Understanding Your Millennial Employees

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Millennials currently make up 25 percent of the workforce. If this is true, the labor market, and possibly your organization, could soon be in for some change! A recent study reported that almost half of all Millennials (those born in the 1980’s and 90’s) will be looking for a new position in the year 2015. As an employer, understanding your Millennial employees is important because this age group brings a different mindset to the table than previous generations.  Eager to get their careers started, these young adults are often entering the workplace expecting different qualities in a company than the traditional employer might emphasize.  While some of these expectations might be unrealistic to implement in your company today or even this year, it is always good to be aware of what expectations (realistic or unrealistic) your employees bring with them to the job. Here are a few things that, in general, this specific group values when it comes to a work environment:

Being a Part of a Bigger Cause
While Millennials can often get the negative reputation for being entitled and somewhat lazy, they have also been positively labeled as the most politically and socially involved generation in history. With the internet and social media, access to information and current events is virtually unlimited. Because of this, they are concerned with world hunger, poverty, and injustice like no other generation thus far. Millennials are often looking to be a part of something that gives them the ability to make an impact on the world around them. Millennials are especially drawn to companies whose goal is to impact the world in a positive way.  For the employer, this might mean that being involved in local outreaches, fundraising causes, or offering volunteer opportunities for employees would create a huge draw for millennials.  Allowing employees to make suggestions as to which charity or outreach program they want to be involved in can help them to feel like they are making a difference on the global stage.

Work-Life Balance
Overall, Millennials desire a better balance between their work life and their home/family life than they’ve seen in previous generations.  Only 62 percent of Millennials report that their parents were married during the time they were growing up. That compares with 71 percent of Gen Xers and 85 percent of Boomers. As a result, this generation is recognizing the need to pay close attention to the health of their marriages and family lives.  To create flexibility without disrupting the workflow and productivity of the company, some employers are beginning to offer work-from-home options.  A few companies are also removing traditional rules for sick or vacation time and are leaving it to employees to decide what is appropriate. This type of flexibility might sound crazy, but millennial employees are generally motivated by and are more productive as a result of having more freedom in managing their work schedule.

Space for Creativity
With the explosion of advancement in technology and social media, there is opportunity like never before to share ideas and information with a vast number of people.  Millennials have an entrepreneurial spirit and are eager to share their new ideas. A few companies are experimenting with allowing an allotted time each month or quarter for employees to create their own projects that would help advance the objectives of the company.  Employees are given a small space to create something that would not only better the company, but help them grow professionally as well.

If all these ideas sound too costly for an ordinary company to implement, here’s some advice from Jeff Fromm, contributing writer to BizJournals.com and expert on Millennial trends: “Money can certainly help you create a better program, but it isn’t the only ingredient here. Smaller companies can formally or informally survey their employees to understand what matters most and take a few meaningful steps to make the workday more fun.”

In the end, there really is no replacement for being in tune with the employees of your company.  Professionals across every generation want to feel important, valued, and listened to by their employer.  Understanding your Millennial employees’ mindset can help you come up with creative ways to engage and motivate this exceptional group of employees.

How practical is it for your organization to offer flexible workdays and unlimited vacation time? Watch for next week’s post on this topic!

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