Are you a non-Millennial who has used some variation of the phrase, "Quality over quantity"? Are you a non-Millennial who has lamented about the good ol' days when employees were loyal? If you are in a position of leadership and you believe that quality is more valuable than quantity (or at least have said so publicly) and you struggle to find a connection with the new generations of workers arising in the marketplace, maybe we can help with some perspective.
In an article published with YFS Magazine earlier this year, How Leaders Manage High Employee Turnover, we elaborated on some of these thought streams held by individuals who are in positions of leadership. Those in leadership who are frustrated with team development issues may find that if they engage their teams as they may find the answers are closer than they thought. As noted in the publication, how odd it is that those in leadership often seek the limited perspectives from those in their own peer group which results in only further widening the disconnect with younger generations rather than expanding their input base to include those who may assist with perspective expansion that coudl lead to real changes.
Often the frustration between employer and employee centers around some aspect of loyalty, for example, “Employees just aren’t loyal like they used to be.” What is often missed is that organizations are not as loyal as they used to be either. The marketplace has changed which means companies and compensation packages have changed, therefore employment agreements have changed. Younger generations have seen what loyalty does to a long-term employee, i.e. their parents generation, who has been unceremoniously dumped by the company they gave life and limb to (sometimes literally) before their lucrative retirement package comes due. If you are a tenured employee who has risen in the ranks of an organization, you of all people should be able to identify with the lack of trust engendered by corporations where no one is safe.
Millennials do not interpret these conditions as a mechanism for fear of investing themselves in an organization but they are savvy to market realities and will not be asked to produce a formal level of loyalty that doesn’t exist from the other end of the contract. We live in the era of “at will employment” which Millennials are in agreement with, it seems that organizations are the ones struggling with this fact.
In their practical guide to “engaging Millennials in the insurance industry”, Tony Canas and Carly Burnham share insights that are applicable to all organizations through their recent publication titled Insuring Tomorrow. Addressing the topic of loyalty, the authors highlight a key perspective, “Millennials have a different definition of loyalty than previous generations did. For Boomers loyalty means, ‘I came, I stayed for 30 years, and I got my gold watch.’ For Millennials, loyalty means, “I worked very hard while I was there (p.27).” If we filter this statement back through our opening question about quality versus quantity, which generation applies that standard more accurately to their working definition of loyalty?
If we can gain the perspective that for a Millennial worker, and for the current work environment, trust has a different meaning then we will understand that:
The next time you are tempted to score a Millennial lowly for their loyalty to the organization, ask first, is our team loyal to them (by a measure of quality over quantity) and secondly, is this individual giving their best effort while they are working with our team (also by a measure of quality over quantity). Tony and Carly offer further insights into engaging Millennials, “You need to understand that they’re comparable to a different culture, and as such, they communicate differently.” Those in a position of leadership understand that all individuals are unique, what works for engagement with one team member will not have the same results with the next one. The Millennial generation has some cultural distinctives, such as the aforementioned definition of loyalty, that create unique challenges in dealing with a group of employees. This is why managers are paid the moderately higher bucks – to learn to inspire, challenge and lead a team to achieve its vision by engaging their team members. Loyalty isn’t dead, it’s just been redefined. The changes in the work environment have been created as much by organizations as it has by the upcoming generations of workers, all parties need to work together to create success for their teams. The Millennial definition of loyalty will benefit all parties if applied from top to bottom and bottom to top as a qualifier.
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