Embracing the Millennial Office Culture
They are infuriating, befuddling, quirky, maybe lazy, who knows? You’re not sure what to make of the tech-integrated, impatient and a bit entitled, millennials roaming your office at work? Every older generation thinks the one coming up is a bit “less than” but in more than a few instances– Millennials may be right.
Millennials Work Life Balance
Balance isn’t the right word, millennials are aiming to integrate their lives into work and work into their lives. Here’s an example just about every “older” office worker can relate to. There was a time that social media was seen as goofing off at work. Your boss would come in just as you were trying to figure out what poking someone on facebook meant and you’d quickly switch screens. That wasn’t “work” and you didn’t want to get caught. Well, now you’re the boss. You walk into “this kid’s” cubical and tabs that have zero to do with “work” are open. Not only does he not flinch, but he invites you to watch cat videos for 20 minutes. His life is right there with him at work. BUT there’s a big flipside, that kid also answers your email at 10pm within seconds of you sending the message. Just as he never unplugs from his “life” he never really unplugs from his “work.” He fully understands that technology can give him bits of both throughout his day. Some companies have already noticed and implemented work shift changes. Goldman Sachs, for example, announced it will have junior bankers clock less hours in the office, this is contrary to old Wall Street practices of where new hires often work late nights and weekends.
Millennials Work Smarter, Not Harder
This one is tough for older generations to grasp. Technology exists to make our lives easier and your younger co-workers fully get it. Why take hours on a task just to be seen working? Get that same task done in minutes and move on to something else. Whether that something else is lunch or the next project– move on. The under 35 crowd doesn’t always focus on the steps; they look towards the results. They’ve learned that technology can help them skip ahead. Now, depending on your field, this may or may not be the best approach, but as a boss or a manager you can’t ignore the creativity because you deem it “lazy.” General Electric actually commissioned a report aimed at their younger workers and found they wanted to move to a “to a faster, simpler culture where individual teams have more autonomy to experiment and make decisions.” In other words, their millennial workers wanted permission to move at a faster pace, make innovative decisions and change the old system.
Parents, Parents, Parents
Young adults today tend to live with their parents much longer than in generations past. Some of this is actually the result of tough economic times left by previous generations, it’s a necessity for many young adults and their parents. That means that the 25-year-old kid that just made sure your entire inventory wasn’t lost in cyberspace may not do his own laundry. And that’s OK. He has a family to focus on just as you do, but he’s thinking of his parents (you may be thankful for this generational trait one day as your kids set out into the world…without ever leaving home). Millennials value their elders, they seek advice from their parents; their parents are still a very big part of their world. There are ways you can embrace their “family” without dismissing them as immature. Depending on your office culture, ask to meet their family just as you ask to meet another co-workers kids. Mom and Dad are important to your millennial co-worker, learn why and you may learn a lot more about the person in your neighboring cubicle.
What Work Place Rules?
They may not understand workplace rules. That doesn’t mean they get a free pass on ignoring office policy BUT if you are not meeting face-to-face with clients and sit behind a screen all day– do you really need to wear heels and a power suit? Do you really need to come in from 9-5? Do you really need to come into an office at all? Many of the rules– written and unwritten– for the workplace are a bit of a throw-back to times gone by. Millennials may not be aware or understand why they are needed. As the head of your company, it may be a good idea to look at why some of your policies are in place. Maybe your atmosphere could use a little updating? Throwing out the old rulebook isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s the beginning of something world changing.
Look, you don’t and shouldn’t change everything about your company to conform to the younger element creeping in, but if you want to stay current, relevant and innovative it doesn’t hurt to see things from a new perspective. If you’re hiring millennials, there’s a reason, even if it’s just, “that’s who’s applying.” Understanding your workforce has benefits; millennials may be right about more than a few things and you may be better off listening to what they are trying to tell you.
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