Millennials Believe in Entitlement. Or Do They? Why Employers Need to Know.

The phrase “sense of entitlement” is frequently used when describing characteristics of a certain individual or group. One group to which this phrase is often applied is Millennials, a word used to identify those born between 1980 and 2000. When referring to this group, entitlement is defined as possessing “the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges)”. Using this definition has generated a common perception that Millennials consider themselves deserving of benefits and rewards for various reasons, primarily because they consider themselves “special”. Unsurprisingly, this perception has colored how Millennials are viewed in the labor market and not in a good way. Surprising to some, however, this perception is also wrong.

The stereotypical Millennial grew up surrounded by technology that became increasingly more advanced as he/she grew older. This provided exposure to more information and experience with more activities than that available to any previous generation. Days were filled with soccer, ice skating, hockey, band practice, piano lessons, and many other options, all under the watchful eye of so-called helicopter parents. Is it any surprise, then, that the average Millennial might feel entitled, especially when it comes to finding employment? Except for one thing: It’s a myth. The sense of entitlement doesn’t exist, and any employer that ignores or undervalues Millennial job candidates because it believes otherwise will find itself unable to adapt to the changing demographics in the workplace.

Make no mistake. Workplace demographics are changing and changing quickly. Some baby boomers are retiring. Others that were separated from employment during the recent economic downturn are unable or unwilling to return to the labor force. Gen X is climbing the corporate ladder, opening up positions for Gen Y and Millennial employees, the youngest of which bring a perspective that is different from that of their predecessors but also, perhaps more interestingly, different from the misconception that they come into the workplace feeling entitled.

Unfortunately, by treating Millennials as individuals who have grown accustomed to “participation medals” and don’t have the requisite personality, drive or determination to succeed in business, an enterprise may deprive itself of human resources with outstanding potential.

So, what are Millennials looking for in an employer, a job, a career?  In no particular order of importance (a Millennial would say they’re all important), these are some of the key factors they consider:

  • Innovation.  78 percent of Millennials profess a desire to work for a company that has the capacity to be innovative, to adapt to changing conditions and circumstances.  The Internet has made performing job duties at a desk from 9 to 5 if not outdated, at least unnecessary. An employer fails to recognize that at it’s peril.
  • Diversity in the workplace. The so-called Old Boys Network (read, all male, all white) was once accepted as normal. No more. A lack of diversity in gender, ethnicity, even in tolerance of lifestyle choices, is anathema to most Millennials.
  • Flexibility.  A company’s ability adapt to and accommodate the needs of its employees (and often their families) will go a long way towards developing employee loyalty.
  • Job security. Given the employment carnage they’ve witnessed perhaps even experienced since 2008, Millennials have become very sensitive to the impact lack of job security can have on their lives.
  • Millennials have strong values and an employer that respects and provides opportunities to succeed based on those values is more likely to be a sought-after place to work.

An organization  must be willing to take an honest look at its own culture to determine whether it can readily adapt to the work culture of Millennials.

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