A Guide to Millennials' Work Ethics (With Tips and Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 28, 2022

Published September 10, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Millennials make up an increasing percentage of today's workforce, as the younger members of this generation are now in their early twenties. In order to work with and manage millennials, it's important to learn more about this tech-savvy generation.

In this article, we discuss what a millennial is, stereotypes related to the work ethics of millennials and tips for managing millennials in the workplace.

What is a millennial?

A millennial is an individual born between the years 1980 and 2000. Since millennials make up a large amount of the workforce, many organizations seek to understand this group so they can provide millennials with what they're looking for long-term in their employment. By understanding millennials, you may be better able to motivate them, making them loyal and long-term employees.

Read more: How To Support Millennials In the Workplace

Stereotypes about millennials' work ethic

Stereotypes may surround each new generation as they enter the workforce so it's important to examine some of the most common ones. Here are some stereotypes about millennials in the workplace:

Millennials work better without feedback

One stereotype is that millennials prefer not to receive feedback on their work. A manager who believes this stereotype may find that they avoid providing constructive criticism to their millennial employees, which can lead to frustration and decreased loyalty by the millennial who wants to grow in their role and feel like a valued part of the team.

Every employee appreciates a work environment where managers give them the opportunity to use their current skills and develop new ones so they don't become stagnant in their roles. Millennials, as much as anyone else, value the opportunity to learn and advance in their roles and perform at their best.

Millennials have a different work ethic

It's a common stereotype that millennials don't have as strong of a work ethic as older employees. However, work ethic isn't dependent on age but on personality. Therefore, any number of millennials may be proficient at getting the same job done in less time because they can identify creative ways to arrive at the same conclusion.

Millennials may also be collaborative and call on their peers to work together to complete projects. As further testament to their work ethic, you may find that some millennials, like their older coworkers, also have both a full-time job and a part-time role, like freelance work or a side job on nights and weekends.

Millennials don't always take direction

Some millennials may hold a lot of pride in what they do and this could lead to the incorrect stereotype that they don't take direction well. But this isn't the case. Millennials still have respect for the authority that their leaders and managers hold. In a positive work environment, most employees treat each other with respect and millennials are no exception.

As with other generations, once millennials give their respect, they are usually more loyal to their manager and the company as a whole, all the while continuing to build their relationships with peers and others in the workplace.

Millennials change jobs more frequently

Another stereotype is that millennials move quickly from one job to the next. Millennials are like all employees who may carry certain expectations for their place of work and have a strong desire to succeed. They may seek ways to connect with colleagues and managers and volunteer feedback so that their career goals are known.

However, if an employer isn't able to meet a millennial employee's career expectations, that employee may seek employment elsewhere. When a workplace can support their desires, a millennial employee may be happy staying there long term.

Tips for managing millennials in the workplace

If you have a millennial on your team, here are some actions items you may want to consider:

Treat millennials with respect

Millennials value receiving respect from their teammates and leaders. They appreciate being treated the same as others in the workplace and relied on for similar types of tasks and projects. To show that you respect your millennial employee as an individual and recognize their skills, experience and knowledge, consider asking them for their feedback in team meetings and mentioning how valued they are during their review.

Read more: What Is Respect in the Workplace?

Provide opportunities to collaborate

Because millennials may enjoy a collaborative environment, explore ways to provide that to them. While they may work great on their own, they may also enjoy being a part of a team and having the ability to work closely with others to reach a common goal. Just like some millennials appreciate being asked for feedback, they also enjoy actively seeking feedback from others, realizing that everyone is a part of the workplace because they have a unique set of experiences and perspectives.

Read more: How To Demonstrate Collaboration in the Workplace

Get to know your millennial employees

A part of managing any employee is getting to know them. Through regular meetings, you can find out more about their needs, wants and goals and what they are motivated by. When you get a glimpse into their thought process and what they are looking for in an employer, you can work on making sure you provide just that. For example, if a millennial employee expresses that they want more responsibility, consider giving them a new project to lead or more challenging work so they can feel fulfilled in their role.

Ask for their opinions

One way to make millennials feel that you value them is to ask them for their opinions. Millennials seek solutions to problems and more efficient processes to complete the same task, so if you ask for their feedback on a procedure or another function of the office, they will likely have something to say.

Provide flexible work arrangements

Some millennials appreciate having autonomy in their work and trust from their managers that they will complete their tasks as expected. To express to your millennial employees that you feel this way about their work ethic, consider providing flexible work arrangements. This can include offering remote work, work from home days and even giving them the opportunity to work outside of traditional work hours.

An added benefit of providing this flexibility is that employees are more likely to tap into their creative side and approach tasks and problems from a different angle. Spending time on work outside of the office, even if it's in a courtyard on-site, can give employees the space to think clearly and work harder on their tasks.

Read more: Flexible Work Policies: Definition, Types and Tips

Discuss expectations

Both employer and employee have expectations for each other and the company they work for. Communicate with the millennials in your office about your expectations for their work and contributions to the team, so they have a very clear idea of what they should be working on. Then, open up the conversation so they feel comfortable sharing their expectations for you as their leader. When you know what they expect and are looking for, you can try to accommodate within reason.

For example, if your employee lets you know that they expect to have regular communication with their manager, consider setting up weekly or monthly check-ins so the two of you can discuss their work and revisit expectations if needed.

Develop a secure and enticing company or team culture

Every employee wants to work for a company or be a part of a team that has a strong culture. The more that the company or team values fit with the millennial's own values, the stronger they feel about their position. They're usually happier in their work and more loyal to their team. A strong culture lets all employees know the direction the company or team is going and the common goals everyone is working together to achieve.

Read more: How To Create a Company Culture: Examples and Tips

Offer guidance and growth opportunities

If your millennial employees value a workplace where they can learn, explore ways you can provide growth opportunities. You may want to look into conferences where they can learn from others in the industry and in similar roles. They may want to join local chapters of organizations that offer in-person events, webinars and educational material.

As a leader, you can also give your millennial employees guidance by meeting with them regularly, providing them with feedback on their work and coaching them in new tasks and responsibilities.

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