presented with ,however, is that after making it through the financial crisis of 2008, getting your dream job isn’t that easy. The difference for this generation is that even with years of hard work, many won’t have the assurance of paying off a mortgage that will give them security in later life. So it may be understandable as to why they might not be so keen to settle for a job they don’t enjoy. The stakes are higher, it’s more important to have fulfilment in a career as they might not get the same rewards as previous generations.

What’s often missed from the media is a balanced review of the hard working millennials that exist. What about the engaged, passionate and articulate team who drive change through Extinction Rebellion? A movement to combat climate change which has provoked community, perseverance and tenacity from a generation more often labelled as lazy or apathetic. Perhaps it’s not as easy as slapping the millennial label on and leaving the stereotype. The Millennial Generation brings a necessary link to the technology of the future as well as other useful qualities. They’re less complacent than previous generations, they understand that in order to keep within a role they need to meet deadlines and prove themselves. While it’s still important to pay employees a fair wage, they can also be cost-effective. Being driven by happiness, flexible working and recognition at work also translates to settling for smaller salaries in order to be satisfied with their overall roles. As one of the most educated generations, perhaps they deserve a little more credit?

There are some surprising traits that can also be attached to millennials, and by harnessing their positive qualities, you’ll get the best out of them. They're a generation known for their individuality, by recognising their individual strengths as an employer you’ll gain far more from them as a worker. Allowing their creativity to provide your company with fresh new ideas because of their thought process. As a group they also care more, this doesn’t just apply to helping society or charities but gives them a drive to work for companies with purpose. Their interest in collaboration means they’re great team players and of course, they're digital natives. Their grasp of technology has been embedded from a young age meaning they’re able to share this knowledge with your other employees and use it to move your company forward.

For non-millennials, it’s important to try to remember what you were like at that age. Age brings with it, resilience and understanding about how the world works. Rather than sifting through traits that most generations had in their 20s, use their skills to build a company with technological advancements, purpose, creativity and collaboration. If you’re looking for engaged graduates looking for opportunities, register with GradLink for free access to a database of international students and graduates from the top UK universities.

By Jen Garmston Published: July 10, 2019

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