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The Insider's Guide To Working With Millennials

Millennials often get a bad rap. They’ve been labeled the ‘me generation’ and called entitled, narcissistic and lazy. But Eleisha McNeill says these assumptions may be wrong.

29 October 2021

Millennials have a reputation for refusing to tow the line and accept the way things have always been done. And they rarely turn up on time. At least, that’s their reputation.

But these assumptions might be wrong, and we need to reconsider.

By 2020, about 75 per cent of the global workforce is expected to be made up of millennials, and that means businesses will have to learn to work with them and get the best out of them.

So, what do millennials expect from work? And are common perceptions correct?

Andrew Nicol is a managing partner of property investment company Opes Partners, and a millennial himself.

He bought his first property at age 19 and started his first business at age 21. His business, Opes Partners, has branches in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, along with two subsidiary business.

Together the businesses employ over 20 staff, many of them millennials.

Nicol is realistic about what hiring millennials means. He understands what makes them tick, and works with that to get the best out of them.

Challenging perceptions of millennials

PERCEPTION: Millennials don’t value traditional workplace norms.

REALITY: Millennials often rail against doing things the way they’ve always been done, Nicol says. Who needs to arrive at work at a certain time? Why would you work nine to five?

Millennials don’t separate life and work, and this can mean they expect to be able to fit work in around the other demands in their lives, whether that’s passion projects, or their friends and families. They’re used to doing things on the go – answering emails, making calls, and solving problems, any time of the day or night.

“I don't think it's that millennials don't value workplace norms, we just think outside of them,” says Nicol. “Some people have families and choose to leave work at three, and then work at night to make up the time.

“As an employer, why would I worry about that – as long as the work is done?”

PERCEPTION: Millennials don’t believe in the value of hard work.

REALITY: This simply isn’t true, says Nicol. He says millennials just work in a different way than other generations.

They’ve grown up with technology, and if they can take a shortcut, they will – because they want to get things done in the most efficient, least time-consuming way, to get the best results.

“We’d rather go to Google and figure something out instantly than mess around for ages,” he says. “Those kinds of shortcuts can sometimes be perceived as laziness, but it’s not. It’s efficient.”

PERCEPTION: Millennials don’t want to work their way up – they want my job, now.

REALITY: Yes, they do. But they also don’t want a life-long career, so the traditional career ladder doesn’t hold any relevance for them.

“Millennials often come to me straight out of university and ask for double the salary I started on. They want all the perks, and then they change jobs a lot more often,” he says.

“Our business employs people with an entrepreneurial spirit, and for us that means many staff I hire leave to start their own businesses.”

But that’s not all bad, he says.

“We get to see people grow, and it's actually just building a better world overall. And from a business perspective, I'd rather have someone work with us for two years and be exceptional, than have them for 10 years and be lazy and complacent.”

PERCEPTION: Millennials want too much fluffy stuff.

REALITY: Where previous generations looked for good working hours, a good salary, and a pension plan when they were job-seeking, it’s true millennials are more likely to look for intangible things, like a good work culture, a lack of micromanagement, and a cool office space.

“The overall culture of an organization is really important,” Nicol says.

“Work, for our parents, was working 60 to 80 hours a week, going home absolutely exhausted, and maybe going on holiday every couple of years.

“We want more than that. Life is short, we want to rock ’n’ roll. That’s how we’ve developed our company culture, and our employees really enjoy it.”

First published 21 June, 2018

Story by Eleisha McNeill

JUNO does not contain financial advice as defined by the Financial Advisers Act 2008. Consult a suitably qualified financial adviser before making investment decisions. This story reflects the views of the contributor only. Content comes from sources that JUNO considers accurate, but we do not guarantee that the content is accurate.

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