Y, oh, Y?
Understanding Millennials and their productivity potential

If they’re not already taking over your office, they soon will be. Generation Y, also known as Millennials, will soon make up a huge portion of the global workforce as Baby Boomers retire in scores and Generation Xers (those born between the mid-1960s and mid-1970s) settle into established roles.

Members of Generation Y were born between 1980 and 1995. They don’t just like technology, as Gen Xers do, they live it. And unlike Baby Boomers, who grew up in the “let your freak flag fly“ individualism of the 1960s, Millennials generally want and need to be part of a group. The good news for employers is, once you understand Gen Y, you can more than likely find some great ways to maximize their considerable productivity potential.

Find your balance

Let’s face it; everyone wants work-life balance these days. Many a Baby Boomer probably wants a flex schedule to spend more time with the grandkids. And a Gen Xer is likely the parent of one of those kids, who needs flexibility to manage busy school pick-ups and drop-offs.

But Millennials might be the first generation to truly expect work-life balance. Just last year, multinational professional services provider PricewaterhouseCoopers released the results of a two-year global generational study conducted jointly with the University of Southern California and London Business School. “Work-life balance,“ the published report states, “is one of the most significant drivers of employee retention and a primary reason [Gen Y] may choose a nontraditional professional career track.“

Statistically speaking, the study found that 71% percent of Millennials believe work interferes with their personal lives. Meanwhile, 64% want to occasionally work from home, while 66% want flexible work hours that don’t necessarily conform to the traditional nine-to-five format.

What does it all mean? Well, it doesn’t mean you have to let Gen Yers work when- and wherever they want while doing as little or as much as they feel like. But it does likely mean that, when you find good workers of this age group, you’re probably best off working with them to ensure they have a good work-life balance. Doing so may mean offering flexible hours for in-office employees and a telecommuting option for positions suited to working remotely.

Help them collaborate

For the most part, Millennials grew up in an educational era of collaboration. As typically remains the case even today, elementary school desks are grouped together rather than set up in rows. Many high school and college projects are group activities, not solitary term papers or the like.

Of course, one need look no further than social media to observe the significance of collaboration and “group inclusion“ with Gen Y. Facebook and Twitter have risen to prominence during their upbringing — having friends and followers, being part of a network, has never been more important. Current favorites such as Snapchat and Kik enable instant, simple communication.

From this standpoint, employers need to bear in mind that in-office Millennials are likely to do well in a more collaborative environment — perhaps even an open office plan, if feasible. Look toward encouraging an “all-in“ approach to strategic decisions rather than a “top-down“ approach of the boss giving the marching orders.

Above all, give them their data! Millennials are accustomed to having the full wealth of the world’s knowledge at their fingertips. Today’s successful organizations must have comprehensive information networks that enable quicker insights and faster decision making. Gen Y doesn’t want to work for “dinosaurs“ that rarely change and take forever to take action on an opportunity. They want to give their all to nimble, progressive organizations.

Try to keep up

Millennials aren’t just mobile in their everyday work habits; they’re mobile in their employment habits as well. This is not a generation that, like the Baby Boomers or their predecessors, will likely spend decades with one organization.

As evidence, the London Business School regularly surveys participants of its Emerging Leaders Programme, a training ground for future global managers. The most recent results showed a stunning 90% of respondents expected to stay with their current employer for no more than five years, and more than a third didn’t foresee staying for more than two years. The average age of respondents was 29 — in other words, they were almost exclusively Gen Y.

Of course, this is a European-based study, not an American one. But, in an increasingly global business world, there is probably little difference in the proclivities of young employees.

The message to employers is clear: Winning the employee retention game is going to be mission-critical in coming years. Millennials tend to want constant challenges and professional development opportunities. So, to retain the best, you’ll need to be thinking about how to integrate coaching, mentoring and continuing education/training programs into their workloads.

Look for upside and leverage their talents

Each succeeding generation presents challenges as it enters the workforce. Sometimes conflicts can develop between established employees and these newer staff members. Or an organization may suffer cultural growing pains across the board, as fresh attitudes and ways of working present themselves.

The key, always, is to look for upside. Determine how Generation Y’s energy, mobility and sociability can make your organization better. Put them to work using technology and social media tools that are optimized for accomplishing your strategic objectives.

For help training and developing staff — be they Millennials, Gen Xers or Baby Boomers — we’re here to serve you (in old ways and new). Performance Dimensions Group has been serving clients for 15 years, and we’re looking forward to many more. Please contact us to discuss your needs anytime.