By Deanna Arnold, president, Employers Advantage LLC
If you ask anyone in the workforce, particularly managers or business owners, what their thoughts are about working with Millennials (also known as Gen Y, and whose birth years range from 1980 to 2000), I can guarantee that they’ll have something to say. It seems to be a hot topic of discussion these days as Millennials are having a big impact on the workplace, how companies do business and how they attract and retain employees.
We are in a unique time because there are four generations in the workforce, and they all have different ideas of what work and the workplace should be, which can be tough to manage for any business owner or manager. Up until recently, the Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) have primarily dominated the workforce and created the “standard” as to what’s expected from their employers, from themselves as employees and their co-workers.
However, it’s estimated that as early as next year there will be more Millennials in the workplace than Baby Boomers, which completely changes the dynamic of the workforce to this point, which isn’t a bad thing. Millennials seem to get a bad rap from the other generations, but just like the generations before them, they are products of the world in which they grew up and how they were raised, which transfers into their work lives.
It just so happens that technology has boomed and become more sophisticated during the years that this generation has been around, which has shaped them and what they know as their “norm.” Millennials grew up with advanced technology, mobile technology, real-time data and social networking, so that’s what they know and therefore expect to see from their employer.
Here’s an overview of some of those expectations.
Flexibility. Whether it’s flexibility with their schedule, or being able to make the choices that best fit their needs, Millennials know there is more than one way to get things done. The flexibility to work in the office or remotely from home is something that’s becoming more standard. There is an expectation to be able to work from home because the technology exists to allow it. And while this won’t work in your place of business, keep these expectations in mind as you think of other “flexible” options you can offer.
Technology and innovation. Whether it’s being able to work remotely, being mobile with apps or having self-service capabilities, Millennials look for companies that have the technology to support the efficient operation of the business, as well as innovative ideas and the “ahead of the curve” mentality on up and coming technology.
Immediate and straightforward feedback. Living in a world of instant and 140-character responses in the various forms of likes, comments, retweets and favorites, immediate feedback is essential to professional growth as well as establishing a solid working relationship. Millennials want to learn, grow and have someone guide them through their careers. This is also a good reason to eliminate annual performance reviews and incorporate real-time feedback into your company culture.
Collaboration. Social networking, constant adult guidance and playing on a sports team that doesn’t identify winners and losers transfers the desire for collaboration into the workplace. Working on teams and with mentors to be a part of something big is important to this generation. Also, they see everyone as a peer and an equal in their efforts to collaborate, rather than seeing an organizational hierarchy. Time to break down some barriers.
Blend of work life and personal life. There isn’t a clear line for Millennials between work and personal life because they are so mobile and technology-driven that everything in their lives can be managed at the same time. They will manage their personal business during what most would consider standard business hours, while also knowing they are available during non-standard business hours for work purposes.
Strong values and company culture. Working for a company that has a strong culture and values that they believe in is important to the Millennials, and every other generation for that matter. The difference with this generation is that they use their network and resources to find the companies that they want to work for, rather than finding a job that they want to be in.
That’s why it’s important for companies to have a strong brand, be active in giving back to their communities, focus on training, treating people with respect and doing the right thing. Otherwise, the employees will go somewhere else and tell the people in their network all about what it was like to work somewhere that didn’t treat them right. This workforce wants an experience with their career, not a job with a gold watch after 25 years.
The bottom line is companies can’t continue to recruit, retain and manage their workforce with the mindset that was commonplace 20 years ago. Company owners, managers and directors need to understand the predispositions, preferences and expectations of Millennials, and then help them channel those attributes into workplace contributions that will help foster its success, as well as theirs.
Deanna Arnold, PHR, is the president and owner of Cornelius, N.C.-based Employers Advantage LLC, which provides practical business solutions in all aspects of human resources, including but not limited to, recruiting, benefits, employee relations, compliance, performance management, HRIS, worker’s compensation, safety, facilities/office management, and budgeting. She can be reached by emailing [email protected] or calling 980-422-7953. www.employersadvantagellc.com.