Millennials: Defined as the age group between 18 to 34, these young people have surpassed the baby boomers as the largest living generation in the United States. Each day, more and more millennials flood the workplace and set the standard for what a 21st century company should be.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this particular age group is that they grew up in a time where the digital revolution was just starting to hit its stride. In turn, they have come to expect a completely new set of standards from their employment experience.
Millennials tend to get a bad rap, as they are sometimes thought of as lazy and entitled individuals. In reality, most I have met are well-educated, technologically proficient and professionally competent. The fact that they were raised in a digitally-evolved environment doesn’t necessarily affect their energy in the workplace. It just means that the professional environment is changing.
By 2020, an estimated 46 percent of the workforce will be made up of millennials. Here are some valuable tips to consider when creating a work environment that will set them up for success.
1. Promote transparency.
Millennials are able to boast that they grew up on a track parallel to technology’s rapid advancement. Just look at how much cell phones have changed society and changed technologically, in the last 15 to 20 years. As a result of today’s constant connectivity, ours is a culture of transparency.
In an age where 140 characters is enough to bring down an entire company, younger workers have come to expect that their employers will be up-front with them at all times.
Buffer is a social media company engaged in driving traffic. Its values statement provides us a great example for how to promote transparency in the workplace. For example, the company leaves no questions unanswered when it comes to employee salaries. Through a public spreadsheet, employees can find the pay rate of their peers by name — from the CEO downward.
In addition, Buffer reveals the formula used to create each person’s compensation. Every worker goes through a 45-day boot camp, then qualifies for a salary on the basis of: “Salary = job type x seniority x experience + location.” This level of transparency is great, as employees can see all the factors that play into the pay scale.
The takeaway: When companies hold no secrets from their employees, they are able to build trust that helps retain workers for the long haul.
2. Get rid of hierarchy.
While eliminating managers the way Zappos did might be a bit extreme, leveling the playing field in the workplace can do a lot to make younger workers feel that they have a voice that is being heard.
Research has shown that the top-down management style is ineffective for the majority of millennials. Most have been raised working in teams through sports, or group projects. Encouraging collaboration in the workplace is crucial, and blatant hierarchy here can pose a big roadblock.
Growing up in a world where all the information they need is literally at their fingertips, millennials have come to embrace creativity and critical thinking. If office politics makes them feel unable to communicate their ideas, they have no real reason to stick around.
Wyng, a social marketing company based out of Manhattan, strives to promote a flat company culture that provides each employee with a clear path to career advancement. For example, you’ll see the company’s CEO working right next to a group of employees fresh out of college, and likely picking up on what makes them tick.
Wyng aims to build an environment around doers, rather than delegators. Additionally, it seeks to promote camaraderie by initiating company sports teams and other activities, to encourage interaction outside of the office setting.
“The company is very flat in terms of the work chart,” Kevin Bobowski, vice president of Wyng, told me. “Informally, it is an incredibly flat structure because anyone can come up and talk directly to the CEO, co-founders and executives,”
The takeaway: Studies have found that hierarchy can be a huge source of conflict for groups in the workplace. To encourage internal innovation, companies must adapt to a system calling for less rigid levels and titles.
3. Embrace innovative team-building.
The team-building tactics that worked on older generations can induce eye rolls from millennials. Growing up as the inaugural digital native generation, this age group is inspired by connectivity.
Its members tend to work best in groups, and team-building exercises should encourage this. In fact, 97 percent of employees and executives believe that lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project.
While there are many ways to approach team building with a millennial workforce, a lot of companies are using interactive virtual games to inspire creativity and collaboration.
One of the games that encourages team building is Gelling — Akeakami Quest. This app puts a team in a virtual world where its members are stranded on a deserted island and must use good communication techniques and teamwork to accomplish goals that ultimately restore beauty to the area.
The game’s overarching goal is to put workers in an environment where they can feel completely free to share their insights. In turn, skills can be exhibited that may otherwise have never been shown.
The takeaway: Creativity and open communication are crucial for a thriving workplace. When employees are able to form strong connections with one other in an external setting, they are more likely to share ideas that can benefit the company.
A recent report done by Gallop found that 21 percent of millennials have changed jobs within the past year. With a workplace on the verge of a millennial takeover, companies must adapt to avoid turnover. Are you equipping your younger employees with the potential of career growth? Are you creating a work environment that encourages open idea-sharing?
If not, the millennials your company hires will have no problem finding the door.