Millennials, those born between 1980 and 1999 are now the largest segment of the workforce, surpassing 33% of workers in 2015 according to Pew Research Center. My previous blog made note of the volumes of discussion and writings musing about this key segment of our population. The irony is not lost on this author that I am a parent to three millennials and in that capacity, I am largely lost.
Millennials are the first generation to have grown up in the technology age of smartphones, constant connectivity and the integration of technology and communication into every segment of their lives. It is obvious that this has shaped the way that they interact, but it may be less obvious that the innate tech savvy that millennials have is transforming the workplace beyond their different social and work norms.
Millennials are constantly multitasking, texting and driving! Texting, music, and video games while working or studying may seem to my generation as a distraction, however, we can also appreciate that they have developed uncanny ability to juggle multiple priorities. This is also reflected in the attitudes of the 18-35-year-olds who seek to balance their self-interests, ambitions and work life in a way that WE never thought attainable nor admirable.
This approach results in millennials bringing their personal world's into the workplace and blurring the boundaries that were previously norms. They also seek friendship and comradery in the workplace and environments that do not foster this are one reason that fully two-thirds of them plan to change jobs in two years or less.
Millennials are not lazy and do not lack ambition, they have some differing life goals and they want to be recognized for their achievements, praise is an important component of retention. Baby boomers’ pride in their “work ethic” were nursed on the concept that the more time we put in the office the better employees we are. Despite numerous studies showing that over-worked employees produce less and that completely untethered time off is beneficial, we hold hard to these judgments. Millennials are happy to be judged but wish to be evaluated by their performance and results, not the amount of hours spent at their desks.
The Social aspect of millennials is also reflected in their preferred work environments. Less judgmental and more tolerant, they prefer to work collaboratively in groups. We see companies formalizing agile process and forced collaborative exercises, but these seem stiff and unnatural compared to the ease with which millennials can form a productive pack. It would behoove management to lend them an ear and adapt to this highly useful concept of idea and work sharing.
Returning to technology, the use of high tech is not only highly developed amongst this population, it is their preference. Millennials will attempt to improve on what we see as tried and true methods and will be frustrated if reined in on their efforts to improve efficiency in the workplace.
Millenials are not the future – they are the current reality – highly creative, flexible, tech-savvy, empathetic and community oriented. These are all superb social traits that they wish to translate to the work environment. Forward thinking and successful companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Zappos and others have embraced this and are growing, creating and changing our world at a pace that was unimaginable a short time ago. Keep these virtues in mind and watch as millennials lead you and your organization forward.