Members of the Millennial Generation, usually defined as those born between 1976 and 2001, now make up more than a third of the U.S. workforce, and the oldest are beginning to join the ranks of their companies’ executives. As the recovery in real estate continues, the search for executives in construction, development and CRE will increasingly rely on talent from this group. This makes it more important than ever to understand the challenges and mindset of the people who will be tomorrow’s leaders.
A Tough Start
It’s helpful to understand the broader context surrounding millennials’ careers, and for many it’s been pretty grim. In 2010, when unemployment was at its worst, only 54 percent of adults between 18 and 34 were employed. That’s the lowest percentage since 1948 when the U.S. government began collecting the data. What’s more, a Pew study found that nearly half those going to work each day did so in jobs outside their chosen careers just to pay the bills. As such, another survey in 2011 cited by Jessica Brack at the Kenan-Flagler Business School suggested that 70 percent of millennial workers planned to change jobs once the economy improved. Whether that sentiment from three years ago will actually translate into action as the economy gains strength today is anyone’s guess. But it reinforces the need to attract, retain and mentor potential leaders now, as the brutal business conditions that characterized the early years of millennials’ careers have left most with few qualms about leaving a company that doesn’t fulfill their needs.
When professionals talk about catering to millennial employees, much is made about their differing cultural norms, their use of technology and what’s often seen as a lack of humility compared to their older colleagues. These generational differences are real and can potentially create conflicts in the workplace, but research indicates that the most important career traits of millennials go much deeper than wanting to bring their own smartphones to the office. For starters, money is not the only yardstick. Additional research cited by Brack found that 30 percent of millennials valued meaningful work, while only 12 percent of managers felt the same way. Likewise, only 28 percent of millennials said high pay was important, versus half of managers. Many younger workers don’t just want to be rewarded. They want to be engaged and to have the chance to meet new challenges. Part of that often comes from a more prevalent desire for collaboration, rather than solitary work, than might be the case with other generations. Additionally, millennials seem to desire more coaching and feedback than their older co-workers. A survey by Price Waterhouse Coopers found that 51 percent of millennial employees valued frequent, in-the-moment feedback. Rather than a chore, savvy managers can use this feedback to challenge younger employees, encourage hard work and groom exceptional people for leadership. Their generation, after all, does not lack for ambition: 51 percent of millennial women surveyed by PwC and 61 percent of men believe they will be able to rise to the top of their organization.
The Basics Still Matter
When recruiting younger leaders, it’s also important to keep in mind that the most critical aspects of employees’ relationship with the company change little from one generation to the next. As other human resources professionals have pointed out, employees of all ages tend to desire a reasonable balance with obligations at home and a sense of job security. Additionally, millennial employees say they want a degree of respect, transparency and development potential in the workplace – things that tend to be valued by ambitious people across the workforce. As in the past, tomorrow’s leading real estate firms will be those that maintain an open mind and a dedication to professional development for their younger managers today.
Over more than two decades, Christopher Frederick has helped match the talents of executives with leading companies in real estate. Visit our website at www.chrisfred.com where you can find exclusive job listings for real estate professionals and read more about our one-of-a-kind approach to executive recruitment.