When they need a ride, they use their smartphones to hail a ride from complete strangers. They write their term papers in collaborative web apps. They’ve replaced check books with Venmo accounts. They were the inventors of LOL but have all but moved on to . Newspapers are dead to them – news is hyperlocal and obtained through Twitter and Buzzfeed.
They are the early adopters and the oversharers. Anywhere they have Internet access becomes their workplace, whether that's the train, bed or coffee shop. They are connected 24/7. They are millennials.
The “Millennial Generation,” most commonly defined as those born between 1976 and 2001, is now 80+ million strong.* By the end of this year, 36 percent of the U.S. workforce will be comprised of millennials. And by 2020, millennials are projected to make up nearly half of the U.S. workplace.
So whether you're ready or not, they're coming. And, as we’ve already established, this new-age worker is different from previous generations. That difference will result in changes in the workplace. Or at least it should.
As this next wave of workers begins filling more critical roles in organizations, employers will need to know how to answer a very important question: How can we evolve in order to best operate with this new generation of employees?
Having been raised in the age of the Internet, millennials want a smarter office. Millennials want work to work for them. If there is something that exists that will make life better, they want it.
Want to learn more about how different generations work? Check out our Gen Z infographic.
In the past, adoption of new software, hardware and cultural practices in enterprise has been slow and would often run into roadblocks to adoption from top leadership. This meant that employees were typically required to hobble along with subpar product offerings or find system workarounds.
That's all changing. Now, when top leadership is slow to adapt, millennials are more likely to implement new tools themselves without waiting for company-wide adoption.
Don’t fear change. Change can be uncomfortable, but change can also be an excellent catalyst for growth. We’ve seen the fear that change can induce in people. Just look at governments and organizations working to block Uber and Tesla. They fear these new ways of doing things and are impeding progression and evolution as a result. Don’t be like that.
Don’t get nostalgic. This is a follow up to the first point. In business, employers have established methods of doing things. With how fast technology is moving, you can’t afford to be nostalgic over “how it has always been done.” The fax machine may have cost a pretty penny but you are only going to lose more by hanging onto it. If there’s a cheaper, better, more efficient way of doing something, then let go of the old and embrace the new. A proverb to live by: “The right answer yesterday may be the wrong answer today.”
Re-think what work is and what defines productivity. It has been said “Work is not a place you go, but something you do.” For baby boomers, that may be a hard concept to comprehend. But for many millennials, work is anywhere with the Internet. The problem is, many employers still base performance off “in-seat” time. Just because an employee is at their desk doesn’t mean they are productive. And on the other hand, just because they left at 2 p.m. on a Friday, doesn’t mean they can't and won’t get everything done by Monday. Judge people less on how, when or where work they work and instead on their output.
Question workplace policies. Could your unlimited PTO policy actually be counter-productive, resulting in more burnout, not less? Do employees in leadership positions really need an office or would it benefit the company to have all employees work in an open-space environment? Could installing a Sonos system for afternoon tunes improve company culture? Would it cut down on IT issues if employees were admins on their own machines? Again, what was right for the company a few years ago may be different now, as the new millennial workforce begins filling roles in your organization. We're not saying that the workplace should become a free-for-all with no policies, rules or structure. Not at all. But when employees feel limited or constrained, they will be less satisfied and more likely to underperform. And if there is a circumstance where no alternative exists, then a good employee will accept this fact and adapt.
It’s an exciting time in our world. Millennials are anxious to make their mark, and as we've seen, many already have. They are employees, managers, owners and founders. Don't fear the change. Now is the time to adapt and make your workplace work for millennials so you can take advantage of this new, fast-moving, success hungry workforce that is already knocking on your door.
*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
**Gartner Research in Lynch
Photo Credit: Sylvain Kalache