Work ethic is a set of values based on hard work and diligence.
When I was a child my father told me stories of how his father worked long hard hours doing manual labour so he could provide for his wife and 5 children. He told me that it was called having a strong work ethic. He talked of this work ethic that had been instilled in him by his father and how he hoped it would be instilled in me. My work ethic is intact thanks to my upbringing however I have recently begun to discuss the topic of work ethic and how it applies to the generation of new workers entering the workforce.
Past generations have been brought up, motivated and have succeeded due to our fathers fathers definition of work ethic. I have seen older (30+) workers struggling to understand their younger, seemingly noncommittal coworkers. Younger workers will quit a job to go on a ski trip, leaving those of us who are over thirty scratching our heads and attacking their work ethic.
How do we rebuild the concept of work ethic? We could try to diagnose the problem within Generation Y / Millennials however; we may not be able to affect the required changes in their value systems. That leaves with the only option of changing how we relate and manage this generation and the generations that will be following them. They are the storm on the horizon.
Generation Y – How do we manage?
Putting aside the perceived shortcoming of Generation Y we see some appealing and business friendly attributes:
- Critical thinking. Taught by parents and teachers to question everything as opposed to accepting the status quo because it has been that way and it is how we do things here.
- Confidence. Parents have instilled the importance of self-esteem. Listen as they speak about how they would change the world.
- Morality. Tend to have a strong sense of civil mindedness and morality. They think in terms of the greater good and embrace volunteerism.
- Goal and achievement oriented. This generation has grown up playing computer games, so they are familiar with consistently achieving goals in order to move forward.
- Technologically advanced. Gen Y views technology as a part of life. They have grown up online and are connected by multiple devices at any given time.
Resistance is Futile – We need to hire Millennials
As employers we are uniquely positioned to benefit from the skill sets and attributes that Millennials bring to the workplace. Yet, while these individuals are talented, there are aspects to the cultural shift that will present new challenges to management and we need to change our management techniques to adapt. The changes may appear to be simple while reviewing them it is the actual implementation of them into your management style that may be more strenuous.
- Tasks and Projects. Millenial employees will require their managers to explain the importance of why they need to work a certain way and do specific tasks. They want to genuinely understand the why and the expected outcomes. The continual questioning of management/authority figures may appear to be insubordination and be frustrating, these employees insight and perspective may bring new ideas and energy into our workplace.
- Expectations. Millenials desire to be valued based upon their intelligence and contributions to your company. They can be motivated by ensuring that goals and expectations are clearly defined. Ambiguity at times may be acceptable as long as they understand why it exists and what the appropriate path/actions they are required to take. A coaching and mentoring relationship between management and Millinnials here can establish an enviroment of mutual respect and understanding.
- Career Advancment. Computer games again. The Mario Brothers provided instant feedback on their progress through Mario World. If you are proficient at a specific level you move to the next. The Millennial employee wills seek job success and recognition when they become proficient. Management will need to recognize this and be able to explain how career progression is measured and what the opportunities are for advancement. The earlier we do this, potentially during the interview process, the better.
- Feedback and Criticism. The Millennial generation has been brought up in environments to build self-esteem. They have a high expectation of them selves and confidence that may not yet have been earned. As a result many have not been tought about limitations and/or consequences of missed deadlines. There may be challenged to accept their own shortcomings and the inability to achieve goals and will look for external reasons for this. As their coaches and bosses we need to start discussions to build their awareness of accountability and the how it fits into the bigger picture of our business. This will be a foreign concept to many and we may be faced with defensive attitudes. The key here will be to remain calm, don’t become defensive in return and discuss why it is wrong/inappropriate to be defensive.
- Collaborate. We should use the Millennial’s ability to function within a group by encouraging collaboration when appropriate. Consider reorganizing task to allow collaborative efforts.
Our Future is in Their Hands
The Millennial generation is our future. They are curious, socially conscious and do not accept the status quo. They will question why we are asking them to perform a task and they will ask if there is a better way to do it. If we open our eyes and our minds to them they may revolutionize workplace processes and efficiencies. They are technologically savvy and incorporate technology and current trends into their personal and professional lives. With our assistance they can transition from Millennials to Leaders of tomorrow