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Millennials at Work

Millennials will outnumber the Boomers in the workplace this year

By Mat Luschek

No longer are people staying at a job for 40 years doing the same tasks day-in and day-out, holding out for that gold watch at their retirement party. The Baby-Boomers are retiring and Generation X is right behind.

The workplace is increasingly making way for Millennials; generally defined as people in the age range of 18 to 34. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a projected 74.9 million Millennials will outnumber the Boomers this year. This means if companies aren’t thinking about what Millennials are looking for in a job, they should soon.

Millennials, like all generations, are definitely interested in the paycheck, but this group is interested in more than just money when it comes to work.

So what interests Millennials? Culture.


Millennials want the flexibility to pursue a better work-life balance. Outside-of-work hobbies, activities and interests are just as important as work-related business. According to a recent study by the Staples Advantage Workplace Index, 49% of Millennials say flexibility to establish a healthy work-life balance will improve their happiness, and 59% say more flexibility will improve their productivity.

Part of this flexibility includes the option to work remotely. An experiment by Dr. Nicholas Bloom and Ctrip (a call center) found that workers were also more productive when working from home.

“The results we saw at Ctrip blew me away,” says Dr. Bloom. “Ctrip was thinking that it could save money on space and furniture if people worked from home and that the savings would outweigh the productivity hit it would take when employees left the discipline of the office environment. Instead, we found that people working from home completed 13.5% more calls than the staff in the office did — meaning that Ctrip got almost an extra workday a week out of them. They also quit at half the rate of people in the office — way beyond what we anticipated. And predictably, at-home workers reported much higher job satisfaction.”

Coaches not Managers

Traditionally, managers have been a supervisor and perhaps not as involved with employees as they probably should be. Millennials recognize this and prefer managers be more of a coach. Instead of supervisors in your workplace, coaches help promote a culture of equality and responsibility. While managers tend to be associated with accountability, blame, and barking out orders to employees, a coach may bring a more positive aspect to the workplace. With a coach, an employee can create a closer relationship when they view their overseer as a mentor rather than a boss. This sort of bonding between roles can create a more successful company.

On a similar note, don’t micromanage. Millennials are happy to own their autonomy. A certain amount of mentoring and coaching is always necessary but don’t overdo it. Millennials want to be empowered with trust and responsibility, and have the freedom to explore new ideas and challenges.


Millennials don’t like to become bored (arguably, like most generations). Entertainment and opportunities are important requirements to keep this group engaged. This makes it important to have a workplace culture that is both challenging and fun. This means more than just a ping-pong table in the office. Because Millennials are often motivated making the world a better place, volunteering through the workplace may be an effective option. Millennials are more likely to be interested in a company that cares about global, social and environmental causes.


Collaboration and Leadership

Millennials are not into direct competition. No longer are these the “rat race” days. This generation wants to work with others to learn and teach at the same time. For Generation Y, collaboration with coworkers is highly important. Working together toward a common goal will help not only your Millennial employees, but the company as a whole. Collaboration encourages employees to utilize their interpersonal skills, and create a more productive company.

According to a Culture Amp study, 74% of Millennials say confidence in leadership is important to their engagement at work. Part of that is clearly defining everyone’s duties and responsibilities in the company. Another key part is ensuring that leadership has an open two-way communication with employees.

According to the Intelligence Group studies, of Millennials:

  • 64% say it’s a priority for them to make the world a better place.

  • 72% would like to be their own boss. But if they do have to work for a boss, 79% of them would want that boss to serve more as a coach or mentor.

  • 88% prefer a collaborative work-culture rather than a competitive one.

  • 74% want flexible work schedules.

  • 88% want “work-life integration,” which isn’t the same as work-life balance, since work and life now blend together inextricably.

While people in their twenties today are more aware of workplace culture, it may not be such a bad idea to apply these guidelines to all employees, of any age.


Culture Amp’s CEO Didier Elzinga doesn’t buy into the Millennial concept at all, believing changes in the workplace apply to everybody. Elzinga argues these trends have less to do with age-delineated generations and more to do with the evolving nature of work.

“The way you motivate people at work has changed,” says Elzinga. “Many of the items that we ascribe to the needs of Generation Y or Millennials (e.g. desire for more autonomy, purpose and mastery) are actually the consequence of an increasing cognitive load in the work we require them to do. It doesn’t matter if you are 15 or 50. If we need you to succeed in the new world of work, we have to change the way we work - and that has nothing to do with Generation Y or Millennials.”