Millennials in the Workplace

February 17th, 2017

The buzz in business nowadays is the “Millennial Work Ethic”. In most cases, we hear employers and people from the earlier generations turn the word “Millennial” into a derogatory term. All the Millennial memes on the internet are hilarious, but there are not as many postings about trying to understand their behaviors. The gist of all these claims against Millennials are that they are lazy and entitled. However, it may just be that employers and management simply do not understand what motivates them. If you or your company are trying to be more “Millennial-friendly” here are a few things to consider:

Work Environment

This may be the most important because it covers so many things. Millennials respond well to a work environment that allows them to be open and collaborative. Generally, offices with an open-door policy, have offices or cubicles that seem to encourage open communication, a communal area for employees to take a break that looks inviting and comfortable, and/or a place with windows that allow for a lot of sunlight are great for Millennials. Some companies paint the walls interesting colors or encourage their employees to personalize their space, which is a great idea because it promotes creativity. If you allow an employee to make their space more comfortable, they will be more willing to spend time in that space. Natural light promotes happiness and energy within the workplace and the large windows reduce stress and reduce the feeling of claustrophobia. Also affecting the work environment is company dress code. Business Casual is generally preferred amongst Millennials because they can focus their time and energy on producing quality work while remaining comfortable. Ladies, I know that if I were wearing fancy heels and a dress every day, I certainly would be less willing to get up and walk to another desk to get files or information, which would seriously impact my efficiency as an employee.

Bonding and Team Building

As I mentioned, collaboration and communication are incredibly important to Millennials. But the way to really motivate them is by building a bond between employees and management and nurturing that bond consistently. Team building is an essential part of developing an effective and efficient team, but management needs to be part of some team building exercises to promote open conversation and bonding with them as well. If you like your boss, then you have already hit the career jackpot because you trust your manager to take care of you, and you will likewise want to do your best work for them. But it takes effort. A great idea is to get everyone in the company involved with a charity event so they can work together toward a good cause—many Millennials are very passionate about world causes and like to be part of organizations that support them.

Collaboration vs. Competition

The education system within high schools and colleges have turned more toward collaborative projects and assignments, and that is what Millennials are used to. Even if it’s just asking a question around the corner of a cubicle, or creating a group email thread or chatroom so you can bounce ideas off one another and give updates on projects. Communication is key to an efficient team. But there are some team dynamics that function on more of a competitive basis rather than a collaborative one. While it is good to have some friendly competition within a company, too much competition can hinder the progress of the company. Millennials respond much better to the collaborative work environments because it allows for group success. While individual success is always desired, delegating responsibilities to meet a common goal within a team is generally less stressful and can allow for team members to showcase and practice the skills that they are best at. This improves overall efficiency and the individual team members are satisfied because they can feel that they are contributing their best and making a difference.

Schedule Flexibility

While this is largely debated by employers, offering a flexible schedule to Millennials will make them feel more in control of their time and career path. There should be guidelines and if the work is getting done and employees are not abusing the privilege, employees will be more content with their roles. In this advanced technological era, it is so easy to work remotely a couple of days if you are traveling or if you have an appointment scheduled. Some companies also don’t have set “paid time off” allowances and give the employees the ability to manage their own time. This promotes trust and accountability amongst employees and it makes the environment more relaxed. And since Millennials are still due plenty of life experiences, this helps promote a healthy work–life balance.

All in all, Millennials aren’t as bad as the media makes them out to me. The #HowToConfuseAMillennial trend is amusing, but not a universal truth. Millennials are a generation that responds to emotion more than logic—that is not to say that Millennials are not logical, but their motivators are more related to how they feel rather than what others believe are practical. Millennials have a higher graduation rate in Humanities than any other generation before them and all the while are asked “Well, what do you plan on doing with that?”. On a day-to-day basis Millennials in the workplace fight the stereotype of being lazy and entitled, trying to disprove it. Employers and managers should recognize their efforts and provide regular feedback. In terms of feedback techniques, training and not reprimanding a Millennial is the most effective strategy. Other references to Millennials include the “Peter Pan Generation” and the “Boomerang Generation” that intentionally allude to their maturity level (or lack thereof). The Millennials are still young and are still relatively new in the workplace, trying to understand them and mentor them by constant feedback and communication is key.

-Allie Hagg, Executive Recruiting Assistant

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