What Millennials Think of HR
Recently, I had the privilege to lead a leadership session with a group of vibrant, carefree and talented Millennials/Gen Y. This session was organized to further develop future leaders of the organization and to get a snapshot of Millennials/Gen Y view on the impact human resources (HR) has in their organization – precisely what HR actually does and doesn’t do.
As a twenty-year HR leader, myself, and author of four generational books, it is vital for me to understand how Millennials/Gen Y think and feel in the workplace, what their personal and career expectations are and most importantly, what they want out of their HR team.
I started the session by asking the participants what they like and don’t like about HR. These were the answers and the elaboration provided.
1. HR manages payroll on time – we need money to pay bills and fund our lifestyle.
2. HR arranges employee engagement events and activities – we want to connect and have fun at work.
1. HR likes to impose unnecessary policies, rules and regulations – we are humans with feelings, and not just an asset.
2. HR is inclined to see issues only at the micro level – we must “think in and out of the box”.
3. HR is sometimes not transparent – we want transparency.
4. HR has only the company and management’s interests in mind – we work with the company and not for the company.
5. HR is not fair – we want equality and not dissimilarity of practices.
6. HR is like a politician – we want HR leadership of the people, by the people, and for the people.
7. HR is very rigid and ‘calculative’ – we want flexibility.
8. HR must upgrade their people skills – HR = RH; RH means respect humans)
During our “technology” break, I read through my notes. Two likes and eight dislikes. "Wow, they really don’t like HR". I was taken aback at the feedback shared and how frustrated the participants were towards HR’s way of work (they claimed that HR’s current knowledge, skills and aptitude are still not up to the ‘new world of work’ standards).
I could see their dissatisfaction and hear it from the tone of their voices. I guess in their minds, there is nothing that HR can do – HR is simply a follower, not a leader.
I wondered how much they knew about HR…or how little. I needed to find out more about their HR concerns in the workplace.
In order to get the participants’ active involvement for the following session, I decided to forgo the “formal” presentation since I felt they would have rather been on their mobile phones, texting or ‘Instagramming’.
I divided the participants into several groups and asked them to list what they thought HR should do, or could do for the better. The outcome of their presentations are as follows:
1. HR policies
HR should remove all the unnecessary and annoying policies, such as the 5-minute tea break, no eating during working hours, dress-down Fridays, no music during working hours, replacement hours for time taken off, no using Facebook and YouTube during working hours, and other policies that kill employee morale. Replace them with more value-added HR policies that foster productivity and inclusion.
2. Performance appraisal
HR should display the scores for all individuals so that all employees can view them. Employees want transparency and fairness of the appraisal scoring within and outside of their departments, so that they can then seek justification from their superior and/or HR if they find that the scores are too high or too low for certain employees.
Millennials/Gen Y believe that performance reviews can be thought of as a positive interaction between superior-employee, superior-superior, employee-employee, and management-superior-employee, and not a ‘closed door’ exercise.
3. Employment terms
Millennials/Gen Y concurred that working hours should not be confined to the standard 9 am-5 pm. Employees are to be given the flexibility to decide their working hours as long they fulfill the 40-hours-per-week requirement. This also applies to lunch breaks. Employees want to eat lunch at any time they want; they are not willing to starve themselves until they can take a designated lunch hour!
4. Recruitment and selection
Millennials/Gen Y feel they should be invited to join selected interview sessions at the departmental level. They want to ensure the new colleague(s) they will be working alongside are aligned with the personality and culture of the team. This will speed up the on-boarding and socialization process for the new employee.
5. Compensation and benefits
Millennials/Gen Y suggested that increment and bonus rewards should not be solely based on individual performance, but on team performance instead. There should be no more A+, A, B, B-, C or D grading for each employee – they are not labelled products.
Humans do make mistakes; no one is perfect. Besides, the grading of an employee’s performance is often manipulated for office political purposes, namely “appraisal politics.”
6. Training and learning
Millennials/Gen Y are very excited about arranging forums and discussion groups around topics. They enjoy having facilitators who make them think and find solutions. They want to contribute and make changes. Now is the time to unlearn to learn and relearn.
7. HR leadership
Millennials/Gen Y expect HR teams to be more open minded and empathetic, applying the Six Thinking Hats approach when dealing with people issues. They should also be excellent lobbyists and dedicated change advocates.
Stop saying: “This is company policy, so we must …”. Instead, practice saying, “Let me look into that and see what I can do about it.”
There are more points, but I only picked those that I believe are appropriate for my fellow HR practitioners’ (myself included) attention. This activity was not about tackling their dissatisfaction, nor fulfilling their HR wish list, but to understand how future Millennial leaders think and feel their HR teams could make the workplace better.
This feedback provides a glimpse into how Millennials/Gen Y view HR, and I can say that they reflect a bad opinion of HR. How sad and devastating. Unfortunately, bad HR teams do exist out there, but there are also many great HR teams doing their very best.
Why do employees love to hate HR and what can HR do about it? My answer is simple: People don’t hate HR, they only misunderstand HR.
My advice to the HR community: We must be very aware of what’s happening in the people business, be able to take these essentials and translate it into what it means for HR, and then create a plan to implement them. HR’s role is all about educating, helping and developing others.
Before I ended the session, one participant asked me why I chose to work in HR. My reply to her was this: “I’m in HR because I like working with people and helping them achieve their dreams."
Finally, here are three successful HR key words to remember on the go: Agility, Empower, and Engage.
Sherri Elliott-Yeary, SPHR
I help organizations better lead, engage, train, and sell to Millennials and Generation Z. If you’d like help solving tough generational challenges inside your organization, click here.
Sherri Elliott-Yeary, CEO of Generational Guru is an award-winning speaker, professional business consultant, and published author who energetically engages international audiences with her practical strategies for attracting, growing, and retaining top talent and loyal customers from every generation. Sherri brings over twenty years of hands-on experience to support you in designing generational solutions that address:
Cross-Generational Leadership Challenges
Generational Blind Spots in Sales
Effective Recruitment and Retention
Marketing to Millennials
For more information, please contact Sherri via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or text/call her at 469-971-3663.