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The Ever-Changing Workforce and Generation Y

If you ask anyone in the workforce, particularly managers or business owners, what their experiences and thoughts are about working with Millennials (Gen Y) I can guarantee that they will have something to say about it. It seems to be a hot topic of discussion these days and is having a big impact on the workplace, how companies do business and how they attract and retain employees. We are in a unique time because there are 4 generations in the workforce and they all have different ideas of what work and the workplace should be, which can be tough to manage for any business owner or manager.

Up until recently, the Baby Boomers have primarily dominated the workforce and created the “standard” as to what is expected from their employers, from themselves as employees and their co-workers. However, it is estimated that as early as next year there will be more Millennials in the workplace than baby boomers, which completely changes the dynamic of what the workforce has been up until now…. which isn’t a bad thing. Millennials seem to get a bad rap from the other generations, but just like the generations before them, they are products of the world they grew up in and how they were raised, which transfers into their work lives. It just so happens that technology has boomed and become aggressively sophisticated over the years, during the years that this generation has been around, which has shaped them and what they know as their “norm”.

Millennials grew up with advanced technology, mobile technology, real time data and social networking, so that is what they know and therefore expect to see from their employer. Flexibility – Whether it is flexibility with their schedule or being able to make the choices that fit their needs the best, millennial know there is more than one way to get things done. The flexibility to work in the office or remotely from home is something that is becoming more standard and in turn eliminating (or reducing) the need for employees to take sick days or half days off of work to wait for the cable guy at home. There is an expectation to be able to work from home because the technology exists to allow it. Technology and innovation – Whether it is being able to work remotely, being mobile with apps or having self-service abilities, millennials look for companies that have the technology to support the efficient operation of the business as well as innovative ideas and the “ahead of the curve” mentality on up and coming technology. Immediate and straight forward feedback – Living in a world of instant and 140 character responses in the various forms of “likes, comments, retweets and favorites”, immediate feedback is essential to professional growth as well as establishing a solid working relationship.

Millennials want to learn, grow and have someone guide them through their career. This is also a good reason and reminder to eliminate annual performance reviews and incorporate real-time feedback into your company culture. Collaboration – Social networking, constant adult guidance and playing on sports team that don’t identify winners and losers transfers the desire for collaboration into the workplace. Working on teams and with mentors to be a part of something big is important to this generation. Also, they see everyone as a peer and an equal in their efforts to collaborate, rather seeing an organizational hierarchy. Time to break down some barriers! Blend of work life and personal life – There isn’t a clear line for millennials between work and personal because they are so mobile and technology driven that everything in their lives can be managed at the same time. They will manage their personal business during what most would consider standard business hours, while also knowing they are available during non-standard business hours for work purposes. Strong values and company culture – Being a company that provides them with the support of a strong company culture and strong company values that they believe in is important to the millennials, and every other generation for that matter.

The difference with this generation is that they use their network and resources to find the companies that they want to work for rather than finding a job that they want to be in. That is why it is important for companies to have a strong brand, be active in giving back to their communities, focus on treating people with respect and doing the right thing. Otherwise, the employees will go somewhere else and will tell the people in their network all about what it was like to work somewhere that didn’t treat them right. The workforce wants an experience with their career, not a job with a gold watch after 25 years. The bottom line is, companies can’t continue to recruit, retain and manage a solid workforce like they used to or they will struggle to keep up. Be open to change, understand the change and be willing to change. Remember, change is good!

Written by:

Deanna Arnold, PHR President


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