We hear a lot about what Millennials want and how they are different from Gen-Xers and (especially) baby boomers. While we need to be careful to not stereotype any person, we can definitely say that, as of late, the rules have changed. Here are 5 things that have changed in the workplace.
1. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
Can you imagine in 1982 being asked to bring in your own phone and typewriter? Ridiculous. But now? Lots of companies ask employees to bring their own phones and sometimes their own laptops. While there are some legal pitfalls involved in a BYOD policy, lots of people love them. If we're expected to be on call 24/7, do we really want to carry two phones in our purses and pockets?
2. The Brain Break
The old adage may be if you aren't head down, you aren't working, but today's Millennials aren't interested in that type of environment. While Millennials don't want to job hop, being happy at a job is more important to them than to their older counterparts. And what makes Millennials happy? A nice brain break--be it playing a game on their smartphones, texting friends, or doing whatever the young whippersnappers do these days (and while you're at it, get off my lawn!). Is this bad? Not at all.
We recognize that you can ruin your muscles by lifting boxes for eight straight hours with no pauses, but we're not as good at recognizing that our brains need a break as well. If your employees are getting their jobs done, don't say anything about their Candy Crush addiction--unless they are on a higher level than you are.
3. The Multicultural Workplace
Fifteen percent of American Millennials were born outside the U.S. That's the largest generational cohort since 1910. It's not your dad's workplace anymore. Millennials don't see these people as "others," because if a Millennial isn't a first- or second-generation American, it's likely that a good portion of his or her friends are. This can mean lots of new insights in the global marketplace. Other lands aren't seen as scary. Almost one-quarter of Millennials speak a language other than English at home.
I've seen this shift firsthand through my radio appearances. I frequently do radio appearances. Various shows ask me on to explain some weird HR thing in the news, or to give advice on how to get a job or how to get your supervisor fired. The Millennial producers who find me have no problem with the fact that I live overseas. But three different times, a Generation X-aged host rejected me because "we only want someone in America." Never mind that I hold an American passport and write about American issues (almost exclusively). They are scared to death to have someone from "overseas" on the phone. One host explained (through her producer), "We can't trust phone lines to Switzerland." It's doubtful a Millennial would have made the same statement. (For the record, you can trust phone lines to Switzerland.)
4. Entitled at Work
Whether or not Millennials feel entitled, business leaders think they feel that way, with 31 percent of CEOs saying that they need more intense supervision. I have to say to that, duh. Why wouldn't the youngest members of the work force need more supervision than the people who have been working for 20 years? Heaven knows, I needed more supervision when I was just starting out, and you did too.
Nevertheless, that image follows them, and some good has come about because of it. Because Millennials do value perks and work-life balance, and companies believe they need to offer those things in order to attract the younger employees, we see a lot of perks. Thing like yoga classes, free lunches, and game rooms are designed to make the Millennial employee happy, but everyone benefits.
5. Informal Communication
The days of formal memos are gone in favor of IMs and text messages. While I'll continue to counsel people of all ages to use formal language and stay away from "text speak," informal message systems are here to stay. And it's not only informal forms of delivery, it's also the emoji. Seventy-six percent of Americans use emojis in their professional communication.
Business deals can be closed through a serious of text messages at 9:00 p.m.--or later. You can know how your co-worker feels about a particular project by the little face she's added at the end of her email. Companies are picking up, and in 2015, Apple is releasing a whole new set of characters with different skin tones. The informal is here to stay.