Accommodating Millennials: What Does It Really Mean?


The year 2015 will go down in history as the year millennials became the largest group in the U.S. labor force. Currently comprising about one third of the labor force, by 2020, these young adults (now between 18 and 34 years old) are expected to make up 50 percent says a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC.)

Perhaps that’s why these young adults have become the subject of countless news articles, business summits and research studies all endeavoring to explain their behavior in the workplace. While some say Millennials are lazy, entitled and require an inordinate amount of praise and hand-holding from their employers, others point to Millennials’ altruism, confidence and the fact that they are the best-educated generation in history. Most significantly, Millennials are the first generation to have grown up with the Internet, and they have a comfort level with technology that isn’t innate to other generations.

Given these realities, accommodating Millennials at work isn’t merely a choice, it’s a necessity. In Aerotek’s most recent survey conducted at the 2015 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Conference, we asked attendees how important it is to accommodate Millennials in their own workplaces. Seventy-nine percent believed it was extremely or very important.

Aerotek SHRM Infographic2015 Millenials

Yet, transforming workplace dynamics is not without its challenges. Here are some tips for creating a truly millennial-friendly workplace that also meets the needs of managers and older colleagues:

1. Do good work

Millennials care about causes. Many studies, including the 2014 Millennial Impact Report, have shown that Millennials want to make a difference, not only at their jobs, but also in the world. “Today's twenty- and thirty-year-olds have made it clear to companies that they expect to be able to integrate cause work into their professional lives,” writes Emily Yu of the Case Foundation. “Driven by Millennials, this shift will radically transform how companies define themselves in relation to the social sector. It will be up to companies themselves to answer this call and change their own internal structures and approaches to accommodate Millennials' hunger for work that is both fulfilling and meaningful.”

2. Encourage entrepreneurial pursuits

This is the generation that grew up watching Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg and more recently, Snapchat founder, Evan Spiegel make billions from their social media platforms. According to a study by the University of North Carolina, “92 percent of surveyed 21-24 year-olds said entrepreneurship education was vital in the new economy …” and “30 percent started a business in college.” Take advantage of Millennials’ entrepreneurial spirit by giving them opportunities to develop new ideas for the company. For example, employees at Google are permitted to use 20 percent of their work-time on projects that aren’t directly related to their job titles.

“If you can help your employees find their passion, they’ll be unimaginably successful. The key is to recognize when young employees are getting listless in their jobs. Take the opportunity to coach them into defining their ideal job descriptions, and give them the opportunity to show how they can contribute,” says Joseph Fung, CEO of TribeHR.

3. Be flexible

As digital natives, many Millennials are reinventing how work is done in and outside of the office. “Millennials do not believe that productivity should be measured by the number of hours worked at the office, but by the output of the work performed. They view work as a “thing” and not a “place,” according to the PwC study. Millennials expect to be able to work from anywhere, call into meetings and work when they feel motivated.

Brent Pridgen, director of business operations at Aerotek says that when it comes to managing and retaining Millennials, it’s important to evaluate what kind of flexibility you have to work with. “Management has to communicate that some things are going to stay the same as the core function of the business. That’s where you need to focus on your development and having clear communication about expectations,” says Pridgen.

4. Support work-life balance

The PwC study also found that Millennials place a premium on good work-life balance. This generation values personal time and may not be willing to sacrifice their wellbeing in exchange for the corner office. But managers take note: According to Mental Health America, “When workers are balanced and happy, they are more productive, take fewer sick days and are more likely to stay in their jobs.”

5. Make the workplace social

While Millennials may not choose to be in the office at all times, when they are onsite, they want to enjoy their co-workers and have open communication with superiors. Research shows that Millennials value relationships with colleagues and their managers more than other groups. These young professionals tend to be team players and do well when it comes to collaborating with others.

“Younger workers have a strong need to feel connected at their workplace. Companies that wish to retain these workers must create a workplace that encourages, rather than discourages, social interaction,” says Roberta Matuson of Glassdoor.

6. Help Millennials find meaning in their work

Millennials want to know their contributions are having an impact on their organizations and not just in helping them to make money. And while Millennials may go about their business differently, when you consider the facts, it becomes clear that their concerns aren’t really so different than those of Gen Xers and Boomers.

“When people are involved and they feel that their efforts are truly contributing to something, then they are more willing to reciprocate — and everyone wants that regardless of their generation,” comments Pridgen. In fact, there are “widespread similarities between Millennial employees and their non-Millennial counterparts, all of whom aspire to a new workplace paradigm that places a higher priority on work-life balance and workplace flexibility,” says the PwC study. “The research shatters commonly held myths about Millennials in the workplace, uncovering attitudes and behavior that largely mirror those of their more senior colleagues.” Could it be that what’s good for Millennials is good for everyone?

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