Henry Thompson: Learning from the inexperienced – the millennial workforce

Millennials may be more casual around the office, but they are just as hard working
Millennials may be more casual around the office, but they are just as hard working

For the first time, the millennial generation, those aged 18 to 34, are the largest segment of the workforce and this shows no sign of slowing down. Millennials are predicted to represent more than half of the working population by 2020[1]. As with the generations before them, they bring their own values, experiences and expectations as a result of growing up with rapid advances in technology and access to information at their fingertips.

Having three children within this age group, I’ve certainly noticed that millennials want to work the way they shop – online, anytime, from anywhere, and on mobile devices; technology is practically part of their DNA. My Uber-using Son who has taken to using Uber to come home from nights out with his friends, orders the Uber with the app, rates the journey/driver and, when needed, complains about the fares without leaving the app.

Communication 

They have grown up with broadband, smartphones, laptops and social media being the norm and expect instant access to information. This has set them apart from the rest of the workforce and has created a shift in dynamics – for the first time older people are turning to younger people to learn from them in the business world.

As technology now dominates nearly every aspect of millennials’ lives, it’s not surprising that 41 per cent say that they prefer to communicate electronically at work rather than face to face[2], or even over the telephone. Three-quarters also believe that access to technology makes them more effective at work[3] and that they often feel held back by rigid or outdated working styles. In response to these changes, employers are already adapting their IT policy to appeal more directly to millennials. For example, by offering them a smartphone to use at work or encouraging them to use social media for business purposes.

Technology 

Yet for businesses today, to truly attract and retain their millennial workforce, they need to implement an effective IT strategy. Millennials are starting to expect a workplace that includes technologies such as social networking, instant messaging and video-on-demand as well as applications for team collaboration and alternatives to email such as Flowdock and Slack. These social tools will enable millennials to instantly connect, engage and collaborate with colleagues in ways that are natural to them, leading to better productivity.

However, it’s not only technology that makes the millennial generation different from the rest of the workforce. Millennials want a flexible approach to work. They want to feel their work is worthwhile and that their efforts are being recognised – they value similar things in an employer brand as they do in a consumer brand. Companies like Google and Apple have already been successful in attracting talented millennials. They’re examples of employers who are never restricted by ‘how things used to be done’. They may not have specifically set out to target millennials, but their culture, management style and approach to recruitment naturally appeals – and because of that, they are able to take their pick of the best young talent around.

In the coming years, we are going to see more and more businesses focused on attracting the top millennial talent.  And to compete for them, companies will need to follow the lead of Google and Apple, in re-defining their culture, management style and approach to work. In a generation of dual-career couples, hands-on dads and socially conscious and tech savvy young people, businesses need to offer flexibility and opportunity to create that loyal and engaged millennial workforce.

[1] Pew Research Center, 2015

[2] PricewaterhouseCoopers, Millennials at work report

[3] PricewaterhouseCoopers, Millennials at work report

About Henry Thompson

Henry Thompson is director of customer success at Zendesk, which is responsible for creating customer service software and support ticket software.

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2 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. “millennials want to work the way they shop – online, anytime, from anywhere, and on mobile devices”

    Doesn’t hold out much hope for those of us in manufacturing who still need people at the dirty end of the job… No phones, no ‘non-face-to-face’ communication and required to wear company overalls!

    Too many of the articles on here seem to relate to a semi-fantasy world of Google et al and bear no resemblance to any company I’ve ever worked for…

  2. Well, a bit one-sided view of course as we all know that there currently is a start-up bubble going on, which will burst soon enough. Given that Henry works for one of those start-ups, it’s not surprising his article is the way it is, but he seems to forget that those “cool” companies he is writing about are only a small percentage of the industrial world, the vast majority is still low-down dirty and based on proven values. And they will always remain just a minor segment of that world as the vast majority of people out there will never be the cool and flashy rich kids he is talking about. So let’s just keep both our feet on the ground, wait until the bubble burst and the companies that will survive the burst should prove themselves only then that they deserve the position hyped up articles like this give them. Usually the ones that can offer diversity, not only in their products but also in their workforce. History is repetition, all this has happened before, therefore I know how the current craze will end.

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