‘Millennials are not accustomed to a standard working environment.’ This was an answer given by 38 percent of hiring managers in a 2015 Redbrick Research study on generational issues in the workplace. The question asked was: ‘Do you have any specific concerns or worries regarding hiring millennials?’ That’s a pretty overwhelming answer to such a broad question!
But it’s backed up by Millennials’ own admissions. For instance, according to that same study, 73 percent of Millennials believe that they are expected to be contactable at all times. This was one of the responses given to the question: ‘How does technology impact your work life?’ Millennials are saying, in essence, that they view themselves as always on-call.
Previous generations struggled with how much time and energy to give the boss. Every generation has worked hard and put in overtime, but typically it was thought that after clocking out at 5, anything else an employee did was going above and beyond. We Millennials, as the first Technology Native generation, see communication – even work communication – as a normal aspect of daily life. We have very different expectations about privacy and personal time.
I have seen my own attitude reflect this. If I got paid for the number of emails I responded to on my phone while leaning over a shopping cart at Target, I’d be a far wealthier woman. But I’ve never been resentful of doing this. Even just last week, someone needed to schedule a meeting with me and I told them to contact me the next day. “But isn’t that your day off?” they asked apologetically. I just shrugged. “I’m a Millennial,” I joked. “I usually answer emails on my cell phone anyway.”
In 2012, generation research expert and author Jason Dorsey, who is himself a Millennial, gave an interview to a morning news show where he said, “I was speaking at a business conference yesterday and a bunch of CEOs came up to me and said ‘Your generation’s great. They don’t always show up on time, but they stay late. At 2 a.m., they’re sending emails. They’re doing things on weekends.’ So Millennials are just doing things differently. People want us to work in the way in which they work, and that doesn’t fit this generation.”
Perhaps the type of job you’re offering isn’t communications-related. If you run a farm-based or labor-intensive business, employees who spend extra time on the Internet might not fit into the positions you want to fill. The silver lining for you isn’t how Millennials put in extra time, but rather their altered expectations. Many businesses make the mistake of assuming that if a Millennial doesn’t work in the standard working environment our culture has always had, then they are lazy, entitled, or unteachable. But you have a business that is also not a ‘standard working environment.’ Maybe you have a busier season in the summer, evening/weekend shifts, lack of benefits, heavy labor, etc. Finding good help has always been a struggle for small businesses. But with Millennials, at the very least, you are working with people who never expected work to look like Monday through Friday, from 9 to 5. That’s something you can capitalize on!
Emily Enger is a Millennial farm kid turned farm journalist. She also works in marketing, serving as communications director for a nonprofit that covers nine rural counties in northern Minnesota. These opinions are her own and should not take the place of legal or professional advice. To comment or pitch future topics, email her at emilygraceenger@gmail.com. For reprint permission, email editor Joan Kark-Wren at jkarkwren@leepub.com.