What is your workforce made of? As we move further and further into the 21stcentury chances are millennials will make up a greater and greater proportion of the typical workplace, particularly in innovative markets like IoT. And that means that entrepreneurs, business owners and managers should think carefully about the cohort’s expectations, behaviours and motivations in the workplace.
Definitions of where exactly the millennial cohort begins and ends differ, but most have settled on the group born between the early 1980s and the mid 1990s to early 2000s – in other words, people currently aged from their early twenties to late thirties. The key point to remember is that the millennial generation grew up during the evolution of the digital era. Younger members of the cohort may not remember a world without ubiquitous internet access and powerful mobile devices, and even older ones have had their entire adult lives dominated by such technology.
This can be incredibly powerful for organisations employing millennials. Their familiarity with digital technology – and, crucially, its rapid pace of change – can make millennials highly adaptable and flexible in the workplace, willing to try out new tools and devices, and fast to learn the ropes on new software.
However, such traits of flexibility and adaptability also mean that millennials are more likely than older generations to want to carry those traits across all of their working practices. Rigid rules and processes may seem more restrictive to them than to older employees. When they know that technology can enable them to work just as effectively outside the office as in it, they are understandably driven towards mobile, remote and flexible working.
Managing millennials in your workplace, then, is the same as managing anyone else. Recognise and embrace their strengths and give them the structure to flourish. Understand their motivations, and meet them where you can. Here are some examples in practice:
- Flexible working. Millennials know that they can be just as productive on mobile devices, working from home and even from remote locations like co-working spaces. As such, a restrictive attitude to when and where they carry out their duties can seem constricting and inflexible. You could even consider appraising staff based on outcomes, rather than the hours they work.
- Development paths. The idea of a job for life no longer exists. Millennials need to work hard to forge their own career paths, and they know that they may need to move from organisation to organisation (even if you would prefer them to stay forever). As such, they are proactive and engaged when it comes to building their own skills sets. Offering a rich programme of training and development, and showing a commitment to helping staff improve their skills, is key. It will also position you as an employer of choice and make it more likely for those millennials to stick around.
- Work-life balance. A combination of rising housing costs and changing culture around women in the workplace means that millennial couples are far more likely than earlier cohorts to both be working. Fitting work around the demands of family life and childcare is a major challenge. If your organisation is responsive to these demands and makes it easy for working parents to fit their home responsibilities around their work responsibilities – and vice versa – you will be a far more attractive employer.
- Feedback and impact. Millennials want to know how they are making a difference – and how their organisation is making a difference. A structured approach to appraisals and development, as outlined above, is key. But so too is clarity around the role millennials play in your organisation – and the role your organisation plays in the wider world. Corporate social responsibility and environmental impact are major motivations for the millennial cohort – take a proactive approach to these.