Millennials Are The Workforce: A Plea For Present-Casting

Our industry fixated on Generation Y with the same market-heat fervency once reserved for boomer teens: how can we engage this generation? But with 53.5 million by the beginning of this year, they take up the largest segment of the U.S. workforce, many aren’t kids anymore (the generation’s first year is 1981), and they are making major workforce decisions themselves. Some will soon be in their 40s themselves.

So while some of us still wonder ponder best recruiting strategies, here’s a not so new newsflash: them is us. Actually, it’s nearly two years since that post. It’s not about just pinpointing differences in order to get a better bead on how, what, all that. It’s about collaborating to best shape the future of work. 

Millennial behavior is the new normal.

Millennial behavior and devices caused a certain amount of boomer-generation and Gen-X headscratching. Among them: mobile / social / IM / texts not calls, lots of neat apps, preference for constant or at least quick feedback, the ability to hop jobs like a superhero in Gotham, a preference for meaning (egads) and transparency. But all of these should be woven into the workplace fabric by now. Even job hopping, which actually makes a great deal of ROI sense, enabling talent and projects to strategically align — and be optimally productive.

Millennials are becoming the older generation.

Generation Y is now having brainstorm sessions on how to capture the hearts and minds of Generation Z. We’re starting to see some interesting takes on how to handle it. (Perhaps we should have started earlier in the alphabet.) Among the challenges: making sure we’re starting in the classroom to nurture that future talent, not alienate it. Vis a vis diversity and STEM, that’s not really going to help.

The workplace will now be digital.

I’m riffing on the future as now here: it is digital. There’s a new study by PeopleFluent that I’m really looking forward to about the Digital Generation in the Workplace. I’m already thinking of it more as being about, in essence, the Digital Workplace. Here’s why: digital generations, starting with millennials, actually comprise far more than half of the workplace: cogito digital, ergo sum. By 2025, they will comprise some 76% of the workforce. As we transform our functions and strategies across the full range of the HR spectrum transform to digital, what we’re actually facing the potential of a skills and culture gap that looks backwards. The challenge: as we innovate that shift, make sure it’s up to speed with the über-facile skills and culture of those it’s meant to address. (We’re not really talking about a car service, but we are.) In other words, innovate faster, or our fancy new recruiting and training apps will be left behind by other, faster, better means.

There are other gaps to mind.

A key facet of millennial thinking that helped improve workplace culture is transparency. Among its impacts in the workplace, it has led to a better connection between company mission and employer brand. The 24/7, always on, ever-linked nature of millennial and post-millennial generations has also pushed that envelope.  We have been forced to galvanize a clearer sense of message and intention and then to make sure it carries across multiple platforms. That in itself ought to be transforming the workplace; function dictating form, and not the other way around.

Get over it.

How do we best recruit, engage, and motivate millennials? By insisting on excellence, and appropriateness, and functionality. There’s not much new about this, except in the most simple imperatives: we must be digital, social / mobile; agile; inclusive; and stop wasting time asking ourselves the if questions. Or the gap will be one mired in perception, not reality. Perhaps there’s a connect that happens when a generation is online all the time: they are acutely aware of their own place in the world, in the digiverse, of their own personal brand, in essence, because they are always expressing it. We need to simply accept that. Right now, we are all millennials.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.

How the Future of Work Could Shift Company Cultures

Your company’s culture might be changing at this very moment.

The future of work is shifting as more and more millennials enter the workforce. They have goals and motivations that are different from today’s current workers. Also, the increased advancement of technology continues to have a substantial impact on the evolution of workplaces.

All of these changes mean that a shift in company culture is inevitable. How work is viewed and treated will certainly alter as this new crop of college graduates enters the workforce. There are a few ways the future of work will change and what that means for company culture.

More Freelancers

You might never need to put a worker in a cubicle ever again.

Technology has made it possible for workers to do their jobs remotely from home. Twenty-three percent of employees worked remotely in 2015, which was up from 19% in 2013. Remote work is appealing to workers because they get to work from home, eliminate a stressful commute and be more flexible with hours.

Freelance workers mean company cultures will start to accommodate long-distance collaboration. This means video conferencing will become a vital form of communication. Platforms that allow multiple people to work at once like Google Docs will be a necessity to big corporations. Face-to-face interactions will become a rarity as the next generation takes over the workforce.

Less Hierarchy

Get ready, managers. The way you lead your employees is about to come into question.

The days of strict guidelines and intimidating demeanor are over. Future workers demand that their leaders be more honest and inspirational. The hierarchy lines that have been drawn will start to blend as leaders will inspire employees by example.

New workers want to be given a reason to work for a company. They want to inspire others while being inspired in the process. Managers will have to transform more into role models and change the culture to a positive, team-oriented environment.

Better Technology

New technology is constantly making it easier to track inventory, project future sales earnings and distribute products across a variety of industries. For example, the retail industry has evolved in many ways thanks to the internet. We now know that ecommerce sales even have a positive impact on brick-and-mortar stores, with 43% of online shoppers purchasing extra products when they claim their online purchases in-store.

Even better, more efficient and automated processes leave additional free time for non-robotic workers. With this time, workers can personalize each order and put in an extra effort that’ll set their company apart from others. A hand-written letter can go a long way toward retaining customers and showing them you care. The boost in technology will allow workers to add a personal touch to products.

Meaningful Work

Is the work your company does considered meaningful? Does it have a positive impact on the community? This is a shift your company might be forced to make.

30% of millennials believe the work they do has to be meaningful. This is much higher than the 12% of current managers who think meaningful work is important.

Millennials want to feel like they’re making a difference. They grew up with the internet and social media, where their voice can always be heard. With one click of a button, they can make someone’s day with a friendly comment or like. Millennials want to take this into the workforce and impact people’s lives.

Instant Feedback

You know that annual performance review that’s supposed to boost morale? It’s about to become obsolete.

The future of work demands managers give instant feedback. Instant messaging and social media have made quick feedback a normality in today’s culture. New workers will want to hear about their progress as it’s happening. They believe they will learn and improve much faster.

Managers will have to be aware of how their workers are performing at all times. Annual performance reviews will no longer be sufficient in the future.

Be Prepared

Your company’s culture is changing as you’re reading this right now. Be prepared for the future and accept the inevitable shift in culture.

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