From the Inside: September/October 2016
I've been talking to a lot of people about hiring Millennial developers again. It goes back to the whole "The Millennials are Coming" and "How to Keep Them" questions that we talked about at the 2016 Conference.
I seem to have a different perspective than most people about working with Millennials. It may help that my younger brother is actually a Millennial, and I have to work with him quite a bit. He is also in the same boat as many of you: a Millennial that is hiring and managing other Millennials, but also having to manage Gen-X and a few Baby Boomers. This makes for some interesting conversations between him and me sometimes.
Technology, to Millennials, is like breathing. They didn't watch it evolve, or help it evolve. It just always was there. Most people outside of this generation still remember when cell phone calls were charged by the minutes, and data plans didn't exist. We remember paying for every call made on the house phone. Some of them have never used the term "house phone."
We weren't always connected to people, to data, and to social media. We didn't have alternatives to in-person meetings and social events - aside from conference calls. Millennials, however, always had this connectivity through technologies. They are always talking with each other through their IMs, social media posts, group chats, and other means. They always know what the others in their group are doing, and they work in a group out of habit. This is common place for them.
Many hold the perception that phone calls are a burden, and daily meetings are a waste of time, because they already know what's going on. This is different than the Boomers, who are more likely to work independently on tasks and then go to meetings to update everyone on what they are doing or have completed.
Millennials Want Freedom
Boomers tend toward structure, controls, and discipline. Gen-Xers also have a tendency to follow along with these ideals as well; or at least don't have issues with them. While Boomers tend to be workaholics, Gen-Xers like the freedom to come and go as needed. They are still willing to put in their eight or nine hours, as long as they can pick which eight or nine hours of the day it is.
Millennials tend to want to conform to a specific start time and to a specific end time. If they have been told that their days ends at 5 o'clock, then regardless if they have reached their 8 hours for the day, they are done with their work day. They are ready to move on to experience life. Many Millennials tend to view work as a necessary evil that is required in order to spend time experiencing life.
Many Millennials view "Experiencing Life" as their primary accomplishment, instead of the sense of accomplishment that Gen-Xs and Boomers have when they "complete" a project.
A partial antidote is to offer them some flexibility in their schedule, but very specific start and end times, to help them plan. This will often leave them more open to schedules beyond the standard 9-5.
The Line Between Millennials and Technology is Blurry
I mention this above, but I need to point this out again: Millennials are highly connected to technology. It's comfortable, well known, and they have the idea that they know everything there is to know about it. It isn't a thing they use so much as it is an extension of themselves.
While we've grown up expecting that expertise is something we earn, they see ease of use as the developer's obligation. Their idea of technology is shaped by the cell phone, Excel, Outlook, and Mac. This leads to the expectation that software shouldn't require training. It should be intuitive and pretty. While I would agree with them - ideally software and technology should be all these things - that is just not the case for business systems. Business systems have evolved into being bulky, clunky, and cranky. This often offends Millennials. They see it as a problem. And they will try to bypass it.
Since they "know technology," they will not think twice about doing this bypass to make their job easier. They will not understand why IT is telling them they can't. After all, if they can make it work like a cell phone app, which is better than the clunky business system, what's the problem?
If you don't accommodate, or understand these ideas, then you may find high turnover until you find people that are willing to do it your way. If you provide for these considerations, then you are likely to find Millennials hanging around longer, and easier work with.