By Gui Albieri, Ph.D.
and Quy H. Nguyen, OD
March 7, 2018
“This new generation wants flexible work hours.” “New graduates don’t sacrifice as much as I did.” These are a couple of the things you may hear about Millennials, the generation now comprising the largest group in the workforce.
We wanted to learn more about the youngest members of the workforce, especially those entering optometry, so we conducted our own study at SUNY College of Optometry.
Fifty-three students in the classes of 2017 and 2018, and 50 doctors who employ Millennial graduates, were surveyed. We sent out two sets of surveys with similar questions, one customized to employers, and the other customized to optometry graduates. The surveys measured attitudes and expectations toward the use of social media during work, work motivation, feedback, purpose in the workplace and work hours. The survey also asked students to describe themselves using a set list of adjectives, and asked employers to rate students based on the same list. Finally, the survey asked both groups to rate a list of skills desired in the workplace.
Here are eight common statements about Millennials. Look over the following descriptions, and guess whether each is a myth or fact about Millennials. After you complete the quiz, you’ll find a key with the correct answers, including the findings from our study that explain why each statement is a myth or fact.
Myth or Fact?
1. Millennials seek meaning and purpose in their jobs.
2. Millennials think that it is acceptable to be on their phones and check social media while at work.
3. Millennials are very vocal in providing unsolicited feedback.
4. Millennials demand flexible work hours.
5. Millennials believe that they have experience, and want to be compensated for it.
6. Millennials are less willing to make personal sacrifices to advance their careers.
7. Millennials only want to do the jobs that they are hired for.
8. Millennials have a sense of entitlement, and think everyone should cater to their needs.
1. Fact: Millennials are often characterized as being a purpose-driven generation. In our study, Millennials thought that seeking purpose and meaning in their jobs is significantly more important than employers, confirming the premise that Millennials prefer a meaningful job to a hefty paycheck.
2. Myth: Most Millennials are either digital natives (people raised in a digitally saturated world) or early digital immigrants. It is commonly accepted that technology is a ubiquitous part of these digital natives’ lives, and that their relationship to technology, media, and their devices substantially differ from that of older generations. Both groups agreed that surfing the web while at work should be avoided. Interestingly, employers were more accepting of Millennials checking social media at work and receiving personal phone calls than their Millennial employees. When asked if employers had the right to be annoyed at them for checking social media and receiving phone calls, Millennials agreed more that employers had the right to get annoyed than employers themselves. Millennials, to a large degree, thought that employers have the right to be annoyed at them if they engaged in such behavior.
3. Myth: Millennials are often described as wanting to be heard and being vocal about their thoughts and feelings. When asked if employers should be open to unsolicited feedback, we found that employers were more keen on receiving unsolicited feedback than Millennials were willing to give.
4. Fact: Millennials were significantly more likely to agree that employers should offer flexible work hours than employers. The realities of having to manage a schedule or run a clinic may change their perception in the future, but right out of school, the expectation is clear.
5. Fact: Our study showed that although graduating students believe they have valuable experience that deserves compensation, managers are not so sure. This finding suggests that Millennials might have unrealistic expectations about their expertise and expected compensation coming out of school.
6. Fact: Raised in a culture that values work-life balance, this generation does not typically prioritize work in detriment of their lifestyle. Living busy after-work lives, they manage work and personal interests in such a way that both receive equal attention. Our study suggests that employers show a clear distinction as far as making personal sacrifices to advance their careers when compared to Millennials. When asked about working beyond contractually agreed work hours, both employers and Millennials concur that it should be avoided. However, Millennials were more incisive on expectations to work long hours.
7. Fact: When asked if they should be annoyed for doing work that they were not hired for, Millennials and managers differed in their opinion. Millennials seemed to be more discerning and not so ready to adopt a “do what needs to be done” attitude.
8. Myth: When asked if it was the manager’s responsibility to make them excited about their jobs, Millennials disagreed. Millennials did agree that they must be flexible to adapt to the work environment, and not the other way around.
The good news: Both Millennials and managers saw eye to eye on many statements, including: Millennials should be involved in the decision-making process at work and contribute ideas on how to improve things, and managers should have full trust in them. They also agreed that employers should care about work-life balance, employers should provide opportunities for career progression, and that employees need to be flexible to adapt to the demands of the workplace.
From your own experience, either as a Millennial yourself, or as a co-worker of Millennials in optometry, what have you found to be true of this generation? How can practices make the best use of Millennial strengths, and offset any weaknesses?
Quy H. Nguyen, OD, is director of Career Development and Minority Enrichment at SUNY College of Optometry. To contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org