Leadership

Understanding Millennials and the opportunities they bring to the workplace

You work a lot with people. You know that each person is a unique self. However, you can’t help seeing shared personality traits in a certain group. For example, you notice that the twenty-somethings at your office are passionate about mobile technology. They are absolutely in love with their smartphones, to the point of addiction in some cases. You are curious if it comes with their age group. You start reading about Generation Y (or Millennials as some call them). You probably have found tons of stories and tips about working with them and managing them. However, we still want to share with you our understanding of Millennials, from a rather different perspective. We approach the topic with an analytical mindset, and hope to give you a clear and fair description of Generation Y (or Gen Y).

Specifically, we are doing a modified version of a SWOT analysis on Generation Y. In case it’s been a while since college: SWOT stands for Strengths - Weaknesses - Opportunities - Threats. In this first post, we will look at Gen Y’s strengths and the opportunities they bring to the workplace. In another post, we will discuss the traits that are considered their weaknesses at work and the challenges one faces when working with or managing Millennials. Hold on, you are noticing the missing T. No, I won’t talk about Threats. As a proud member of the Gen Y, I like to believe that Millennials are no threats at all to anyone. Millennials are challenging to work with but you will find it very rewarding if you play your cards right.

Millennials - Who are they?

To give a short answer: Millennials are connected and diverse collaborators. But let’s be more precise:

Generation Y is the demographic cohort after so-called Generation X. They are also widely referred to as Millennials. There are no precise dates on when Generation Y began. The general consensus is that its members were born sometime between the 80s and early 2000s. Their shared personality traits are shaped by their times.

Firstly, they were born and raised in the era of technology and social media. They were the first generation who grew up with computers in their homes. Do you remember when the Internet came and seemed to redefine everything that happened before? Millennials belong to that world. They aredigital natives. They are good with technology by default. Of course, the levels of technology competence vary within the group (the late 90s vs. the early 80s). But generally Millennials are familiar and comfortable with technology.

Moreover, it is actually not an exaggeration to say that Millennials are connected 24/7. Their whereabouts are often updated on their Facebook pages. Their tweets are even more instant and frequent. And their Instagram accounts are filled with photos taken at cafes. Then, there are Foursquare, Tumblr, Google+, Vine, Flickr, and LinkedIn too. The list is getting longer by days. The proliferation of social media is driven by Gen Y’s increasing desire to be connected at all time. Haven't you seen youngsters directly asking for the wifi password once entering a cafe or a bar? It seems like an obsession.

Let me make this clear. They want to connect not just for sharing their very personal moments on social media. Their professional life and personal life are merging in one place called the INTERNET. In a survey carried out by Cisco in 2014, more than half of Millennials, who were asked, consider themselves accessible for work 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, via email and phone.

Secondly, Millennials grew up in a much more globalized and mobilized world. Many Millennials are from neighborhoods where different ethnic groups reside. In their world, various cultures exist among each other. They grew up holding diverse perspectives and a high level of tolerancetowards differences. It is quite common to meet Millennials who truly embrace differences and benefit a great deal from their open mindset.

To give you a more detailed picture, we also like to share Meister and Willyerd's findings about what Millennials value and what they want at work. Here is an extract from their article Mentoring Millennials on Harvard Business Review.

You can also click here to check out some data about what Millennials want from work, charted across the world

Millennials - Their strengths

Tech-savvy

It is in Millennials’ nature to understand technology. They are comfortable with using technology to get the work done. Their usage of smartphones and apps helps them to finish their tasks quickly and effortlessly. According to Cisco 2014 Connected World Technology Report, 82% HR professionals think that Gen Y employees are able to perform tasks fasterthan older employees using mobile devices and apps. Their tech sense enables them to multi-task smoothly. They speak to customers on the phone, input data into the system and check updates on a second screen - all at the same time.

Gen Y’s passion for technology and their ability to quickly pick up new tools are impressive. Undoubtedly, this is the most prominent strength that they bring into the office.

