Millennial Employees' Role in the Modern Workplace

As business owners, we will need to understand and adapt to millennials entering the workforce.

What will the modern work environment look like in 5 years? 10 years? Imagine a work world similar to one designed 25 years ago by manufacturer Jack Stack in his landmark book, “The Great Game of Business.” Employees are financially literate regarding the money aspect of business, they have a stake in the outcome, and they understand the critical number.

Then apply clever phrases from Tech start-ups and Silicon Valley types such as Radical Transparency and Digital Nomads and you have a work environment centered on communication, transparency, openness, technology focused and results created versus hours at the office.

As new employees enter the workforce (millennials), their expectations of employers are different than their parents and significantly different than their grandparents. These employees have been raised in the era of social media and the internet, which provides them with instant answers. Phrases such as “Google it” did not exist 15 years ago.

Employees will expect businesses to communicate more frequently and openly about company performance, funding, leadership moves, and cultural development. Instead of annual speeches or letters from leadership, employees hope to receive more frequent bursts of information. 

They want monthly, sometimes weekly, feedback on their performance. How a company engages with its workforce has become a question candidates are asking in job interviews.

Employees expect companies to use the latest technology and be committed to improving technology on a frequent basis. Technology allows employees to work remotely; employees can work smarter, not harder by using technology, and technology allows managers to focus on the results through better data tracking versus the number of hours an employee is sitting in the office. 

In a recent Career Builder survey, CEOs are expecting human resource professionals to be able to build and develop innovative business strategies based on data. The report went on to say, “CEOs are looking for HR to be as data-savvy and digitally-savvy as other areas of the company, and take quick, measurable actions that move the business toward its goals.” 

This will require back-office systems that will track data and then require communication of the data to the senior management and to the employees themselves. How that data will be communicated will change as well.

Consider for a moment that by 2020, 50 percent of the workforce will be millennials. As this workforce moves from the shop or retail floor into management positions, this “new reality” of how people work will become the accepted norm. How they communicate is different compared with a Baby Boomer or Gen-Xer. 

They do not talk on the phone—they prefer to text or email. Then they can edit or correct the message they would like to communicate. They won’t participate in long meetings; they prefer quick huddle sessions. 

Smart phones will replace desk phones in the next 10 years. Today, Google in New York City does not have an office number; all of their employees have cell phones, making a land line number obsolete.

To build the next generation of workers in your company, you have to figure out what motivates them to work for you to leave the job they currently have. These motives have changed dramatically with millennials. 

According to the recruiting firm Hobson Associates, in 1979 the criteria for evaluating a new job opportunity, in order of importance, was: 1. management potential, 2. promotional opportunities, 3. benefits, 4. money.

In the mind of today’s millennials, they are looking for, in order: 1. money, 2. flexibility, 3. the ability to share ideas, 4. progression in life, not necessarily management, and 5. fun.

Concerning the “mind of today’s millennials,” the millennials who work in my office summed it up that they want to have all of those things, and also want to be appreciated and be in an environment where they can truly make an impact. They want a career that provides all of that. They want to constantly grow in positions, learn more, take on more responsibility, and know they are trusted to make profitable changes.

As business owners, we will need to understand and adapt to them, not the other way around.