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Those Pesky Millennials and their Whiny Demands:

Pain in the butt, or potential source of Competitive Advantage?

Oh those self-entitled Milliennials! Their demands are incredibly unreasonable! Tried meeting the needs of a new grad recruit lately? Talk about having to bend over backwards!

I recently presented at a conference on Campus Recruitment. My topic was “Welcoming & Engaging Your New Grads”. As is often the case, generational differences were a hot topic of conversation. There was much wringing of hands about how on earth to meet the needs of these demanding Gen Y and Millennial new grads.

This generation has the gall to have a laundry list of expectations about their new hire experience. They are looking to be “onboarded” thoroughly. Let’s take a peek at some of these demands.

  1. They want to “feel connected” when they join the organization.
    We gave them a job offer… don’t they know they belong now??
  2. They have the nerve to ask how they’re going to experience “meaning” in their work.
    This is only their first week… the photocopier is over there dude!
  3. They want to know how they can get ahead.
    Don’t they know that they have to do their time like we did??
  4. They’re asking a lot of questions about when they’ll get to work with a Team.
    What is this, a sports franchise?? Can’t they just buckle down to work?
  5. They’re constantly looking for feedback.
    These new grads are like needy puppy dogs!

There’s an element of truth to each of these “demands” and at the same time there’s an undertone of sarcasm to my observations.

‘Cause here’s the thing. If we can just take a deep breath and step back for a minute from the frustration we’re experiencing in feeling pressured to accommodate this list, we might be able to see the irony in what’s being requested.

What if we were to flip our own resistance on its head and look at the very opportunity that is being created by Gen Y and Millennial new hires? How might they be asking us to do what we should have been doing all along? Instead of making much ado about nothing…wouldn’t it be ironic if they were actually telling us EVERYTHING we should care about when establishing great Onboarding.

Generational “differences” aside… shouldn’t a great onboarding experience… 

  1. Foster connectivity for all new hires.
  2. Identify ways for new hires to have a sense of meaning in their work or of contribution to the organization.
  3. Articulate the ways that “people get ahead around here” by making the unwritten rules as transparent as possible.
  4. Provide opportunities to work with and learn from other great people in the organization through cross-functional teams, project teams, etc
  5. Offer feedback—on strengths, capabilities, opportunities and developmental needs as early and as often as possible.

Rather than railing against these expectations, what if we were to be thankful that our Onboarding “customers” are speaking their minds and creating a burning platform for us to simply get on with all the things we’ve long wanted to do to foster an enviable Onboarding experience for new hires at ALL levels and stages of their careers?

Isn’t the list of “unreasonable demands” in fact a prescription for a developing a successful onboarding program?

I’m currently conducting research interviews with 2009 grads about their onboarding experiences over the past year. I’m talking to smart, achievement-oriented young people, who were leaders on campus. I’m interested in helping you to set-up your best and brightest for success. This research will inform my next workbook, “Wow Them in Your First (real) Job!: Tips for Starting Strong as You Launch Your Career”.

While my interviews are focusing on success strategies for the new grads themselves, their feedback is rich with information for organizations that are eager to see their new talent thrive in the early weeks and months. So here are four key principles, none of which is exclusive to new grads.

  1. Meaning Matters: We often hear that Millennials are hungry to make a meaningful contribution. Yet, who doesn’t want to feel that their work matters? It’s the classic story of the bricklayer who knows he is “building a beautiful cathedral” rather than seeing his job as simply spreading mortar on bricks. Instead of seeing Millennials as impertinent, how might you make darn sure that EVERY new hire has a sense of meaning in their work. 
  2. Connection Counts: Sure they are the most wired generation in history interacting with connections all over the globe. When Millennials join your organization, they expect to be linked-up and plugged-in to networks and relationships quickly. If you can enable these connections even before their start date, so much the better. But isn’t it a simple human truth that we ALL want to be connected to others? Don’t most of us want to belong somewhere? Introvert or extrovert, intimate circle or wide ranging contacts-- connection indeed counts. By responding to the connectivity demands of Millennials, you are making the joining experience more welcoming for EVERY new hire. 
  3. Feedback Focuses: Given trophies at every turn through their early years, this is a generation that relishes frequent pats on the back. But, again, who doesn’t?? One of Gallup’s well-regarded Q12 Engagement survey questions is, “In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?” The question is a powerful predictor of the engagement level of ALL of your employees—not just needy new grads. Employee attitude surveys consistently rate feedback processes as being weak in most organizations. How often have you heard, “I wish they would stop telling me how I’m doing at work…there’s simply too much feedback around here”. Doesn’t happen.
    Recent grads tell me that they crave the constructive stuff too. They have to ask for performance reviews. They tell me they are dissatisfied with platitudes about how they are doing “just great”.
    How might you reframe their requests from being “needy” to being “proactive”? Feedback is of course especially important in the early weeks of being in a new role, no matter the level, when course correcting is so critical.
  4. Goals Guide: One of my recent grad interviewees said, “I wish I knew what the organizational goals were. It would help me understand what we are trying to achieve.” Millennials love to ask “why?” What if everyone asked “why?” Can you imagine the power of a full workforce aligned behind an inspiring vision and clearly-established organizational goals? How might everyone in your organization get off to a more productive start if they were guided by goals that are cascaded from the top of the organization right on down to the frontline. Difficult? Yes, but a distinguishing feature of an onboarding approach that works.

So, let’s stop the whining and look to our latest generation of new hires to help us get on with making much ado about everything that matters when it comes to welcoming and engaging new employees.

I'd love to hear your comments. Send me a note to sue@development-by-design.com


Sue Edwards is North America’s Employee Onboarding Maven. She has developed an international reputation for her work with leaders integrating into an organization or being promoted to a significantly more challenging level of leadership, Clearing the 90-Day Hurdle™. She specializes in supporting leaders in gaining the perspectives and skill-sets necessary to thrive in their new roles.

Find out more at www.clearingthe90dayhurdle.com

For Onboarding Tips, follow Sue on Twitter: http://twitter.com/onboardingcoach

Connect with Sue on LinkedIn http://linkedin.com/in/sueedwards and you’ll be invited to join the Onboarding Best Practices group of over 720 members globally.

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