Millennials: Workplace rebels or misunderstood talents?

By Robert Half on 25 October 2017

The growth of millennials in today’s multi-generational workplace is indisputable, but will they be innovators or troublemakers? 

Often branded as lazy and selfish, millennials have something of a bad reputation when it comes to the working world.

But does the problem lie with the new generation, or do baby boomers and Gen Xers simply misunderstand who millennials are and how they fit into today’s modern workforce?

Millennials: Smarter workers?

Research by cloud services and internet provider j2 Global suggests that millennials are ‘working smarter’ by making greater use of technology. The survey found that an increasing number of millennials are starting their own businesses and pursuing entrepreneurial roles, with many using mobile devices to stay on top of their work outside of traditional office hours.

In fact, nearly a third of millennials said they got most of their work done during their daily commutes (31 per cent) or downtime (32 per cent).

While operating outside traditional office hours, millennials are making use of the latest advancement in technology to streamline and deliver their work more promptly.

Working harder than you may realise

Not only do millennials have the potential to be smarter workers, there’s also evidence to suggest they might be harder workers too. Research from Project: Time Off and GfK found that millennials are the generation most likely to become ‘work martyrs’ – employees who felt guilty for taking paid time off and who want to show complete dedication to their company and job.

After surveying roughly 5,000 full-time employees, the researchers found that 43 per cent of all ‘work martyrs’ were millennials, with 35 per cent believing it was good to be seen as a martyr by colleagues, compared to 26 per cent of Gen Xers and 20 per cent of baby boomers.

‘Chaotic influencers’

With a strong grasp on current technology and new ways of working, millennials can be valuable assets – but do the differences in work style also generate a level of chaos in the workplace?

Millennials have a reputation as a ‘selfie society’ and are thought of as a social group that dislikes taking orders. In fact, research from Mark McCrindle suggests millennials are more interested in running their own business or working for themselves than they are in fitting into a traditional workplace. This attitude has the potential to cause problems in an office where the development of team spirit is crucial.

Job hopping with a desire for more

Deloitte’s Millennial Survey 2016 interviewed nearly 7,700 millennials from 29 countries and discovered that 66 per cent expected to leave their place of employment by 2020. The three main pain points identified were:

  • Dissatisfaction with work-life balance
  • The desire for flexibility
  • A conflict of values

Millennials were also concerned with a lack of leadership skills training and a general feeling of being overlooked. In this context, it’s easy to see why so many millennials have reputations as job hoppers and agitators of traditional roles in the workplace.

Getting the balance right for millennials

While two-thirds of millennial workers expected to leave their current workplace in the next four years, this is a trend with the potential to continue. – Companies today have to decide if they are willing to embrace the kind of progressions the new generation seeks.

Providing more developmental training and opportunities is an ideal way to help millennials integrate into the workplace and foster positive attitudes for retention.

Businesses should also make their core values clear and concise. According to Deloitte’s research, seven out of 10 millennials believe their personal values are shared by the organisations they work for. The survey says that most young professionals choose organisations that share their personal values, so it’s important that businesses give them the information they need to assess the suitability of a potential workplace when choosing employment.

Mentoring and skill swaps

Encouraging mentorship can ensure that more established employees share their knowledge with millennials (and vice versa), creating greater understanding and valuable skill swaps.

Urge millennials to find ways to share and highlight their technological aptitude to see how their talents may have a positive impact on your company. Likewise, offer plenty of opportunities for millennial staff to tap into the years of experience offered by more established workers.

No matter your opinion on how millennials are changing today’s workplace, change is inevitable. It’s up to you and your business to find the best solution for a harmonious workplace.

This blog was originally featured as "Millennials: Workplace rebels or misunderstood talents?" on the Robert Half Australia Blog.

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