Who is afraid of Millenials?
My first degree is in architecture. The year I was born there were only 320 female architects in the United States, 1% of all architects. By the time I completed graduate school 27 years later, that number was only 4%. In school, there were no women’s restrooms in the classroom area. In order to use the facilities, I went across the building and down a floor because the only women’s restroom in the building was located near the administrative offices for the secretaries. Today 44% of architecture students are female and restrooms have been added to support their presence. The difference between the Millennial generation and Baby Boomers is significant, and their mere presence in the workplace is causing much more drastic changes than just adding a few restrooms.
In December of 2013, Bentley University put out a preparedness study that looked at the skills and attitudes Millennials bring as well as the expectations and experiences from businesses. Millennials are the generation born in the ‘80s and ‘90s. They have grown up with more access to technology than any generation before them. They are used to speed, multi-tasking, working on their own schedule, and collaborating. The Bentley study found that 74% of non millennials agree that millennials add value to the workplace but 68% of corporate recruiters say that it is difficult for their organizations to manage millennials, and there is the rub. The millennial generation has 73 milliion members, the largest in history. 71% of the males and 65% of the females believe they are above average. 52% have some level of college. 1 in 4 grew up in a single parent home and 3 in 4 have a full time working mother. They are higher risk takers than previous generations. 80% believe they will end up better off than their parents and 27% of them took an entrepreneurial business course in highschool.*
This generation is educated, smart, risk taking, and used to anything being possible (self-driving car anyone?). They are the generation that launched Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. They are social and collaborate well both when they are collocated in the same physical space and across distance through technological connections. Millennials are here and the business revolution is now. The definition of a true leader is “someone who brings out the best in others”. In order to bring out the best in the Millennial generation, business leaders need to recognize their patterns and support them. These are the big three:
1) Asynchronous Communication – Millennials are used to communicating in the moment, not at the scheduled meeting time. From text to email, work happens 24/7 and so does play. Performance evaluation needs to be based on deliverables and not on a physical 9-5 presence. Spaces need to allow for the quick informal meeting without the need to advance schedule a limited supply of conference rooms. Technology needs to allow globally distributed teams to chatter around a virtual watercooler with business-centric versions of facebook like Jive. Systems need to include tools to track collaboration virtually. Companies will need to go paperless – not for environmental reasons – but so that people can work anytime from anywhere. Then finally, because being collocated is proven to drive innovation, companies will need to use retail design strategies of location, amenities, and the creation of community to attract (rather than enforce) those workers to come into the office.
2) Anything is Possible – Millennials have lived a stunning rate of change and inventiveness in terms of products and technologies. They come to the table with a risk-taking mentality, a belief that their lives will be better than their parents, and a keen interest in career advancement (the #3 reason they stay at their jobs). Companies need to make sure that they are providing the structures and systems that communicate opportunities to move up and take on new challenges. The old hierarchical pyramid simply doesn’t have enough seats at the top to satisfy this generation. Organizations need to restructure to be flatter with smaller teams that provide more opportunities to lead and engage. Spaces need to communicate that change and growth are possible. Staid rows of wood paneled offices are not the perk that they used to be.
3) Individual Freedom – Millennials are used to calling the shots and the number of micropreneurs has skyrocketed. Millennials don’t need to work for you when they can brand themselves, launch a startup, and move into the nearest coworking space. They will not put up with procedures designed to manage the masses. The only systems and procedures that they respect are the ones that help them get to their results. Spending an hour filling out a form to get a new stapler will not work. That attitude of “why do you care what I do or when I do it as long as I get results” extends to workplace choice, workschedule, and work processes. Companies will need to be more flexible in all three, creating systems to measure results rather than manage processes.
So what does that mean for the future business landscape? The best companies will completely restructure their organizations, their performance evaluation strategies, and their facilities. That may seem like asking too much, but in the end, it is exactly like adding a few extra bathrooms for the wave of women architecture students. The world is changing. Rise up to greet that change and you will find that the results are worth it.
“The whole planet is being changed because of facebook. No one saw any of this. A Jewish kid in America creates facebook and it helps the Egyptian government collapse. No one saw that coming.” Tom Papa, Comedian
*Millennial group statistical data comes from a study completed by Nommos Consulting Corporation