The millennials are coming! The millennials are coming! Well actually, the millennials have already arrived in our workplaces. Today over 25% of the workforce consists of this latest generation. And they’re bringing lots of change with them. According to a recent PwC report, “Their career aspirations, attitudes about work, and knowledge of new technologies will define the culture of the 21st century workplace.”
What’s wonderful about this generation is that it’s the first generation that has grown up in the digital age. The millennials are shaking up our traditional thoughts and practices around the workplace. It’s refreshing, it’s challenging and at times it can be downright scary.
But do they really want different things than the Baby Boomer and Gen X employees that proceeded them? Or, are they just more articulate and demanding of their wishes? With the ability to get instant access to almost anything via the internet, this generation resists rigid structures and struggles with information silos. Is this really something new? I know I felt the same way during my corporate career.
So how will they define the culture of the 21st-century workplace? What are the things you need to start thinking about in order to design and shift your culture to meet this tsunami of new people in your organization?
First on their list is a commitment to ongoing personal development. Coaching and mentoring is rapidly becoming the most asked for value in the culture of our workplaces. According to the Barrett Values Centre, in 2013, 31% of organizations had coaching/mentoring as a top Desired Culture value up from 23% in 2012. Work-life balance and flexible working hours are next on their list. Having grown up with technology millennials don’t resent being on 24/7. In fact, that’s just normal for them.However, they do want more flexibility on working hours. Being forced to produce only between 9 and 5 is seen as archaic. “Tell me what you want done by when and then leave me alone to get it done. Don’t be chastising me for leaving the office early to pick up my kids if I’m still able to meet your requirements.”
Here are some steps you can take to embrace the millennial madness you may be feeling in your workplace.
Step 1 – Prepare for a culture of coaching. Your leaders need to shift from manager to coach. What can you do today to start up-skilling your team to meet this internal customer demand?
Step 2 – Examine your working environment. What technologies could you bring into the workplace to provide more flexibility? What policies, processes and beliefs need to be reviewed to transform where the work gets done? In addition, many top organizations are changing their offices into meeting spaces. Individual work no longer requires a fixed space in a downtown office. Comfortable collaborative spaces are what’s needed to engage the connectedness, creativity and innovation that millennials can bring to the table.
Step 3 – Understand the impact of the generations in your workplace. By 2020, millennials will make up 50% of the workforce. In some cases, millennials will be managing workers older than themselves. What new tensions might be developing amongst your employee groups due to a lack of understanding of the beliefs and values of each generation? Is reverse mentoring an option to help your older employees?
You see it’s not really millennial madness that’s sweeping into our organizations. It’s a tipping point for a new order. If we can embrace and encourage new ways of doing things we can create working conditions that release the potential of all our employees.