A while back I was having a long conversation with my son on how to interact with girls. I was so happy; here was the opportunity to pass on my wisdom to the next generation. After going through a list of suggestions, my ego was completely crushed by five little words “But it’s a new century Mom. Girls are different now.” This has become a running joke for my son and I. Anytime we experience the dreaded generation gap he pulls out “But it’s a new century, Mom.”
The stark reality—especially for us old timers— is that it is indeed a new century and younger generations, particularly Millennials, are causing profound changes in how we do business. I recently became fascinated with this topic when I had to incorporate the effects of Millennials in two research projects on knowledge management and employee engagement. Once the topic was on my radar, I couldn’t turn around without seeing articles, blogs, or heated debates about Millennials in the business world. The bottom line is Millennials will be the majority of the workforce in the next fifteen years, so business needs to be prepared for the inevitable changes this brings.
So how are Millennials affecting business?
- No such thing as off the grid—Millennials have never experienced a world without technology that allows them to instantly access and share information. Millennials also demand a balance between their personal and professional life. I’m not implying Millennials work less; in fact, they are willing to put in long hours to see any project through. They just want more flexibility on when they put those hours in. Because of the era of instant communications coupled with flexible working hours business can and are expected to be conducted anytime, anywhere.
- Collaboration is the name of the game—Millennials’ education stressed group projects, where a complex project was divided up into individual tasks. Consequently, many Millennials are very comfortable working as a group and see themselves as “equal” team members in any endeavor.
- Work to live is not an option—Millennials grew up with the tenet “follow your dreams” and have a bad reputation as job hoppers. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Millennials want to ensure what they do has meaning and involves their passions.
So what do all of these things mean for business?
Companies have to rethink how they engage employees. A few engagement solutions I’ve seen in my research include:
1. Crowdsourcing—tap into your employees for their thoughts and feedback on business problems, policies, or new product and service ideas.
2. Employee surveys—pinpoint your employees’ motivators and help match employees with special projects or career development plans that reflect their interests and passions.
3. Social programs—give your employees the opportunity to make a difference or engage in activities they find important—this could include a corporate responsibility program or internal social networks like Yammer.
4. Public and immediate recognition—don’t wait until reviews, let employees and their teams know they did a good job as soon as the project is done.
How have Millennials impacted your business and how are you addressing it?
Holly is the Research Lead for the Growth Team Membership, a best practices research group within Frost & Sullivan. Follow her on twitter at @hlykehogland.
Written by Holly Lyke Ho Gland
Holly is the research lead for the Growth Team Membership™ (GTM) program. Holly identifies and profiles best practices that address the main challenges faced by the leadership in key functions that support the CEO in driving growth strategies. Since joining Frost & Sullivan in 2008, Holly has developed Best Practice Guidebooks for executives in Corporate Strategy, Corporate Development, R&D, Market Research and Competitive Intelligence. In addition to her best practices work, Holly manages GTM’s annual priorities surveys of senior executives within Marketing, Corporate Strategy, Sales Leadership, Corporate Development, and Innovation/R&D. Prior to joining Frost & Sullivan, Holly worked for three years at Sam Houston State University. There she was an instructor and a research assistant on research projects analyzing public perceptions of natural resource management in natural gas, power and water.