With the stock market up strongly yesterday, encouraged by indications that consumers are spending again, the job market for unemployed and underemployed Millennials appears to be looking up, especially in the Midwest. Hiring among MBA students at University of Notre Dame who will graduate in 2011 is running well ahead of last year at this same time. On a personal level, several of our Gen Y community have reported landing new jobs in the past few weeks.
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After two years of waiting, that’s all welcome news. But on a more sobering note, there are numerous studies from previous recessions that suggest those who struggled over the past few years to find, keep or upgrade their employment may suffer lasting career consequences. The negative impact also may extend to those who decided to use the time to pursue graduate educations.
Are companies ready to compete for Gen Y employees?
Yesterday I spent a few hours with a group of 60 managers and marketers at a meeting of the Association Forum of Chicagoland’s annual Holiday Showcase (at the invitation of Jeff Hurt). I spoke on the topic of Millennials for about 30 minutes and was followed by a panel of three Gen employees who work at associations.
When the session was opened to discussion, the audience posed many questions about the best way to manage Millennials. Most expressed some frustration. Millennials were thought to be sensitive to criticism, to challenge direction when they thought they had a better idea and to push to be included in high level meetings where they weren’t really needed or welcome. They were accused of not wanting to ‘pay their dues’. One Boomer candidly shared her frustration at having to accomodate the workstyles and needs of younger workers. She asked “When will the Millennials adapt to us?!”
From my conversations with Millennials, I know that many believe they have made accommodations –but they aren’t happy about the compromises. They also are ready to move on if given a chance. Their frustration comes from a belief that they are not asking for that much from their employers. Contrary to perception, they are reasonable: they don’t expect to have all their ideas accepted, but they do expect them to get a hearing. They don’t understand what the harm is in their being in the room when decisions are being made, even if they are not part of the decision making process. And why wouldn’t a company be open to a better way of doing something?
I believe the workplace will have to change more than Millennials will. They have time and numbers on their side. And who wouldn’t want a workplace that looked more like the way things should be?
Companies that move now to make the workplace more Millennial-friendly will be glad they did.