‘Just who really are the millennials in the workforce?’, asks Workvivo’s Sarah Ryan.
We hear about Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers all the time. These terms are really just social constructs used to describe generations from back in the 1920s up to the present day.
The Pew Research Center provides more structure to these nicknames with guidelines that establishes where each generation belongs depending on birth year. This is what they’ve come up with.
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- The Silent Generation: Born 1928-1945
- Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964
- Generation X: Born 1965-1980
- Millennials: Born 1981-1996
- Post-Millennials / Generation Z: Born 1997-Present
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, millennials will form 75% of the workforce by 2030.
Given this significant influx of what is a radically new and different generation entering (and leading) the workforce, we thought it was worth spending some time looking at what makes millennials different, and how employee communication and engagement dynamics must adapt to acquire and retain this talent.
Millennials At Work: How Are Millennials Different Compared To Other Generations?
Millennials change the way work gets done because they value teamwork and technology in a way no other generation previously has. Most importantly from an engagement perspective, their social mindset is different. 70% of millennials say that giving back and being engaged in society are their highest priorities.
This is the generation born during the age of the Internet. Naturally, they feel more at home using it. Not only are millennials more tech-savvy, but they’re used to being almost continuously connected to the Internet. Many would find it difficult to recall a world before the Internet and have always had a cell phone nearby.
As a result, millennials, regardless of their location, value flexibility, openness and instant connectivity. They aren’t used to having constraints and being restricted when it comes to using technology.
Millennials have grown up in a time when they can instantly find any information they need with a few clicks; instantly finding answers to myriad questions. As a result, millennials crave instant knowledge and tend to be more creative as a result of attaining it.
Millennials are interested in getting frequent feedback on their performance. They find the traditional semi-annual reviews too infrequent and inconsistent.
Importantly, employers must provide feedback in a way that engages millennials, encouraging them to optimize their performance.
However, one-way feedback isn’t enough. They need guidance on the exact areas of their work that they can improve on. Feedback needs to be well-organized, so it leaves no room for misunderstanding.
This requires a clear, specific, and straightforward approach to feedback in order to make maximize its effectiveness at influencing employees and improving their workplace results.
Millennials In The Workplace Are Hard-Working and Have High Expectations
Millennials are inherently more creative and are eager to share ideas and contribute to areas of the business not directly in line with their own role. They are demotivated by boring and repetitive work. They prefer a flexible working place. One that will enable them to have a life outside of work and fulfill both their personal and professional commitments.
They are quite motivated and are willing to work long hours as long as their work is engaging. They want to contribute to their organization and move up the ladder quickly.
What can you do about it?
- Engage millennials in your workplace, so they are more motivated to be productive.
- Encourage your employees to speak up and express their creativity.
- Improve communication channels in your workplace so everyone has the ability to easily share and contribute.
Millennials In The Workplace Want To BE Good & DO Good
Millennials value work that both positively contributes to society and rewards them for their efforts, while simultaneously having the opportunity to learn and grow.
What can you do about it?
- Pay millennials what they are worth and provide them with growth opportunities
- Make sure they know how your business has a positive impact on society
- Let them know how their work directly influences the company
Millennials In The Workplace Are Tech-Savvy
Millennials are very friendly with technology. They grew up using it, as toddlers, as school kids and now as employees – it has become part of their everyday lives. On entering the workforce there will be an assumption that technology will be an integral part of how they do their job; how they communicate and collaborate with others within and outside of the business.
What can you do about it?
- Make technology part of your internal communications plan
- Provide some flexibility in the technologies used by millennials (e.g. provide a robust BYOD policy)
- Provide guidance on the corporate applications to be used for the right activity (e.g. Slack for temporal communications, Zoom for video conferencing etc)
Work Ethic: Millennials Are Committed To Their Work
Studies show that millennials are committed. If they are getting what they want, the chances that they will leave a workplace are very slim. More often than not, they want to move up in the organization’s hierarchy.
One of the determining factors in whether a millennial has high commitment, job satisfaction and workplace engagement, is their sense of community at the workplace.
However, being committed is not the same as being blindly loyal. Millennials are always assessing whether or not they have better options on the horizon.
What can you do about it?
- Provide them with a flexible workload.
- Help them improve their work-life
- Encourage millennials to move up in the organization.
- Provide them with opportunities to make friends at your workplace.
- Use a communication tool that provides a community-based experience
What Do Millennials Think About Work?
Currently, millennials are the largest generation of active workers. Studies show that millennials identify their strengths as optimism, willingness to work long hours, and a multi-tasking ability.
Baby boomers grew up in the age of large corporate organizations that lacked highly communicative and flexible working structures.
Compared to baby boomers, millennials have a drastically different outlook on their work. They are communicative, tech-savvy, self-confident, and they have plenty of creative energy. Millennials have very high expectations for themselves and prefer to work in teams. While millennials seek growth and challenges, their work-life balance is of equal importance to them.
Most millennials have high social intelligence and realize that older, more mature colleagues might see their desires for social interactions, fast results, and quick advancements as weaknesses.
Millennials are the largest group to emerge since the baby boomers, and they will account for a significant portion of the workforce in the next 20 years.
Naturally, this means that the workplace dynamic everywhere is going to shift.
How are Millennials Changing the Workforce?
Millennials are often referred to as called the “snowflake generation”, with a reputation for being lazy and uninspired. However, this is simply not true. Wherever you look, millennials are making massive transformations in businesses – especially as they move into leadership positions.
