The Millennials are flooding into the workplace – is your company ready?”

Millennials currently make up 37% of the workforce and this percentage is set to surpass 50% by 2020. On that basis, what do we know about this generation, and what makes them engage with their work?

As a quick definition, Millennials are largely considered those born between 1980 &1996. They’ve been weaned on digital technology and this has had a significant impact on how they absorb data and see the world. As technology is so ingrained in their day-to-day lives, the way they operate interact, learn, and prefer to work, is quite different to other employees. It does sound as though we’re talking about a different species, but our younger generation do prefer a different approach to life, and work.

Previous generations value loyalty, authority and security, but Millennials reflect a desire for freedom, fun, collaboration, use of social media and connected devices, and a need for constant feedback.

The author, Dan Tapscott, thinks employers have two options. They can refuse to adapt to “Millennials”, stick to their old hierarchies and reinforce the “generational firewall” that separates other generations from this group. But, if they do, he believes they will forfeit the chance to learn from this generation. Deloitte and Accenture are said to be firms who understand this and are tapping into this generation’s collaborative culture, which is how all employers should be thinking. (Source: Grown Up Digital: Dan Tapscott, McGraw-Hill, 2009)

How do you integrate Millennials into the workplace today?  Well, the key is to think differently about how to attract and motivate this group. Ideas include:

Rethink training; engage for lifelong learning and think creatively about career development and paths: They have a mindset of continual learning. With a connected device they can consult, reference and share with others. If they need some practical how-to advice they can find a forum, or a YouTube video. They can learn continually and cumulatively, without compromising their work or lifestyle.

Rethink recruitment; initiate relationships: When recruiting, user experience, product management, community management, and the effective use of various marketing channels are all going to be equally important for employers attracting Millennials into the workplace. The more interesting and personalised the sourcing approach, the more engaged they are, and are more likely to tweet or post positives about the company. Think attractiveness of “employer brand” and “reputation” here!

Collaboration: This is a major need for Millennials. They collaborate online in chat groups, play multi–user video games, use email, and share files for university, college, work, or just for fun. As a result, they influence each other through this type of culture. Bring this into the workplace and let them help other employees in using new online tools to communicate and work.

Flexibility: “Millennials” like flexible working and wherever possible, like having a choice about where they work. They like to use technology to escape traditional office space and hours, and integrate their home and social lives with work.  They often find working in the conventional office frustrating because they consider decision- making to be moving at a snail’s pace.

Communication:. Everything Millennials access provides instant feedback, from an internet search, to a Wiki page. They are used to regular, constant feedback from initial objective-setting to performance feedback

Quick-thinking: They are quick to assimilate, move between ideas and projects easily, because they are used to a flick of a switch. For them, innovation now takes place in real time, not over weeks or months!

Finally, everyone can learn through setting clear expectations, working with each other and sharing knowledge and experience. Don’t let age be a gap; see it as an opportunity to share and learn from each other!