Defining work as a “necessary evil” is not a new concept. Baby Boomers, Generation X, and generations before them worked to make a living, they didn’t all live to work. But once the most feared generation of all—the millennials—began taking full-time careers, CEOS and those with more senior positions called them “lazy,” and perhaps some other four-letter-words, because they began to look at work differently. But it’s not because they’re lazy. It’s because they’re determined, and there’s three key reasons why:
Finding the Perfect Fit
According to a study conducted by Gallup, millennials are the most likely to leave their jobs, but not simply because they’re fed up with working. Six out of 10 would leave their jobs only if a better opportunity came along. Millennials are always on the prowl for something greater than themselves, greater than what they have. And that doesn’t always necessarily come with a higher paycheck. It comes with more flexibility and more freedom to travel, to spend time with loved ones, to build a future.
With Great Struggle Comes Great Responsibility
Millennials watched their parents hustle from 9:00-to-5:00 during the Great Recessions of the late 2000’s. If they got laid off, all of those years of hard work suddenly had little to show for. Like the GI/Greatest Generation that grew up during the Great Depression, they know that all of their luxuries could be gone within an instant. Millennials were growing up when the Twin Towers fell, as we fought the War on Terror, and as mass shootings became more and more frequent. They’re currently living through the longest government shutdown in U.S. History. They know struggle just as well as we do, perhaps even more. A mean boss or tough client is nothing compared to what they’ve witnessed—and they’ll work hard to keep what they have.
Patience is a Virtue
Millennials and Generation Z, who will be joining the workforce over the next few years, grew up in an era where everything became available at the touch of a button. They’re the generations of instant gratification—a confidence boost becomes available at the click of a mouse or a double tap on a smart phone. They never needed patience because nothing ever required patience. This is why they take the first job offer that comes along, without thinking it through. It’s why 21 percent of millennials leave their careers within a year. Waiting months before landing a job or even a job interview is, to most, an unheard concept. This is when the older generations put negative stereotypes onto their millennials co-workers. But, employers, let me ask you this: how can you expect them to learn patience if older generations aren’t patient with them?
The truth is, companies would fall apart in the 21st century without the valued insight of millennials. Would any of us know how to properly engage with customers on social media? Or would be still be cold calling potential clients in yellow pages? Instead of employers rolling their eyes at the way millennials look at the workforce, and their drive to never settle for what they’ve worked hard for; they need to recognize these trends and adapt to them. If a valued millennial worker looks elsewhere for work, find ways to keep them in the fold. Let them change your organization, or let them help develop a new subsidiary or concept. Engagement, not standard-percentage raises, has more currency these days.
So let them teach us a thing or two about the workplace, and we’ll teach them the values and lessons we instilled during our journeys as successful career men and women. We’ll all be better employees for it. If nothing else, we can at least teach them how to use a fax machine.
SUZANNE SKEES serves as founder/board chair of the Skees Family Foundation, which supports innovative self-help programs in the U.S. and developing countries in education and job creation. Her latest book, MY JOB, Book 2, More People at Work Around the World, will be released in March, and is available for pre-sale on Amazon.