There is a powerful emerging shift from customer-centric to employee-centric experiences in most progressive companies today. Gone are the days where you could attract the best candidates with compensation packages and promotions. Now, the focus must be on the development of your employees and their work-life balance.
Companies that don’t adapt to this trend will be losing their top talent. Today’s work environment has changed. Compared to other generations, millennials won’t settle for offices with hundreds of lifeless and uninspiring cubes. They are reshaping the current work environment – and quickly.
1. Millennials Are Using More Tech In The Workplace
According to Gartner, almost 40% of millennials say that they have the latest personal electronic device and interacts with a such a device nearly 80 times a day.
The new leaders of the future are using their creativity to stay ahead of the curve by discovering new methodologies for completing tasks and automating business processes. They want employers to adopt a smoother, more straightforward working process.
Many companies can benefit from joining the tech revolution. They will save time and money, creating a better experience for both their clients and their employees. In addition, by staying ahead of the curve, they enable their employees to constantly develop new skill sets.
This is a great way to secure your company’s long-term growth – by retaining your top talent.
2. Millennials Believe Working From Home Is a Must – Not A Plus
While millennials still enjoy traditional benefits such as 401Ks and health insurance, they also prefer the flexibility of remote work. Yahoo implemented a remote work policy early on, however, in 2013, their CEO required all remote workers to work in the office. This did not have a positive impact on the company, and Verizon bought them out in 2017.
SHRM reports that millennials won’t even consider a job if it doesn’t offer the option of remote work. That means that the new challenge that businesses face is keeping their remote workers engaged and maintaining productive relationships. Every company must have a strategy in place to make employees feel like a part of the team, making remote workers more motivated, productive, and communicative.
Interestingly, millennial managers have increased the use of freelancers in the past few years, pursuing increases in company productivity and cost-efficiency.
3. Millennials Change The CEO Stereotype
Millennial leaders show little interest in the idea of an imposing, almost untouchable CEO. Instead, they value characteristics such as humility, openness, and constant learning. They think highly of people who have the self-awareness to recognize both their strengths and weaknesses.
Airbnb’s CEO, Brian Chesky, is known for always looking for new ways he can improve his personal skills and his company. He says his drive for constant learning is motivated by his lack of business training.
Brian D Evans, millennial, and Forbes’ #7 marketing influencer in the world often states that he never stopped being a student. Instead of believing he is a master of something, he focuses on discovering new ideas and techniques so he can constantly improve himself and his leadership skills.
Millennials realize the importance of demonstrating soft skills like emotional intelligence. They value them more than industry expertise or domain knowledge.
Gerard Adams, a millennial and one of the cofounders of Elite Daily, is a good example of this. After selling his media company to the Daily Mail in 2015, he started Fownders, a startup accelerator company. Fownders helps its entrepreneurs improve soft skills such as emotional intelligence, mindset, and teamwork.
This happens before they start teaching more technical skills like testing, digital marketing, and product deployment.
Gerard says: “We consider ourselves more of a ‘human accelerator.’ Every day, we’re working on you as a human being, really bringing that personal development aspect to our curriculum.”
4. Millennials Desire More Collaboration and Flexibility At Work
Millennial leaders love to question company policy. They want both the leadership and the employees to examine and adjust policies if they no longer add value. For instance, Spotify structured their organization around this simple principle……
They began using the Scrum framework for effective team collaboration on complex products. As the company grew, they found that some aspects of the Scrum framework aren’t working as well as they wanted. Therefore, they removed them and designed a new structure they called ‘Squads.’
Millennial leaders find typical hierarchical corporate structures very limiting compared to flat organizations. These organizations allow individuals to learn and grow constantly, following non-traditional paths.
75% of millennials say that a successful business should be flexible and not enforce a rigid structure on its employees.
Another benefit of flat hierarchies is that they enable leaders to stay familiar with the challenges of their employees. As a result, they can incorporate their thoughts and experiences and make better decisions.
5. Millennials Empower Others In The Workforce
Millennials prefer to have collective leadership in their workplace. They believe that true leaders empower others. Peter Cashmore, founder of the digital media company Mashable says: “The talent that has to be learned is finding out what someone’s passion is and setting them up to realize it. You don’t get the best work from people if you’re guiding them versus them guiding themselves.”
Michelle Phan, a YouTube blogger and founder of the subscription service Ipsy, uses her influence to help others follow her footsteps. Same as Gerard Adams, she offers free resources to help the developing future stars.
You can see that young millennial leaders are focused more on helping others than working for their paycheck. They find meaning in their work by giving opportunities to more and more people.
6. Millennials in the Workplace Have Aligned Work and Life Values
Millennial leaders are transforming the workplace because they seek purpose in the organizations they work for, without sacrificing their life outside of work. They build their companies around passion and social purpose while work-life balance is still of high priority. The company’s ability to prioritize social value over financial value is crucial.
In fact, a recent study found that millennials are the most socially conscious generation since the 1960s. They believe that successful businesses have a genuine purpose that resonates with people.
We can anticipate even more transformations in the current workforce as millennials continue to take on more management and leadership roles. They want to do productive, creative, and meaningful work. Work that allows them to express their views, creativity, and passion while giving them the freedom to communicate with their peers on a human-to-human level.
Millennials value freedom, communication, and social intelligence. If your organization does not personify these values, it will be difficult for you to attract the new age of employees.