How can employers create workplaces where millennials thrive? Our guest writer, Flora Meadmore, takes a look at the defining characteristics of this generation, cutting through the soundbites to find what really matters.
Millennials are now the largest demographic in the workplace, making up one third of workers. Not only has this created a change in consumer habits, but the workplace itself is now being considered in a very different way. The social setting and conditions within which a generation comes of age will naturally affect their future demands. They will demand something different from the previous, fashioning new trends and ideologies, which shifts the whole of society into a new domain. But those trends don’t end with the clothes we wear, and the products we eat. They cover the whole of society like an umbrella, and each demand trickles down into different cracks of social life, such as our interaction with one another, the family, the arts, politics and most topically, the workplace.
People’s perception of the world can be understood through the way in which they behave and what demands they have. Whilst there may be some unnecessary hype and over-excitement around millennials and how they are drastically changing modern society, it’s important not to dismiss them entirely on the basis that every generation brings about changes. The way society moves forward is by listening to new demands and changing structures to accommodate them.
Each demand and trend communicates what exactly it is that millennials are prioritizing, and therefore reveals what they consider meaningful. Naturally the digital has affected the way people view the world, from being constantly exposed to the (mediated) lives of others to being reminded about the state of politics and the environment 24/7.
Are they more socially conscious?
Millennials today make up a large portion of the spending power body. As a group of consumers, they are the fastest growing group of socially conscious thinkers, consuming a greater proportion of organic, biodegradable and sustainably sourced materials and food. Whilst it’s debatable how much people are actually invested in environmental issues, it seems to be the narrative of the newer generations.
Companies need to be aware of ‘greenwashing’ – where they pretend to be more environmentally friendly than they actually are – in order to build trust with their consumers. While it may work for some time, consumers are getting increasingly discerning when it comes to authenticity. Companies that cultivate transparency are much more likely to be trusted, invested in and purchased from in the future. Research has found that there’s a link between wellbeing and how people feel about the place they work. Lord Mark Price speaks about workplace happiness, its relation to employee wellbeing and how it affects performance. Based on his study at Engaging Works, people are reported to be happier when they feel proud to work for their company or find the work that they do meaningful.
Another emerging priority is flexibility in the workplace. Flexible work has historically been seen as a practice for carers or people with children. More recently however it appears people have begun taking notice of the benefits of flexi-work on wellbeing. With more people working from home, using flexi-hours and freelancing, work-life balance is of increasing importance in modern society.
As the rise of the Internet has raised awareness on the different opportunities and choices available to millennials, people no longer feel confined to one company and one job. The goal is no longer to reach long-term, full time employment and climb the ladder in the same company you started in. It seems the goal is now project-based, flexible work in order to spend more time fulfilling another passion.
What does this mean for employers?
Employees are increasingly seeking out companies that have the same concerns as them – whether that is for the environment, social justice or simply making work-life more flexible. The ‘meaning over money’ narrative has seeped into the professional world, shifting our understanding of work and the workplace as a whole.
These demands come hand in hand with wellbeing and employee happiness. As more importance is placed on mental health and employee wellbeing, companies need to find ways of introducing structures that foster this new way of thinking about work.
Flora is a freelance writer, holds an MA in Media and Communications from LSE and works in the entertainment industry in London. She’s interested in digital anthropology, photojournalism and memory.