In 2014, Millennials officially became the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. As Baby Boomers continue to retire over the next 5 years, Millennials in the workforce are expected to grow by 30%. As such, organizations will have no choice but to adapt to meet the needs of this generation of workers as their numbers increase over the coming decade.
While articles continue to question the leadership skills and values of Gen Y, research actually shows that they have more in common with older generations than they usually get credit for. Unlike Boomers, however, Millennials don’t expect their entire careers to revolve around one organization — and this is where the major shift in the US job landscape will derive from.
As more Millennials take managerial positions, differences have become more noticeable. Rosemary Haefner, Vice president of Human Resources at CareerBuilder, says,
“While the tenets of successful management are consistent across generations, there are subtle differences in work habits and views that all workers must empathize with when working with or managing someone who’s much different in age.”
For companies to attract (and retain) top talent in their industries, they are going to have to get competitive and cater to the Millennial workforce.
How Millennials Prefer Work
Understanding how Millennials prefer to work and what they value most is key to creating an environment in which they will thrive:
Communication: Millennials have a natural aptitude for electronic forms of communication. They like to interact using quick and efficient methods of communication, like email and text, rather than phone calls. However, Boomers and Millennials are nearly the same in terms of favoring face-to-face discussions. A study conducted by CareerBuilder found that while those aged 55+ favored face-to-face communication by 60 percent, those aged 25 to 34 favored it by 55 percent.
Feedback: Given that Millennials seem to favor in-person communication over all else, it may not be so surprising that they also value interactive feedback. Collaboration is at the core of how Millennials prefer to work. Having an active discussion regarding feedback gives them the opportunity to present their views and ideas, which they feel allows them to produce better results and work more efficiently.
Company Culture: Millennials work well with diverse co-workers, and place a high priority on workplace culture. They also dislike the top-down leadership style that is dominant in corporate culture, preferring instead to collaborate in teams to accomplish the goal more efficiently.
Work-Life Flexibility: Regardless of the reward, many Millennial employees are unconvinced that excessive work demands are worth the sacrifices to their personal life. Flexibility between their work and personal life is a key priority for them, and many are unwilling to commit to career demands that might impact negatively on family life. However, don’t assume that Millennials won’t get the work done and put in the hours. Their idea of “work-life balance” is more about flexibility, which is a key difference from the Boomer generation.
As Lauren Friese and Cassandra Jowett of TalentEgg wrote, “The term “work-life balance” implies an equal amount of one and then the other; a separation. Boomers are obsessed with finding work-life balance and, as a result, many prefer to disconnect completely from work when they’re not in the office.”
But Millennials are a different story.
“Used to working anywhere, everywhere and any time of day or night on their laptops, tablets and smartphones, millennials won’t be satisfied to just punch in and sit at a desk from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday.”
The Mobile Office: Because of this, Millennials are motivated by flexibility in their work schedules. With smartphones, tablets and laptops at their fingertips, they are used to working from anywhere and at any time of day or night. They readily shun ‘9 to 5’ cubicle lifestyle in exchange for flexible hours that will allow them to start the work day later, or put in time at night when necessary. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to work: 43 percent of Millennials believe they should arrive earlier than 8 a.m. to the office, while only 38 percent believe they should leave by 5 p.m.
How Organizations Can Work Successfully With Millennials
In 15-20 years, the last of the boomers will reach retirement age and Millennials will take up leadership positions in corporate boardrooms. These young managers and CEOs will be making sweeping changes to the way organizations and their people work, encouraging telecommuting, flexible schedules and reducing worker commute times. Guided by their own experiences, they will also place a high value on increasing employee engagement and job satisfaction.
In the meantime, there are a number of key considerations organizations should take into account to encourage peak performance from Millennials in the office. The company should:
- Create a flexible work culture: Valuing work-life balance means Millennials may be in and out of the office, and making their own hours to get work done. Allow for some flexibility in schedule and perhaps even the ability to work from home. Provide different collaboration and quiet areas in your office to make working in the office more enjoyable.
- Leverage technology: Especially when it comes to communication, Gen Y prefers technology that will allow them to work more efficiently. Video calls and programs that help with employee collaboration will top the list.
- Build a sense of community: Millennials want to feel apart of something. Company culture is extremely important to them. Engage employees through non-work activities and build a strong values system for your organization to provide a group identity.
- Increase transparency on career decisions, compensation and rewards: 61 percent of Millennials believe they should be promoted every 2-3 years if they are doing a good job. Part of that is establishing channels of open communication to set expectations of Gen Y employees, while providing them with a roadmap of how to get to where they want to be.
With Millennials set to make up the majority of their employees, organizations will have to learn how to recruit, grow and retain these workers. More importantly, they will need to invest in engagement strategies that tie in with employees’ intrinsic motivation. If not, talented millennials will use their tech savvy, social media, and networking skills to move on to better opportunities.