In case you haven't heard the news, the Millennial workforce is growing.

According to a Pew study, the size of this generation is around 54 million and growing. That's a few more million than Baby Boomers and about a million more than Gen Xers. Microsoft recently surveyed about a 1,000 Millennials about their work preferences as a way to attract and retain this modern workforce in the age of changing work entitlements like working anytime and anywhere and having a company mission.

The reason it's important to start thinking about this workforce is that Millennials are the ones who will be in leadership roles, starting companies, and eventually taking over many of the roles left behind by Gen X and Baby Boomers. I once interviewed Hans Neubert, the Chief Creative Officer at the well-regarded design company Frog, I remember him telling me about how Baby Boomers will have to get used to having a boss who is a Millennial.

David Smith, the General Manager in charge of SMB at Microsoft, explained that there might be more adjustments we'll have to make. The survey involved people 18-34 years old. Some of the results made me do a double-take.

For starters, Millennials demand real-time collaboration, the kind where people work in groups on a project at the same time. Work is their community. 65% said they prefer face-to-face meetings, and Microsoft called out collaboration is a primary driver for where they seek employment. Smith said they want an energetic, vibrant place to work. And, almost half said they do not like working from home. Any perceptions about Millennials wanting to work in isolation are likely a bit misguided.

"They thrive on interaction because they grew up on social media," says Smith. Indeed, in our discussion, we compared notes working with Millennials who expect near constant communication and collaboration (the kind where you edit docs and presentations together). Baby Boomers tend to view collaboration as individuals doing tasks contiguously that leads to a whole. It's more of an assembly line.

A second major point is that Millennials said they want to work at a company that provides the latest technology. A full 93% said this is a big factor in choosing an employer. My takeaway here is that the tools we offer to Millennials must encourage collaboration. I kept thinking about how younger workers are email averse-they prefer tools like Slack and Yammer.

Another interesting finding in the survey had to do with how Millennials place a high value on mission. I've always wondered about this one because I'm curious about why they care so much about what the company does in the community and whether the firm has any long-term, planet-saving goals. Smith says Millennials have a propensity to give back. 88% of those surveyed said they were drawn to a company because of its values and mission.

"The one thing you can't digitize is values; it's in your heart, it's what your family has instilled in you," says Smith. "A mission statement can't be digitized. It is what your team believes. What we found in the survey was that today's younger workforce has an independent mindset and is looking to align their professional career with a higher purpose."

I have my own theory about this, of course. Millennials have grown up with a great degree of independence. They have an expectation of choice. They can choose a phone or a laptop or a car. There is a myriad of options. Many of the Millennials I know were expected to make these choices even at an early age; even if it seems like they are entitled, they definitely had to make many choices even as younger teens.

A mission gives them a fulcrum. They are drawn to one like a magnet because it helps them feel grounded in the face of so many decisions about life. They want purpose amid chaos. They want a pivot point for their decisions.

What do you think? I'm curious about your take on the findings and if you have seen the same trends. Just post in comments to get the conversation started.

Published on: Nov 13, 2015
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