Busting Millennials-in-the-Workplace Myths

By 2020, nearly half of the U.S. workforce will be comprised of millennials. Instead of buying into the negative hype, forward-thinking organizations should start working to better understand this generation and leverage their strengths or risk being left behind.

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With that comes incredible frustration when this generation is prevented from communicating and collaboration because of technology shortcomings, she adds. Companies must make collaboration easy, secure and easy to use or risk alienating these younger workers.

"Millennials much prefer to use social media and social applications instead of email to communicate," says Pollak. The idea of using internal social media and chat or collaboration apps like Yammer is much more appealing to this generation, and that can take some getting used to, says Francis Li, vice president of IT at communications and collaboration solutions firm SoftChoice.

Millennials also want to have a clear voice in deciding what technology they will use, and if it's not up to snuff -- forget it, according to Li. That's why businesses must invest more time up front with millennials to make sure any technology decisions are geared to the way they work.

"If there's no buy-in, they just won't use the technology. To accommodate that we've had to do a lot more work on the front-end to get buy-in and involvement. This generation wants to feel like they're really a part of the decision-making process," says Li.

Millennials Want Work-Life Balance

For millennials, flexibility is key. Millennials understand the importance of work-life balance to a much greater extent than many of their older counterparts, and they demand the ability to work anywhere, anytime as a way to strike that balance, says Pollak.

"One of the most surprising things I noticed from our research was when we asked millennials, 'When you become leaders, what do you want to change in the workplace?' and 47 percent said 'work-life balance,'" says Pollak.

From a very early age, millennials understand the importance of having a life outside of their work, and will not tolerate an employer that refuses to let them have it, notes Li.

"The personal and professional tend to blend with this generation. The expectation is that employers will accept the lines are very blurred, and that as long as work is being done, as long as the quality is there, we need to be much more hands-off and trust that this generation will get it done," says Li.

As the Bentley University research reports, "Millennials have not rejected the corporate world, but they will seek other options, such as starting their own companies, if they cannot find workplaces that accommodate their personal values. On the other hand, they are loyal to companies that allow them to stay true to their personal and family values."

For business executives, it's especially important to provide a working environment and a company culture that supports a healthy work-life balance, and to provide technology that allows millennials to work and collaborate from wherever they happen to be, whenever they want to work.

Millennials Want What We All Want at Work

The bottom line is millennials want what all of us want from their workplaces -- great technology, great collaboration, flexibility and an ability to grow and learn.

What makes this generation so different from those that came before is that millennials are much more willing to speak up when they feel they're not receiving what they feel they deserve, according to Li.

While that can come across as a sense of entitlement, it's simply a different way of communicating that, if interpreted correctly, can help millennials, workers from other generations and business as a whole reach common goals.

"When trying to drive change, move in a new direction, introduce new products, boost profits, whatever the case may be, the old 'norm' was that the dictate came from the top down, and everyone was expected to fall in line and be good corporate soldiers, but with millennials, they are much more willing to challenge the status quo and make executives really think through the 'why' and the 'how' of business decisions. It keeps executives like me on our toes, for sure, but it also generates a better business," Li says.

Taken together, all these qualities make millennials far from an irresponsible, selfish and arrogant generation. Instead, they are forcing managers to be better and do better, and that makes the workplace better, Li says.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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