Millennials are changing the face of the American office, as we all can readily observe. But did you know that by 2020 this generation will make up 40 percent of the workforce? The perks that motivate them are unlike those that appealed to previous generations. A just-released report by Jobplex and our ninth podcast installment with Smooch R. Reynolds explores it all.
By 2020, Millennials will make up 40 percent of the workforce. But the perks that motivate them are unlike those that appealed to previous generations. To stay competitive, businesses must recognize this and adapt to the evolving needs of their workforce, according to a new report authored by Susan Gottlieb, a partner for Jobplex, Inc., a DHR International company.
For starters, Millennials want more flexibility. They have no desire to be stuck at a desk with a manager constantly looking over their shoulder, and they don’t necessarily want to be working nine to five, said the report. They’re more comfortable with technology than previous generations, which means they’re also well aware of the benefits that technology can offer them, such as working from virtually anywhere.
For many people, working from home – or Starbucks, or their local library, or their kid’s soccer game – is more conducive to productivity than the traditional office environment. If they can get their work done without having to worry about the stress and expense of commuting, they see no reason to come into the office five days a week.
Paid time off is another factor Millennial candidates tend to weigh more heavily than previous generations, according to the Jobplex report. While the traditional model is to work one’s way up toward earning more PTO, many Millennials would rather not wait months or years before they get two weeks of paid vacation, and they’re averse to buying vacation time from their employer.
This is especially true since most Millennials tend to leave their jobs before they have earned extra PTO. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average young adult has had an average of 6.2 jobs by the time they’re 26 years old.
Although it is common for working mothers to seek greater job flexibility, Millennial dads are increasingly making the same demands. Family life is converging with both men and women taking on more equal parenting roles, the report said. The traditional paradigm of the woman staying home or making concessions around her career is seldom the case anymore.
That means companies that are less accommodating of parents who need flexible hours or time off to take care of their kids stand to lose both male and female employees, said the Jobplex study. Smart companies provide training programs during and after maternity/ paternity leave to keep parents informed about changes at work and what is underway so that they are up to speed when they return, the report added. Some new parents might also want to keep working for their employer but move to a different department where they won’t have to travel as much or work long hours.
Instead of asking employers to consider work-life balance, the author pointed out, Millennials are more concerned with work-life integration. They know that technology can help them bring the office home and vice versa. They also want to be working assisting on projects that align with their personal values. For example, companies that allow employees to take PTO in order to volunteer and do charity work are very popular among Millennials.
“Companies need to cultivate a culture that embraces leveraging technology as a means to achieving flexibility in work schedules and integrating work-family balance,” said Smooch R. Reynolds, global investor relations and communications practice group leader with DHR. “Companies also must trust that talent will be responsible about their workflow commitments and their bosses’ expectations.”
A Different Emphasis
Prioritizing family life is just one reason Millennials are more inclined than their predecessors to make lateral moves. To retain great talent, it is important for employers to accommodate those kinds of moves, the report said.
Rather than focusing on moving up in the company, Millennials tend to put more emphasis on the kind of work they’ll be doing and the connections they’ll be making, the study said. Some are even prepared to take a lower-paying job in order to get the experience and connections they think will ultimately help them move forward in their careers.
“Millennials are most interested in the fabric of their work environment and how relationships are woven into broader responsibilities,” said Ms. Reynolds. “Frankly, I think they are almost ‘unknowingly astute’ to focus on the relationship building aspect of their work environment because one of the most sought-after skills that management seeks in talent is their ability to develop credible relationships and be influencers across the enterprise.”
The report said that when companies fail to provide Millennials with what they’re looking for in a job and/ or fail to challenge them, Millennials will often depart. “Millennials’ parents were the first generation that regularly switched jobs, so company loyalty does not come naturally to Millennials,” said Gloria Basem, chief people officer of MediaMath Inc.
For employers, the challenge is to learn what they can do to attract and retain their Millennial workers. “It’s about, what is the contract?” said Ms. Basem. “What are we doing for you and what are you doing for us? And being more explicit about those things.”
Money is Not Enough
And when it comes to what they can do for their workers, employers should consider offering more than just a paycheck, which tends to mean less to Millennials than other aspects of their job, said the report. Businesses would be better served if they focused on creating a constructive, collaborative environment in which employees can contribute meaningfully and are made to feel like a valued member of the team.
“This generation is one that, in many ways, wants it all,” said Ms. Reynolds. “They want the satisfaction derived from meaningful work and relationships in the work environment AND they want to be compensated commensurate with their contributions.”
When Millennial workers do depart from a company, managers should understand that it’s usually nothing personal. “Because Millennials are not as loyal to the companies for which they work, they’re also not necessarily leaving with a negative attitude,” said Ms. Basem. “I’ve worked with managers who thought that if an employee left, that employee was being disloyal and they might be quick to write them off. And I think a Millennial manager today knows the relationship is going to wax and wane over time.”
The Millennial Question
Given Millennials’ tendency to move around, employers should invest time and effort to ensure a successful relationship with their Millennial workers, the report suggested. Alienating Millennials leads not only to a high turnover rate but can mean working with lesser talent. “Millennials are in their prime right now,” said Ms. Basem. “They’re still growing their careers and coming to the table with new ideas.”
Diversity in the workforce, meanwhile, is a strength, and that goes for age diversity as well. “Having the perspectives of different groups so that you can connect with your customers is critical,” said Ms. Basem. “Millennials are going to use technology differently than Xers or boomers, and they’re going to view purchasing decisions differently. Being able to really understand your user is critical.”
A New Definition
As in other aspects of life, Millennials are changing expectations and creating a cultural shift as to what constitutes a good employee, the report said. Rather than defining an employee by the hours they work, it offered, Millennials are more interested in the specific contributions workers make to their company. It is not just the amount of work they get done, but how they go about doing their work, the kind of work they do, and the new and innovative ideas they offer.
“Every company and industry will require slightly different amenities,” said Ms. Reynolds. “I believe that an increase in access to the right technology would be at the top of the list, including conferencing systems where teams of people can work virtually to develop products, concepts, frame workflow and ultimately achieve goals set by management.”
Companies like Google, Facebook, Evernote, Best Buy and Bain & Company are famous for successfully recruiting and retaining Millennial talent by offering free food, competitive vacation/ PTO, and maternity/ paternity leave, among other incentives, said the report. Millennials often look for amenities like on-site gyms, it continued. In the technology space, they tend to like the idea of free food and meals. Depending on the sector, some companies have margarita machines and other compelling additions to the office.
But for Millennials, work goes beyond simply getting freebies. “It’s about creating the space where people come together and get to know each other, as opposed to just being thought of as workers, working at their desk around a certain project,” said Ms. Basem. “I can tell you the ping pong tables are well used in every location we have.”