• April 20, 2016

The Millennials Are Coming for Your Workforce

The enterprise workforce is undergoing tectonic shifts, and the enterprise has to keep up to survive. According to a U.S. Census Bureau data analysis by the Pew Research Center, more than one in three American workers today are millennials (adults ages 18 to 34). As of the first quarter of 2015, this group surpassed Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce.

Numbering some 53.5 million, millennials surpassed baby boomers in 2014 when 45 million boomers were in the labor force. Reduced by retirements, baby boomer workforce numbers peaked in 1997 at 66 million. Millennials are projected to make up half of the U.S. workforce by 2020 and 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025.

This workforce transformation presents significant challenges for the enterprise. Millennials have completely different notions of work and work environments than their predecessors. Understanding these shifts will be crucial to the future success of recruiting and retaining talent. Those that fail to embrace and adapt to these changes will find themselves behind the competition.

Shifting Priorities

Past generations of workers tended to favor hierarchical management structures with rigorous policies and procedures to control workflows. These workers prized financial compensation and promotions along the managerial value chain. Millennials simply don’t connect with these values and systems. Raises and titles aren’t as important as work style flexibility and the sense their ideas and work positively impact others. Hence, they grow frustrated with complex managerial systems that fragment their focus and output.

In addition, these workers are turned off by the internal friction resulting from departmental competition. Their prioritization process gets hobbled when they’re forced to assess what internal politics may be in play. They prefer to collaborate rather than compete. They want to feel like they’re part of a unified team driving toward the same outcomes rather than a cog in an unwieldy enterprise machine.

These workers prize environments that feature flexibility, autonomy, access to real-time learning, a sense of stability, and the opportunity to pursue projects that are personally meaningful. That’s why they gravitate toward inspiring, transformational leaders who exude purpose and excitement. To them, the most important leadership qualities are clear communications skills and a facility for relationship- and team-building designed to drive results.

Enterprise Work Style Transformation

How can enterprises transform to meet these work-style priorities? Like customers in today’s digital marketplace, these workers crave dynamic engagement and shared responsibility for outcomes. Their interaction styles were largely shaped by technology. So they expect personalized on-demand information and active personal connections with bosses. That’s why they prize frequent, specific feedback and are likely to report high levels of satisfaction in creative enterprise environments.

Components of these environments include:

  • Leadership development programs. One of the most common complaints among millennials is feeling underutilized.
  • Open communications channels featuring the solicitation of ideas and regular, informal feedback.
  • Purpose. Clearly communicate the purpose of your industry, why your organization was founded, and the positive impact each has on the lives of others.

To attract talent in this soon-to-be dominant workforce demographic, enterprises should strive to cultivate cultures marked by flexibility, openness, integrity, and inclusiveness. By catering to the priorities and ambitions of millennials, you will foster loyalty from a highly creative and productive human resource.

Like this story? Read more about how the enterprise workplace is transforming.