I am sure there were plenty of issues raised when my generation, the babyboomers, entered the workforce, especially during the tumultuous late 60 and early 70s. After all, we thought nothing about bringing our freewill spirit, long hair, and wearing hippy attire complete with dirty bellbottom jeans and sandals to work. We were young and oblivious to what our elders thought, or cared.
The millennials go by many names - Generation Y, Generation Next, or the Echo Boomers (yes, many millennials are boomers’ kids.) This group generally is said to be born from 1982 through the early 2000s. They’ve been pampered by doting parents who structured their lives to take advantage of increasing numbers of learning and social experiences. Television, computers, the Internet, and myriad digital communication devices have shaped their outlook, behaviors, and skills. Millennials text message more than they talk. In their world, there are always unlimited minutes. As a group, they are bright, cheerful, cooperative, and display a “can-do” attitude about tasks at work. Yet, to afterschool program leaders, many are presenting an “I-don’t-want-to-do-this-type-of-work” attitude.
So what is research revealing that can help our older leaders when working with millennials?
Be patient. Tolerate differences and try to understand. Because of their schooling, many millennials feel that they are better suited for higher-level work above entry positions. They appear unwilling or unable to start at the bottom and work their way up. They view grunt work as something other people should do. They don’t buy into the concept of paying one’s dues. They expect to work hours that fit their schedule, not the other way around. The reality is that many can jump right in and succeed. But not all.
When hiring and working with millennials, make sure expectations are very clear. Don’t make demands that won’t work. To avoid conflicts and unhappiness, allow for flexibility and teamwork. Provide constant feedback.
Embrace the millennials’ love for technology. Encourage them to use it. Challenge them with new assignments and teach them about the importance of professional credibility. Remember, this group’s constant connection to technology will keep them linked to it while performing their jobs more than their older coworkers.
From an early age, millennials have learned, been allowed, and even been encouraged to be multitaskers. They will easily become distracted. They must be provided parameters of when, where, and how they can multitask at work, especially when working with children and youth. They must be taught about the dangers and mistakes that multitasking can create in their work performance.
Millennials also want to know why an activity is important before they listen to what must be done. When asking these questions, they aren’t being defiant. They just want to know their role in the grand scheme of things. We need to help them discover their reason to care. When asked, explain the why.
Millennials are the future of afterschool. They value a balance between work and life, rewards, achievement, attention, simplicity, informality, meaning, and multitasking. They bring fresh perspective to an afterschool setting many grew up in when younger. We must accept their values and create a work culture that is millennial-friendly. We must adapt behaviors and learn skills that engage them. Babyboomers must accept millennials without bias, communicate and connect with them, and establish meaning and accountability in their work. Direct those who appear unfocused and indifferent.
Millennials are creative, generous, educated, and enjoyable. Without doubt, babyboomers and those of other generations wanted to be viewed by our first employers in much the same way. We came to work expecting our unique differences to be accepted.
Nothing is new.
Paul G. Young, Ph.D.
President & CEO
National AfterSchool Association