Millennials have become one of the most influential demographics among consumers, but they are rapidly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the workplace as well both in terms of talent and as entrepreneurs who are running their own companies. Born between 1980 and 2000, Millennials have only ever experienced rapid change around them so have this as their frame of reference for just about everything in their life. As the largest generation ever at an estimated 92 million in the US – even surpassing Baby Boomers – they are creating some interesting changes to the workplace.
As a Millennial myself and now as an entrepreneur running a payments startup where I have Millennials working for me, I better understand our influence over the work environment and have the dual perspective of being an employee and employer among this generation.
Everything is about balance, control, and collaboration. This is a group that has grown up with more freedom and choice than any other generation, so there is no recognition or relevance in traditional roles, structures, or guidelines that govern their behavior. They like to decide what works best for them but are willing to work with others on certain things like solving problems and creating success for everyone.
Work-life balance is more important to Millennials than any other group and they don’t feel guilty about putting their lives ahead of their work. While many see this behavior as somewhat entitled, the result has not necessarily been a generation of lazy people. If anything, the balance between life and work has led to more innovation and focus on disruptive ideas that have driven significant change across industries.
When it comes to their jobs, Millennials are not the most loyal breed of employees. But, can you blame them when they grew up watching their parents lose their jobs and saw that organizations were not necessarily loyal?
According to The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016,
“Forty-four percent of Millennials say, if given the choice, they would like to leave their current employers in the next two years. A perceived lack of leadership-skill development and feelings of being overlooked are compounded by larger issues around work/life balance, the desire for flexibility, and a conflict of values.”
Organizations need to pay attention to this sensibility that has Millennials putting one foot firmly out the door. If they want to hang onto this talent, these organizations must make changes that take away this sense of neglect.
Despite what may seem like an unorthodox philosophy, Millennials are actually in some ways more traditional when it comes to their sense of values than even other generations. These sense of values like transparency, collaboration, communication and honesty drive their decision-making, including what type of assignments they are willing to take and where they are willing to work. Many millennials appreciate companies that offer opportunities to learn and grow their current abilities. Even more influential is their desire to change the philosophy of the organizations they work for, holding them more accountable to social consciousness and the ability to do good for others and the communities around them.
The beliefs of Millennials are also having a physical transformation on the working environment, including the tools and processes being used that have been part of operations for years. For example, Millennials are not followers of email and don’t like dealing with it as a communication form. That’s not to say that they aren’t willing to communicate; they just want to use different tools like instant messaging, chat tools like Slack, customer service software, and project management platforms. These tools are quick and to the point as well as collaborative so they can get it done and move on rather than create an inefficient, tedious message trail and fill up an in-box full of messages.
With the need for more collaboration and flexible working space that provides a less stressful environment as well as one conducive to creativity, office spaces are changing. That means the end of cubicles and divided up spaces that promoted silos, separation, and hierarchy. Instead, there are open areas for more interaction and focus on the community.
Because of the focus on work-life balance among Millennials, office hours are no longer a rule but more of a suggestion. Instead, it’s about working remotely where possible and in-between other events like the gym, lunches with friends, errands, or quality time with the kids. Thanks to technology and growing acceptance with companies, these flexible schedules are becoming commonplace and actually helping increase productivity and motivation while decreasing absenteeism.
What Organizations Can Do to Win Millennials Over
In addition to making the operational changes and incorporating the philosophical aspects into the organizational culture that lead to this ideal work environment, companies can do other things to win over this talent and retain them. I’ve implemented things that I believe fit this philosophy as well as taken suggestions from other Millennials about what they feel would help them. Since Millennials want to feel in control of their careers, I have offered mentorships and strategies that give them professional and personal developmental opportunities to take the lead in how they climb their ladders. Most millennials love this but want to make sure they dictate the future, not others. Not always the case.
I also don’t use traditional meetings but prefer to have short conversations with small groups, using chat technology or even walking breaks where we chat casually. I also show them that the organization has a purpose that goes beyond profit by conceptualizing and implementing more socially conscious strategies that are designed to promote the greater good. Many of our activities are directed toward social consciousness, including greater diversity, fair pricing, and participation in philanthropic and volunteer activities. The result has been to retain numerous Millennial staff well beyond their two-year lifespan before moving on to other companies.
John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor, online marketing guru and startup enthusiast. He is founder of the online invoicing company Due. John is best known as an entrepreneur and connector. He was recently named #2 on Top 50 Online Influencers in the World by Entrepreneur Magazine and a blogging expert by Time. He currently advises several companies in the San Francisco Bay area.