Why Millennials are your company's saviour

August 8, 2016 Vawn Himmelsbach

Has the under 35 crowd gotten a bad rap?

Millennials Gen Y

Millennials have baggage — of the reputational sort. Whether you're of this mindset or not, they’re often considered entitled, impatient and narcissistic, with Twitter-length attention spans and an innate refusal to ‘pay their dues’ in the workplace. But they’re also looking for a sense of purpose in their work; they want to contribute to a better world.

This generation has never known a world without the Internet. Because of that, they bring a different perspective into the workplace — one that could help businesses become much more innovative.

By 2020, millennials will make up 50 per cent of the global workforce, according to PriceWaterhouseCoopers. According to a PwC report on millennials in the workplace:

“One of the defining characteristics of the millennial generation is their affinity with the digital world. They have grown up with broadband, smartphones, laptops and social media being the norm and expect instant access to information. This is the first generation to enter the workplace with a better grasp of a key business tool than more senior workers.”

Indeed, when it comes to technology and social media, millennials often have a better understanding — and the most innovative ideas — of anyone sitting in the corporate boardroom.

Not that they want to be stuck in a boardroom. They’re uncomfortable with rules and rigid structures. They like a flexible approach to work, as well as regular feedback and encouragement — an annual review isn’t going to cut it. Nor are policies dictating their use of social media. And they’re certainly not going to wait five years for a promotion.

Sure, that sounds like a tall order to boomers who’ve spent decades of hard work climbing the corporate ladder. But it’s important to keep in mind that millennials aren’t solely motivated by money — and that offers a different workplace dynamic.

What actually motivates millennials?

Numerous studies have shown that millennials are motivated by the desire to make the world a better place. In other words, they want to work for an organization that helps the planet, not one that destroys it. And that optimism is a quality that’s sorely lacking in today’s corporate world.

They’d even be willing to take an average pay cut of US$7,600 if they could find more purposeful work, a better work-life balance or a better company culture, according to a new study by Fidelity.

When asked which is more important in a job offer — financial benefits or improved quality of work life — 58 per cent choose the latter.

The future of work lies in empowering millennial talent, according to Deloitte’s Millennial Survey. Millennials want to work for employers who focus more on people, products and purpose — and less on profits. And they judge the performance of a business on what it does and how it treats people.

Sara Horowitz, founder of Freelancers Union, discussed the millennial mindset in a post for The Huffington Post:

“Millennials aren’t just thinking outside the 9-5, they’re changing the very definition of the word ‘work.' This signals a new relationship between worker and economy; it’s not just where we’re working, or even how we’re working. It’s what we’re working for.”

They don’t necessarily want to scale the corporate ladder, and they most certainly don’t plan to stay at the same job for the rest of their lives. That doesn’t mean they’re not hard workers — but their motivations are different. They need purpose as much as a paycheque.

How can companies adjust for the millennial era?

“To remain innovative, impactful and financially competitive, companies will have to go outside their corporate comfort zone to design roles for a purpose-driven millennial workforce,” says Adam Smiley Poswolsky, author of The Quarter-Life Breakthrough: A Guide For Millennials To Find Meaningful Work, in a post for Fast Company.

That means HR departments should embrace workplace flux, he says, and design training programs that invest in skills development.

Workers who are inspired and motivated by a sense of purpose — rather than a paycheque — could bring fresh ideas and new innovations into the workplace, even if they don’t plan to retire there.

Millennials are disrupters, and they will force workplaces to adapt and evolve. And, in a world that moves at breakneck speed — where businesses need to keep up with the pace of change or risk obsolescence — it’s useful to have employees who understand that world … and thrive in it.

For more on disruption in business, read how to adjust your digital business tactics to keep up with today's tech trends.

About the Author

Vawn Himmelsbach

Vawn Himmelsbach is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. She has covered technology and travel for 15 years, for media outlets such as CBCNews.ca, The Globe & Mail, Metro News, ITBusiness, PCworld Canada and Computerworld Canada. She also spent three years living abroad and working as an Asian correspondent.

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