Millennials in the workplace: 3 key trends to consider

FOR all the criticism thrown their way by older generations, especially in the professional environment, millennials have certain advantages over everyone else. In an increasingly connected workplace, they feel right at home.

After all, millennials are digital natives, whilst everyone else has merely adopted the Internet. People born in the mid-1980s onwards were born into a world that doesn’t know what it means to be disconnected.

This has a significant impact in the enterprise today, especially considering that a growing proportion of workers are now part of this age group. According to PEW Research, millennials have already surpassed Gen X-ers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. As Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers start to retire, millennials will see their roles in the workplace likewise expand.

This brings about several major trends, which anyone running a business should be aware of, regardless of scale.

Offices are out, telecommuting is in

Cubicles, and even offices, are a thing of the past, at least in today’s modern workplace. 30 percent of workers now work from home either full time or part time, through some telecommuting or remote working arrangement. In fact, the freelance economy is on the rise, with as much as 40 percent of the workforce (at least in the U.S.) working on a freelance basis.

Millennials don’t put value and attachment in private workspaces, unlike more senior counterparts who view a big corner office as an achievement. “This new generation of employees feels dialed in to their work through mobile devices like iPhones and iPads, not constraining desktop computers and landline phones,” writes Joel Goldstein, author and expert on millennials in the workforce.

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This means that businesses that are keen on attracting fresh talent from this growing generation will need to provide a high level of flexibility and mobility. This will require the right tools and infrastructure, which is why big players in the cloud and mobile space like Apple, Google and Microsoft are making a push for always-on productivity platforms via smartphones and other connected devices.

Independent players are pitching in with their highly-focused but well-integrated solutions. “Cloud-based business solutions bridge the gap between businesses seeking to maximize productivity and professionals seeking to work outside the strictures of the cubicle farm,” writes Chirag Ahuja, marketing manager at WorkflowMax.

A new work-life balance gives focus to higher goals than just a career

The work-life dynamic has quickly changed in this generation. Whereas Generation X focused on finding purpose in work and climbing the corporate ladder in order to provide well for one’s family, the millennial generation is instead turning to outside interests.

According to Harvard Institute of Politics, millennials value “having time to spend with family and friends” as one of their top work-life values, with 59 percent rating it as “very important” in a recent survey. It is considered a priority over monetary compensation or career improvement, even. “We find that flexibility and opportunity to make an impact are just as important as making money,” says John Della Volpe, polling director at IOP.

The dichotomy between financial and personal success is actually being blurred already. “I think you can have both,” writes millennial Ryan Shaw on the Washington Post.

“I want to take care of my health and have deep relationships with people I care most about. And not just people who happen to be in the same building with me everyday.”

Beyond simply focusing on personal life goals, however, this means that the current generation of professionals put value on bigger things than money or career. According to a survey by Deloitte, 60 percent of millennial respondents choose their employers based on sense of purpose provided by the company. This generation finds better fit in an egalitarian environment, where the workplace espouses social justice instead of just financial advancement.

Millennials value a culture of validation rather than loyalty

Young people love to live and work in the moment – this is perhaps an influence of the always-on and always-connected nature of the Internet. After all, a connected environment will espouse instant feedback mechanisms and horizontal organizational structures.

This places millennials at odds with their senior counterparts, especially when it comes to defining the importance of establishing quick feedback mechanisms vis-à-vis stringent rules and formalities. This can definitely be misinterpreted as hand-holding by older managers, although the millennial generation considers informal and quick feedback to be an important part of the process.

“If we’re veering off of the path, we’d like to know it soon so we can course-correct,” says explains Kevin Grubb, a spokesperson for the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Finally, there’s the issue of attrition and longevity. Millennials are wont to jump careers, particularly keeping away from organizations that don’t adopt to the rigors of the modern workplace. In the recent Millennial Outlook Survey by RecruitiFi, 86 percent of respondents say they will job-hop, in order to pursue their personal or professional passions. This trend is further reinforced by the rise of the freelance or so-called gig economy.

The short of it is that millennials are surpassing everyone else in terms of influence. With younger people ascending the hierarchy at the workplace, it is likely that organizations will also be witness to a big shift in how people work and in how business is done. For those managing a business, then, the question is this: are you ready?