5 Opportunities Millennials Offer the Workforce
Embracing a multi-generational workforce is no longer a luxury for employers, but rather, a necessity. With majority of the workforce today in the millennial generation, employers are learning that attracting and retaining quality talent requires seeing the opportunities that millennials offer in what might formerly be perceived as a challenge. CBIZ’s most recent Executive Advantage Series breakfast seminar, Embracing the Power of a Multi-Generational Workforce, featured panelists from top organizations and universities who led an in-depth discussion on how different generations can successfully work side-by-side. The panelists focused on tips for employers to adapt to the ever-changing business landscape and shed light on how millennials, along with other generations, can be a positive force in any company.
Challenge: Millennials tend to move jobs more frequently and work at a variety of companies.
Opportunity: Millennials tend to have a variety of experiences.
Many millennials have had 4-5 jobs by the time they are in their 30s. They like having a multitude of experiences with different companies, even within different industries. Dr. Elizabeth Macleod Walls, president of William Jewel College commented that in order to meet millennials where they are, employers need to “embrace their desire for constant change.” While they may not stay at a company for 30+ years like their parents, they bring with them knowledge and ideas from their varied work history that is beneficial for the employer whether they are there for ten years or only two.
Challenge: They have been entirely immersed in a technological world.
Opportunity: They understand how to utilize those resources in new and efficient ways.
Millennials were the first generation to come of age as technology was growing at an exponential rate. When asked what the real difference between other generations and millennials, Jason Parks, EVP & Managing Director of Barkley, Inc., simply held up his cell phone and said, “this.” Millennials are entirely comfortable with smartphones, computers, and adapt very quickly as new forms of technology continue to emerge. Dr. Macleod Walls pointed out that technology has changed even her day-to-day interactions, and so the reality of growing up with constant access to information has undeniably shaped the millennial brain. Because of this, they have an innate understanding of ways to utilize technology for the betterment of their company and their clients.
Challenge: They want their work to mean something and feel purposeful.
Opportunity: Improve company culture by cultivating a work environment that is engaging and fulfilling.
Brandon Michaels, CEO of Mazuma Credit Union, pointed out that a key difference between millennials and their parents is that work is not the center of their life; it is a small part of a much bigger whole. “Millennials work to live, rather than live to work,” he stated, adding that volunteering or community engagement are priorities for many in this generation. While they want to be challenged at work and enjoy what they do, they value many other things outside of their 9-5 life. This poses a unique opportunity for employers to make the workplace a vibrant and purposeful environment that will foster a sense of fulfillment in their employees that will keep them satisfied in the organization long-term.
Challenge: They don’t like the explanation “that’s how it’s always been done.”
Opportunity: Re-evaluate older, outdated processes that could be done better.
Jason Parks remarked that overall transparency is extremely important to millennials. They aren’t satisfied with answers like “we’ve just done it that way forever” or “I don’t know.” Millennials have grown up with access to endless amounts of information at the tips of their fingers with smartphones and computers, and they are accustomed to being able to have their questions answered almost instantaneously. When an answer isn’t satisfactory, this can be frustrating to them. Mike Nichols, Vice President of Human Resources at CBIZ, remarked that yearly performance reviews are a good example of an outdated process that many companies are re-evaluating. The younger generation prefers immediate feedback on their work products, and so many employers are now accomodating this. This leads to more constant performance improvements in the workplace, rather than the complacency that comes with knowing an evaluation won’t happen for another six months.
Challenge: Some organizations now have a five generation workforce.
Opportunity: Take advantage of the broad range of experiences to diversify the company’s idea base.
Chris Kuehl, Managing Director at Armada Corporate Intelligence, noted that especially in his field of manufacturing, there might be up to five generations working together in the company. Michaels observed that this can lead to finger pointing and misunderstanding, but it can also be an avenue to harness the power every generation has to offer. A baby boomer, for instance, has an industrial wisdom that is invaluable to the functioning of the company. A millennial, however, might have an innovative suggestion for a newer way to approach on old, inefficient process. Combined, companies can find increased creativity and innovation that will propel them forward.
Ultimately, the key lesson learned from the various panelist perspectives was to avoid labeling and stereotyping and understand that each generation does not have different values; rather it is the degree to which they value the various aspects of their lives that differs.
Chris Kuehl | Armada Corporate Intelligence
Brandon Michaels | Mazuma Credit Union
Dr. Elizabeth Macleod Walls | William Jewell College
Mike Nichols | CBIZ MHM
Jason Parks | Barkley Inc