Collaborative

Millennials’ desire to connect drives them into workplaces that encourage teamwork. They like to be involved and included. They work well in a team because they tend tocommunicate regularly and openly. Having a high level of tolerance towards differences, they are more likely to accept other’s opinions and willing to try new methods.

Innovative

They are willing to take a risk in finding a new path for themselves. Facing globally impacted issues like economic recession and climate change, they are forced to seek creativity in their decision-making, ideas, and work habits. They innovate to solve the problems they face. Their creativity is benefited a great deal from their diverse perspectives.

Connected

Generation Y is connected 24/7. The Internet offers seemingly unlimited knowledge and resources. Connecting to various networks of friends and colleagues, they gain updates of trends, useful knowledge and valuable lessons. They are very well informed, which prepares them for any possible opportunities.

Resourceful

Millennials are resourceful. They have the ability and the mindset to look for solutions using what they have and know: The Internet. For example, if one wants to improve feedback sharing practices in her company, she is likely to first google something like: how to give constructive feedback. If she is not happy with what has been found, she will post her concern on relevant forums, like HR LinkedIn Groups or Quora. There she can get advice from her peers and the industry experts. With the various opinions she gathers, she can make a poll and share it with her colleagues. Along the way, she finds quite a few possible ways to grow and improve.

The young generation focuses on knowledge and continuous learning. They don’t keep themselves locked in a way of working or a possibility to make things work. They are curious to learn and to develop. With this mindset, they tend to learn fast and a lot more.

The opportunities Millennials bring to the workplace

Innovations

Because Millennials are innovative and resourceful, they can bring in better and faster ways of getting things done. There are a few incentives you can try in order to encourage innovations among your Millennials and for the company:

  • Invite them to brainstorming sessions for new strategies, plans or simply a new way of solving a long-lasting problem

  • Listen to their ideas and give credit to their resources

  • Have an idea box so they can send in their ideas whenever they come up with one and reward them appropriately

  • Be approachable and available for them, offer them mentorship

  • Suggest a bonus if they can find simple, innovative solutions for their own bottlenecks and those of others

Higher productivity

When your Millennials are engaged, they can be very productive. They are efficient at multi-tasking. Gen Y is the force behind continuously embracing new technology advancement, and increasing productivity. If you set up the right environment for them to collaborate and thrive, you can get some very fruitful results.

Things you can do to take this opportunity:

  • Let them use their own devices if that helps them do their job better

  • Get them involved in decision-making when it comes to getting new technology

  • Let it be known that you are open for their suggestions for new apps that have the potential to increase productivity

Networking recruitment

Gen Y employees are more likely to become your brand’s ambassadors thanks to their being active on social media. They are most likely to share their good experience working at your office on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or you name it. Their talented friends are pulled towards your direction without you even noticing it. It saves you the time and money on advertising your job posts on various platforms.

Besides, it goes without saying that young talented people inspire other young talented people. Having Gen Y employees will lead you to more Millennials because they like to come in as a group.

Things you can do to take this opportunity:

  • Do not restrict your employees’ activities on social media. Provide a code of practice instead

  • Offer incentives for referring a friend (e.g. a bonus)

Free pass

Your Gen Y employees are your free pass into their ways of thinking. Their generation will soon become the largest group of consumers and decision makers. Often being outspoken, your Gen Y employees are likely to fill you up with insight into the generation’s habits, preferences and desires. If you want your new marketing message to appeal to Millennials, test it on the ones in your office first. They can give you no less if not more than some market research companies can.

Things you can do:

  • Listen to your Gen Y employees

  • Get them involved in brainstorming and decision-making processes if appropriate

Conclusion

Like being said earlier, each person is unique. You are likely to find contradictions among Millennials. However, the generation’s majority is tech-savvy, collaborative,innovative, resourceful and wired. They can make great employees if you find the right way to promote their strengths. The rest is up to you to grab the opportunities they bring. Would you like that your company do things in an innovative way and with a high level of productivity? Will it be much better for you as manager if the recruiting process is less lengthy and more focussed? I think I can guess your answers.