2015 has seen something of a milestone in terms of the generational ratios present in the workplace: the year that millennial workers became the largest generation in the country’s workforce surpassing Baby Boomers and Gen Xers (albeit in America, but the UK and the rest of the world aren’t far behind).
The next five or ten years will see significant changes in the makeup of companies across a wide range of industries as the old guard is replaced by members of the millennial generation at every level and new technologies are introduced which alter working processes and company management and progression.
The domination of millennials throughout the workplace will only increase, and this will influence the way we work and the workplace itself. However, while they now comprise the biggest segment of the workforce, they are perhaps the least understood of the different generations. What might their workplace look like?
Greater Levels of Flexibility
For a start, there may be fewer people in the office at any one time. Millennials crave flexibility in their work-life balance, and therefore favor working for longer hours (if necessary) but being able to do so wherever they want (such as at home or otherwise out of the office) in exchange.
This flexibility allows them to meet the needs of their personal life while ensuring they don’t neglect their professional duties, and will be something that they allow other employees to follow as well if they wish.
Increased Openness, Immediacy and Accessibility of Communication
When people are in the office, the lines between managers and junior employees will probably be less clearly defined. Open, speedy communication with anyone is a major facet of the millennial attitude thanks to the rise of social media such as Twitter, which allows them to communicate with anyone from their friends and family to global corporations and celebrities, and messaging apps like WhatsApp, which enable an instantaneous response.
An open-door policy of accessibility and a gradual movement away from emails and phone calls toward instant messaging and video conferencing may be the direction millennials choose to move. These changes will make for a faster-paced atmosphere and a higher level of efficiency as far as decision-making is concerned.
An Emphasis on Development
One of the key features of the millennial mindset is an insatiable desire to learn and develop in their roles so they can be sure that they have found their purpose and that they can be as passionate as possible about what they do.
They also want to be able to progress in their careers much more quickly than members of previous generations, and see this development as a vital aspect in allowing them to do so. This may be the area in which KPIs are centred, rather than on achieving business goals and client work (though these will still be important).
With these points in mind, employers should begin to make the necessary alterations to companies to ensure that they are meeting the requirements of millennials. Superficial changes such as token social media outreach and unconvincing corporate values will not work. With more choices than ever as far as their careers are concerned, the most talented candidates will have their pick of companies. They will only throw their lot in with the ones offering exactly what they’re looking for.
Company culture, processes and incentives are just some of the areas to concentrate on – otherwise, businesses may have to face missing out on the top talent of this generation and struggling to regain a foothold in their industries.
Rachel Allen is Head of Resource Management at Thales Learning & Development. Rachel is responsible for the recruitment, retention and development of all L&D consultants working within Thales.
Rachel is a regular contributor to Enhance – The Magazine for Learning and Development.