There’s no question that today’s working generation—also known as Generation Y or “millenials”—has already started transforming the business landscape. If you need convincing on that count, just take a look at Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook, or Blake MyCoskie, of TOMS.
The real question is, how are millennials changing the workplace? While myths about the desires, skills and manners of millennials are present everywhere, there is disagreement about who is actually included in the demographic group, not to mention what unites them as a generation. Here are some surprising findings related to common misconceptions about millenials:
One of the most striking differences between millennials and previous generations is the way they allow their personal and professional lives to intertwine. According to a 2011 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) millennials are more willing to grant employers access to their personal information. Research also indicates that millennials highly value social media freedom and the ability to make friends at work.
In addition, the PwC study indicates that the popular notion that millennials reject the established concept of the nine to five office job is false. Most millennials do not expect a high degree of scheduling flexibility or the option of working from home.
Today’s managers should take note that they now live in a world where they can exhaustively check employees’ backgrounds with a few taps on an iPad, but that those same employees might Tweet about how they’re treated at the office.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Social media freedom isn’t the only part of company culture millenials value. In the PwC study, an astounding “88% of millennials said they will choose employers whose corporate social responsibility (CSR) values reflect their own and 86% would consider leaving an employer if CSR values no longer matched their expectations.”
This finding indicates that millenials are thinking about big-picture company policies—they won’t choose to work at companies merely for the liberal-minded perks. Firms seeking to attract millennials need not focus so much on presenting appealing perks to potential employees. Instead, firms should reach prospects who share the company’s deepest values.
Personal Development and Mentoring
The millennial generation has a reputation for expecting more attention than previous generations, a trait which is sometimes seen as a managerial time-drain. The PwC study found that millennials rated opportunities for training and development as the second most highly valued benefit after cash bonuses, and that 98 percent of those surveyed particularly valued personal mentoring. These findings suggest that training or mentoring programs may allow management to reduce expenses in other areas while simultaneously increasing employee productivity.
The Harvard Business Review suggests a number of strategies for dealing with the millennial generation’s hunger for feedback, including reverse mentoring. There may be no better way to effectively bridge the gap between management and millennials than setting aside time for each to learn from the other.
The millennial generation has grown up in a world that is highly transparent and highly social. They are less interested in the elusive “work-life balance” of Generation X than in integrating their professional and personal lives.
They have cultivated a strong sense of social responsibility, and they are aware of how much there is to learn. While the millennial stereotype—think Tweeting attention-seekers—may be an exaggeration, not everyone will have an easy time adjusting to these new co-workers or employees. But for an informed and creative manager, the millennial generation can open the door for improved forward thinking and innovation.
Rebecca Lindegren is the Digital Strategist for MBA@UNC. She is also the news editor for The Word is Bond, a hip hop blog. Outside of work, she enjoys skiing, cycling and social media.