I can’t keep quiet about this anymore.  Over and over again I hear Baby Boomer or Gen X leaders complain about the “unreasonable” wants and needs of the Millennials in their offices.  They resent that these younger employees (who are the largest cohort in the workplace as of 2015) seem to require different things than their predecessors.

Of course they do!  Every new generation has slightly different attributes, strengths and requirements in a work environment.  So did we when we first arrived on the scene.  The Millennials are just doing what previous generations have done – letting their employers know what is important to them.  And in truth, much of what they want is not really all that different from their predecessors.

Gallup has researched what different generations look for when applying for a job.  The results may surprise you.  The only differentiating factor that really stands out for the Millennials is that they place a very high value on the opportunity to learn and grow in their jobs.  After that, their preferences are remarkably similar to the Baby Boomers in valuing the quality of their manager, and interest in the type of work that they do.  Given that they are early in their careers, Millennials value opportunity for advancement somewhat higher than their older colleagues.  What is NOT high on the list for Millennials is having an informal work environment or being at a fun place to work.  Millennials ranked these two categories at under 25% which is right in line with the preferences for the Baby Boomers and the Gen Xers.  It seems that fun at work is nice at any age but it’s not a key driver or primary motivator.

So, what is going on?  Why are organizations focusing so heavily on these types of extrinsic factors (free beer, pool tables in the workplace, casual clothes, bringing the dog to work, etc.) when trying to engage their employees?  At the same time, Gallup has also done research on engagement levels in the workplace and has found that 70% of US workers are disengaged.  Maybe fun works to help recruit millennials initially but is not the answer for retention and engagement.

The urban legend that the Millennials don’t care, don’t like to work hard and are entitled spoiled brats needs to stop.  Otherwise, these talented young professionals will indeed leave your organization in search of something better – as will their older colleagues.

Genuine, authentic and effective leadership is more important than ever to the majority of employees in our workplaces.  We need more leading and less managing for this new workforce.  The Millennials place a high value on collaboration and want to have their voices heard.  Yes, they like to receive on-going feedback but that just means that they want to get better!

Millennials do prefer to communicate via text messages and they are the most visual generation ever in the workplace.  They value coaching and team work.  These employees want to feel that their voices are heard and that their work matters.  They are technically savvy and always connected.  Millennials are smart, inclusive, and goal oriented.  They want leaders who are accessible and from whom they can learn.  They do want the focus to be on their outcomes rather than how they get there (or when).   In short, they want to work for good leaders in interesting jobs.  (Oh yeah, they do still like those trophies!).  Their needs are not that unique.

What is unique about the Millennials is in how they define success.  While Baby Boomers wanted security and Gen Xers value balance – the Millennials are looking for happiness.  That’s it – they want to be happy.  It doesn’t sound terribly unreasonable.  Leaders need to listen to this and be real about what Millennials say makes them happy on the job.  Free beer is great and vacation is important but how about letting them learn something new, grow in their job, and support their collaboration?

Leaders should focus on retaining and engaging their Millennials.  Help your Millennials stretch and learn, give them opportunities and support, coach and develop, provide feedback and reward them for their results.  Help them find their awesomeness.