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Understanding Millennials in the city's workplaces

Millennials have undeservedly earned a bad rep when it comes to workplace behaviour, say TRA's Colleen Ryan and Antonia Mann. How did this passionate and thoughtful generation get tarred with the lazy and entitled brush?

Recent surveys have fuelled negative and controversial headlines, but are more noteworthy for being out of tune with what matters to Millennials in a workplace or in an employer: a sense of purpose, work life balance, a sense of self-growth and forward momentum – and judging them instead by GenX and Baby Boomer criteria. In fact, explicitly measuring Millennials on “generating revenue” and “costeffectiveness” doesn’t align with their more holistic values at all.

Like most Auckland based companies, TRA employs many talented and conscientious Millennials. If we believed everything we read, we could conclude that we lucked out in finding the atypical ones. We know this isn’t true, however, because relying on headlines and the blunt instrument of metrics without the sensitivity of understanding isn’t very enlightening.

If we want to make insightful data-driven decisions then we need to understand people as multi-dimensional human beings, not purely in the narrow, one-dimensional role as consumer or employee. To market to this group, brands and employers need to be truly customer-centric and bring the real, whole lives of this group into their thinking –not just a snippet of their lives. You have to immerse yourself in their lives in order to comprehend all of the influences and tensions that make them the layered and nuanced people they are.

Millennials were the subject of our most recent Listening Project and, far from being lazy and difficult, we found New Zealand’s Millennials to be passionate and considered about the role of work in their broader life ambitions.

The Holstee manifesto became a global phenomenon when it was released in 2011, articulating the zeitgeist of a generation. Five years on, the manifesto still captures the principles by which Auckland’s risk-averse Millennials aspire to work and live. By listening in context we were able to see how they are trying to live this life in the safest way possible.

Some opportunities only come once, seize them.

Millennials in our project, after doing their fair share of travelling and revelling, look forward to a family, house and stability. And in a city where the costs of living and housing are only increasing, they see the path to that through hard work.

Accordingly, they are ambitious and hardworking. They invest in their careers, believing that putting in the hard yards and long hours now will reward them with time and stability down the line.

"Within the next two years I’m really wanting to focus on developing my career to the level I’m ultimately hoping to reach in 5 or so years. I’m prepared for the really long hours and travel that will take, making the work life balance sacrifices now to ultimately live a very comfortable life characterised by balance that allows for family and fun".

"It’s (work) not awesome but there’s a sense that if we put in the long hours now while we have the youth and energy–we’re setting ourselves up for an easier life later on?"

Live your dream and share your passion.

Nevertheless, they are not sacrificing their ideals when it comes to work. Even having a rewarding job alone is not success, but one important part of a holistic view of success. They want jobs that are fulfilling and meaningful beyond the individual.

"My training doesn’t finish for 2 years so I hope I’m in the same position but a lot more knowledgeable. I hope that I love it as much as I do now :) That would be success for me."

"In my job, knowing that engineering is really important for the community is success for me."

Stop over analysing, life is simple.

While youthful enthusiasm and idealism is abundant, it’s not viewed through rose-tinted glasses. Not surprisingly, as Millennials mature, their perspectives become more grounded and they are accepting of the realities of life.

"Our generation can have unrealistic expectations of what life and work should be like. Some people have an idea that they should love their jobs, which is just not realistic every day. Social media possibly fuels this as well by constantly showing us the best of other people’s lives/jobs."

"Being successful in my career is really important to me. I enjoy reading and reflecting on quotes about success, theyinspire me and remind me to think about the reality of hard work in achieving success."

"Success in your career is getting up and being happy(ish) to go to work."

Open your mind, arms and heart to new things and people, we are united in our differences.

No matter what the realities of the day to day requirements of a working life, respect, equality and good leadership matter to this group.

"Success in career to me (as a woman) is when I know my earning capability is the same as anyone else regardless of gender, and also when I know that I have received utmost respect from patients and colleagues in my industry."

Life is about the people you meet, and the things you create with them so go out and start creating.

And, for employers looking to motivate and reward Millennials, take note of the importance of workplace culture: a stimulating, inspiring culture and environment count for a lot.

"In my job I am inspired by my talented workmates and the imagery we share around the office of beautiful projects done by others around the world."

"In a work sense I am hoping to work for a company where I can make meaningful contributions, work with stimulating people and have the opportunity to further grow and develop."

Doesn’t sound like a lazy, entitled bunch, does it?

Instead, it sounds like people viewed in the context of their whole lives, not a snippet of their lives. To leverage customers and prospective employees to help grow your business, you need to understand them; their hearts and souls and the messiness of their whole lives, not a thin slice devoid of human context. Information out of context is at best unhelpful and at worst misleading. For our part, we are one Auckland company whose doors are open to the energy that Millennials bring to what we do.

 

Colleen Ryan is head of strategy at TRA, and Antonia Mann is a strategist at TRA.

This article first appeared in Issue 01 of TRA’s Frame magazine. To subscribe to the future issues of the magazine, please email [email protected].