Millennials. You’ve read plenty about them: the lazy, impatient, flighty whippersnappers swarming the American workforce. They will soon comprise the majority of the global workforce, and they are toppling office culture as we know it. But clashes with corporate tradition and high turnover rates have earned this new generation much undue reproach. Managers and employers must accept the shifting climate and evolve accordingly. Evaluating Millennials through an impartial lens reveals the magnificent potential they can offer a company that is willing to cultivate a work environment that plays to their strengths and temperament. Frankly, the future of your company depends on it.
In this three-part series, we’ll explore some key distinctions of Millennials from prior generations and effective strategies for management and recruitment.

How Millennials are Different

Millennials are the first generation born and raised in a digital world. As a result, they are an impatient and curious bunch, accustomed to having instant access to information and new experiences. However, this perceived impatience might translate to an agility and adaptability in the workplace. Millennials respond with ease in the face of fluctuating demands, as they are natural multi-taskers: a study from UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and the YEC reveals that Millennials switch attention between media platforms an average of 27 times per hour. They have the potential to accomplish a lot in little time. While this may increase overall productivity, decreased performance may pose an issue when juggling too many assignments at once.

With the ubiquity of mobile devices, Millennials stay connected around the clock. Continual access means work can now happen anytime, anywhere, phasing out the 9-5 model in favor of an increased integration between work and personal activity. Flexible scheduling—working outside the office and outside regular business hours—is becoming the rule rather then the exception. Work is no longer considered a place to go, but an activity that can be done any time of the day or night. And Millennials are unwilling to compromise personal life satisfaction for work life advancement. According to Deep Focus’ Cassandra Report, 74% of Millennials expect and prioritize flextime. Due to the high costs of recruiting and onboarding new talent, companies must allow flexible scheduling in order to improve retention.

Millennials aren’t lazy workers; they simply have different motivations than prior generations. Growing up in the midst of economic recession has created a sense of duty in rebuilding their world for the better. And with social media, they have more agency to do so than ever before. At work, this thirst for purpose takes precedence even over compensation; their validation is gleaned from societal contribution. A 2011 report from the Career Advisory Board cites meaningful work as one of the 3 top factors indicating career success for Millennials. They value recognition for their efforts through a genuine, transparent relationship with leadership. They strive to make a positive impact, and they are willing to dive headfirst to achieve their lofty goals. This confidence, coupled with a relative lack of life experience, affords them a tenacity and high tolerance for risk that can breed innovation and creativity. Allowing Millennials unfettered exploration can yield mind-blowing positive outcomes. However, applying experience to temper this trait is essential. When given the proper tools, support and environment to thrive, they are agile, adaptable, and capable additions to the workplace.

Inquisitive and passionate, Millennials are driven by the need to forge new ideas, to challenge convention, and to incite change that transforms the entire world. It’s imperative that we consider these shifts in attitude and motivation to attract and retain this talent. Develop a culture that clearly expresses the company’s mission and social commitment; an environment in which ideas and innovation are encouraged; flexible scheduling to promote work/life balance; and a platform for transparent communication between employees and leadership. Offer mentorship to guide young professionals and help them envision a rewarding career path within the company. And give them some freedom to explore, because they are the engine for an organization’s innovation.

J. Walter Thompson INSIDE is a full-service recruitment advertising agency and employer branding consulting firm, creating pioneering ideas in strategic recruitment, human resource development and management, and more.