Millennial Myths & the Call Center

By Colin Taylor

I read an interesting article by Jennifer J Deal at strategy+business looking at five myths we hold about Millennials. For the past number of years we have all heard horror stories about organizations that gave away iPads, spot bonuses, socially conscious and social responsible activities, but still had staff leave for greener pastures. This point has been used time and again to characterize the lack of loyalty that Millennials are supposed to posses, which makes hiring and retaining them difficult.

Call centers I know of have changed their mobile phone policies to allow millennials to have the phones on and with them at their desks and they are free to check facebook or twitter between calls. These same centers often speak of millennials feeling entitled to the fast track to easy street, their lack of interest in their work and difficultly managing them.

This all fits well with our stereotypes and our expectations around millennials, but it may be all wrong. The article cites research involving thousands of respondents and dashs five of the major millennial myths completely.

Conventional wisdom would have it that Millennials don’t want to be told what to do or follow direction. The research (Center for Creative Leadership) however shows that Millennials are more likely to follow direction than are Gen Xers or Baby Boomers. 41% of Millennials agreed with a statement that Employees should do what their Manager tells them, versus only 30% for each the Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. If you think about this the results really are not too surprising, Millennials know that following direction from authority figures often ends well (at least it has done so often for most of us a children). This perspective on Millennials also creates an opportunity to engage with these individuals by ensuring they understand and appreciate the organizations culture, values and expectations.

Myths also surround Millennial loyalty or perceived lack there of, but the research shows that Millennials have a similar level of loyalty and commitment as Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. It is a fact that younger workers tend to change jobs more frequently, even the Baby Boomers were guilty of this. This ‘young age = job hopping’ was even true when jobs were often perceived to be for life.

Similarly Millennials are just as motivated as their Gen X and Baby Boomer predecessors were by work. As with job hopping above the lower you are in the hierarchy regardless of your generation the less motivated you will be.

There is no link between your generation and you motivation by perks and high pay. Everyone loves perks and who wouldn’t want high pay, but neither of these attributes is unique to Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers display the same behavior and there is no evidence in the research to show these perks improve loyalty regardless of age.

So what does this mean to you in managing your call center? Well first of all I think you can lose the generational labels. Increasingly Millennials look just the same as you and I, only younger. Second forget trying to attract them with the perceived hot-buttons around perks, toys and special treatment. Nothing the research shows that these tactics work. the ability to take direct is one area where Millennials perform better than Gen X or Baby Boomer workers and this provides you with a great opportunity to share what your company is about and to show them how they make a difference. Be specific with how they will be judged and assessed and what you expect of them. Transparency is also valued by workers of every generation and Millennials are no different. So be open, transparent and specific about what they are to do and what you expect them to achieve and you can be well on your way to a successful working relationship.

2 thoughts on “Millennial Myths & the Call Center

  1. Push that Agent from the Nest! | says:

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  2. Turhan Hunt says:

    This article has some useful observations. I would add that in addition to the points in the article, in my call center experience managing Gen x and Millennials, it is helpful to explain the “why” behind management initiatives or training. Many younger employees are more motivated and committed to changes, policies, or directives if they understand the overall strategy, and how their efforts fit into then.

    In addition, being open to feedback and ideas from them also makes them feel more integrated into the organization.


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