By Dr. Jim DeLung
The Millennial Generation is defined as a cohort of individuals born since 1980 (Barford & Hester, 2011; Crumpacker & Crumpacker, 2007; Howe & Struass in Balda & Mora, 2011). They are the latest generation impacting the workforce to include America’s police departments. Researching the most recent generation of employees affecting the workplace is not unique, but identifying the root causes of workplace satisfaction in policing through the Millennial voice is necessary for high customer service and retention (White & Escobar, 2008).
Contemporary literature supports the proposition that Millennial employees behave differently in the workplace, but most employers apparently fail to integrate the needs of successive generations (Behrens, 2009). Before even being hired, traditional thinking in policing instructs new employees to adapt to the existing organizational technology and culture or go away (Greengard, 2011).
This workplace model is usually supported by police-themed television and movie culture, and it does not provide the best satisfactory workplace environment for high-speed Millennials yet to be immersed in the police culture. Creating the best environment for Millennials to want to become police officers and use their natural talents will increase workplace satisfaction and retention (Altes, 2009, Crumpacker & Crumpacker, 2007, Ekblad & Hathaway, 2010, Ferri-Reed, 2010, Siegfried, 2008).
Barford & Hester (2011) explained the work attitudes of Millennial employees are consistently compared to the two previous generations in the workplace; Baby Boomers and Generation X. The authors stated it is incumbent upon the leaders of the two older generations to provide the necessary workplace environment for their youngest employees to not only succeed but thrive.
As discussed earlier, Millennial employees viewed workplace responsibilities and compensation as lower factors for job satisfaction with personal and professional advancement potential and free time as higher factors. This workplace attitude is clearly different than Baby Boomers and Generation X. The common and rigid, rules-laden, command and control workplace currently in policing and legislated by the Baby Boomers and Generation X leaders does not necessarily satisfy Millennial employees.
Millennial strengths and values
The Pew Research Center (2010) published a study which identified specific Millennial Generation values, attitudes, and experiences. Technologically proficient, constantly connected to social groups through the internet, and highly educated describes this latest generation of employees (Taylor & Keeter, 2010).
When compared to Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board’s standards for educational requirements, the Millennial Generation generally exceeds the minimum qualifications of high school diploma or general equivalency diploma with some college (AZPOST, 2013).
Barford and Hester (2011) suggested government work may present too few workplace opportunities and promotions, therefore failing to fully engage Millennials. The authors also stated Millennials may simply be bored with their current level of responsibility provided by their government jobs. Workplace challenges and genuinely solicited input are important to maintain Millennial employee engagement.
Wanting to be heard
A much higher level of flexibility when communicating to bosses and a valid voice heard in the workplace is a Millennial assertion (Kaifi et al., 2012). Millennials wish their voices to be heard by their bosses as well as their teammates as factors for workplace satisfaction (Ekblad & Hathaway, 2010). Employers are willing to advertise, recruit, hire and train Millennial employees, yet appear unwilling to place them on committees or allow them organizational input. Therefore, the best talent is not always retained in organizations due to overly-stringent government workplace polices (Kane, 2011).
Every Millennial-aged officer can be a leader in their organization to help propel workplace satisfaction of their peers (World Future Society, 2007). The Millennial Generation may have to take the lead in making workplace changes to provide the most satisfying workplace environment rather than waiting for current managers to act. These implications were acknowledged in this research through identification of Millennial workplace satisfiers and motivators.
Millennials rank benefits, praise/recognition, personal happiness as well as flexibility high for job satisfaction, and it should be noted that job security ranks at the bottom of their list (Trulock, 2011). Due to the recent blending of the industrial and mechanized era with the computerized information age, choices of contemporary American industries are plentiful for Millennials. Police leaders must be aware of the motivators for Millennial-aged employees, as Millennials today have choices of employers as well as industries to provide the job satisfaction they seek.
Police organizations are not just competing for Millennial-aged employees with other police agencies. Millennials are willing to look across multiple industries to identify the employer and industry that meets their workplace satisfaction needs. Hira (2007) reported that Millennials have no reservations about quitting a job that does not satisfy their list of needs and moving back home with their parents to search for another job. There appears to be no stigma associated with such a decision for the Millennial Generation.
Savvy with technology
Technology is one of the great satisfaction dividers between Millennials and other generational cohorts. About 75% of Millennials are connected to the internet every day, while only 40% Baby Boomers tune in as often (Taylor & Keeter, 2010). The constant use of mobile cellular technology can be a point of contention for Millennials and their older bosses. The overwhelming majority of Millennials prefer to communicate via text messaging at 87% (Cekada, 2012) and they often prefer to only communicate in this manner.
This communication divergence can cause organizational conflict that leaders must better comprehend for organizational effectiveness. Technological communication in the workplace must be further researched to identify workplace behaviors and tools to improve communication and satisfaction.
The technological, external hygiene factors for Millennials in the workplace are plenty. Because Millennials were raised during the digital age, they have a unique and competitive edge with contemporary communication and computing (Kaifi et al., 2012). Technology often increases the speed of decisions and deliverables, and this quickened pace can often result in Millennial employees appearing to be impatient and unsatisfied to older generations (Bannon, Ford, & Meltzer, 2011; Johnson 2011).
The advanced technological skill of Millennials sets them apart from previous generations in the workplace, but exists to support high job satisfaction. Proactive organizational leaders could blend technology ideas from Millennial employees in communication decision-making and budgets.
Millennials also enjoy working in teams as a job-context hygiene factor. Millennial employees have most likely been placed in team atmospheres by their parents their entire lives to this point. Working together to problem-solve has been the main learning point of their schooling, sports and extracurricular activities.
Therefore, Millennials tend to look down upon the individualistic cut-throat political and bureaucratic rigor of the previous generations (Emeagwali, 2011). The author stated Millennials prefer workplace collaboration to the compromise of politics.
Personal style and attire
A more relaxed dress and workplace atmosphere are highly desired by Millennials (Welsh & Brazina, 2010) through dressed down work days or more relaxed work uniforms. A quick look at the laidback workplace environments of Google, Red Bull, Facebook and Zappos reveal employers very well known to Millennials who offer extremely informal workplace environments (Dunlap, 2014). Paramilitaristic workplaces may have to reexamine their utilitarian dress code to attract and maintain highly satisfied Millennial-aged police employees.
Some intrinsic workplace motivators for Millennials also exist. Johnson (2011) interviewed Millennial employees and discovered new information. Millennials embraced social networking as they appear always plugged in and using the latest technology. They strive for self-improvement and advancement through employer-provided training, and they want to reach their career goals much faster than previous generations. This is often interpreted as impatience and entitlement to older generations of bosses and coworkers.
A work-life balance is also mandatory for Millennials. Work and the environment must be fun. They expect to work collaboratively with their bosses rather than just for their bosses, which can be a challenge for some older generation leaders. All of the extrinsic factors and intrinsic motivators for Millennial-aged employees are important for organizational leaders to know, because research indicates employees in their twenties can be expected to stay in one position for just 1.1 years (Johnson, 2011). This high-level of turnover will negatively affect organizations through budgets and reduced customer service unless transformational leaders identify the issues and make the appropriate adjustments.
Author: "Hellofa motivator!" - Dr. Jim DeLung is currently serving with pride as the CEO of DeLung International at DeLung.com, a professional leadership and organizational development firm. As a successful private entrepreneur and public-sector leader, Dr. DeLung utilizes his education and experience for effective leadership and inspiration to organizations through interactive, adult-oriented training programs. More information available at www.DeLung.com