“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” Socrates (469-399 B.C.)
There’s always going to be a debate when a new generation joins the workforce, and with Generation Z just around the corner, it’s perhaps time to look at the ways in which millennials have transformed the workplace. A lot of these changes have been considered positive changes, but some not so much. We’ve taken the time to outline what have generally been considered changes ‘for the better’ and changes ‘for the worse’, and whether we can re-evaluate the negative ones to see the positives in change.
More flexibility – A study by Deloitte found that millennials consider flexible working as having a positive influence on each aspect of work. They said that flexible working arrangements in particular support greater productivity and employee engagement, while at the same time enhancing their well-being, health, and happiness. This has an overall effect on financial performance; the same study found that flexible working practices have a positive impact on financial performance and therefore the bottom line.
Employee engagement is becoming vital – millennials tend to be very ‘purpose-orientated’, craving constant development and knowledge from their employers. This is great news for employers as their workforce are becoming less focused on financial reward, and more involved in gaining knowledge and finding meaning within their job. All it means is that employers must provide this meaning for them; without it, they will be quick to leave their positions and move elsewhere.
Office spaces are becoming more open – millennial leaders are changing the way workspaces operate, promoting communication and broader collaboration between departments. A lot of modern business leaders are adopting these approaches, leaving behind cubicles and divided departments in favor of open meeting spaces and seating areas. This has the effect of increasing company culture, allowing employees from different departments to get to know each other where they otherwise might never have crossed paths.
Retention is on the decrease – research from Deloitte found that two-thirds of millennials intend to leave their current organizations by 2020; suggesting that there is a drive to experience many different careers and positions throughout their lifetimes. Sadly, from now onwards millennial retention just isn’t a reality, and employers need to embrace this looking forward. Although I’ve put this in the ‘for worse’ section, there are positives to be gained from a high turnover rate; employees may be leaving, but others are joining and bringing with them fresh ideas and perspectives which you can harness for your benefit.
Electronic communication coming to the forefront – you may notice a decrease in the upcoming years in face-to-face communication between employees and employers. Millennials will employ a variety of different electronic mediums to get their voices heard, and it is good to be aware that extra care may need to be taken in order to keep your HR processes humane and focusing on individuals.
Intergenerational tension – with three (and nearly four) different generations now in the workplace, obstacles involving respect, communication, and work styles are on the rise. Most of these conflicts will arise from a difference in values, and it is therefore important that employers are aware of these differences and try to use them to their advantage. For example, a Boomer may want a pay rise whereas a millennial may want flexible working hours. Understanding the values of different generations will help you to keep everyone happy in different ways.
It’s important to keep in mind that generational changes to the workplace have always occurred, and will continue to occur in the future. At the start of the article, I quoted Socrates from two and a half thousand years ago, whose attitude towards the younger generation rings surprisingly true of many twenty-first century attitudes.
Millennials are just one part of a huge chain of workplace transformations which have been happening since the beginning of the working world. When you think of it like that, all change is a good change! We move towards a future of work which may look different, but which all generations will adapt to.