One of my go-to resources for discovering the latest insights on Millennials is Deloitte's reputable Millennial Survey. This year's report -- based on the views of almost 8,000 Millennials questioned across 30 countries -- grabbed my attention.
For companies looking to attract and retain Millennial talent, pay attention. In the current environment, there is one work practice that continues to encourage employer loyalty and make a significant contribution to business performance. The report sums it up like this:
Freelance flexibility with full-time stability.
While nearly two-thirds of Millennials said they prefer full-time employment, overall, 84 percent of Millennials report some degree of flexible working conditions in their organizations, and 39 percent say their organizations offer highly flexible working environments.
The power of flexible working arrangements.
The full report showed that Millennials value several things pertinent to a strong work culture: a preference for plain talk, inclusiveness, and directness in their bosses; businesses that are involved in social issues and "good causes" for positive change; and the obvious potential benefits of automation in terms of productivity and economic growth, to name a few.
But flexible work options take the cake as a force for increasing employee engagement. It continues to be a feature of most Millennials' working lives and is linked to improved organizational performance, personal benefit, and loyalty.
Globally, two-thirds of Millennials say their employers have adopted flexible arrangements that fall into any of these four categories:
- Flexible time: Employees choosing when they start and finish work.
- Flexible recruitment: Offering different types of contracts, crowd-sourcing talent, etc.
- Flexible role: Employees choosing, within certain guidelines, what they do as part of their job.
- Flexible location: Employees choosing to work from the office, from home, or other locations.
Compared with those in "low-flexibility" environments, the report states, "those employed where flexible working is highly embedded are twice as likely to say it has a positive impact on organizational performance and personal well-being."
In another massive study involving more than 23,000 employees in 45 countries, it was found that when employees agree their work schedule is flexible enough for them to meet family and other personal responsibilities, 79 percent report a more positive employee experience (versus 48 percent who disagree).
The future of work.
Thought-leaders envisioning the future of work are also calling for flexible work arrangements as we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Bryan Koontz, CEO of Guidefitter, says: "I believe the future of company culture in 10 to 15 years will be dramatically influenced by the internet of things. The 9-to-5 will be traded for a flexible work schedule that allows for three-hour lunch breaks, late mornings, or half-day Fridays. Due largely to IoT, defined hours and boundaries will dissolve as work will be able to be accomplished regardless of location."
Jodie Shaw, CMO of The Alternative Board, was quoted as saying, "The future of company culture means greater flexibility for employees in terms of location and schedule, offering them better work life balance and stronger engagement."
Sara Sutton Fell founded FlexJobs as a working mom who is passionate about improving lives through flexible work options. Her company's whole existence is to serve the needs of workers who want more freedom and work-life balance or just want to escape the office. Naturally, she also built a company that operates with a remote work force.
Earlier this year, FlexJobs released its annual list of the 100 top companies to watch for remote (work from home) jobs in the months ahead. FlexJobs analyzed the job posting data in its database from over 47,000 "remote friendly" companies, and narrowed its list down to the companies that posted the most remote jobs the previous year.
While Millennials' desire to have the best of both worlds--freelance flexibility with full-time stability--may lend to the stereotypical notion of "entitlement" we so often attach to this generation, high-performing, people-centered employers see it differently; a workplace with more freedom and autonomy is strong enough to influence a talented Millennial's future job choice, sometimes more than salary does. By offering flexible working arrangements for good talent, companies are making a business case that will reap financial benefits, where both sides win.
Bottom line: Discretionary effort.
But here's what really drives it home for me. Any time employers and leaders create the environment for more positive experiences at work -- like flexible work arrangements -- they will witness significantly higher levels of discretionary effort in their people.
And discretionary effort is something every company needs to release within its work force for competitive advantage. When the employee experience is at an optimum level, the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals hits another stratosphere.
In other words, people will go above and beyond typical job responsibilities. They will go the extra mile, and you can see discretionary effort in any organization, at any level, whether you're the janitor or a VP. It's a real thing, and it's something you can see and measure.