The Millennials – Shaping the workplace of the future

First there was Generation X and now the job market has a new breed of individual – the Millennial. This new breed of twenty-something individual is indeed differently natured to previous generations and exhibits specific characteristics that make them difficult, or at least peculiar, employees.

Even the word employee does not accurately define them. A Millennial doesn’t want to be pinned down, boxed in or indentured. They want flexible hours, rapid status and, of course, a swift route to earning big money.

This creates an interesting challenge for the more traditional older generation having to encounter and manage these so-called Millennials. This new generation is defined by something more powerful and life-altering perhaps than any phenomenon in human history – the internet. This has literally created a collective consciousness that is tangible, measurable and omnipresent.

But what about values – is there pause for concern? Jarred Cinman, Managing Director of NATIVE, believes yes. Just as generations before have bemoaned the loss of values of younger people, the same concerns are being expressed right now. “And while we must always remember the flipside – that there are things about this generation that are admirable and encouraging – as an employer, and a member of an older generation in an increasingly Millennial world, there are three key characteristics Millennials exhibit that are worth taking note of,” he says.

The first key characteristic is Attention Deficit. There is no doubt that attention has become a rare commodity. The internet, with its ever increasing demand on attention and ever increasing array of available targets, has created a generation in which nothing grabs their attention for very long.

The implications of this are important. “Everything needs to be more compelling – subtlety stops working and time compresses what would have previously satisfied for days or weeks or months before, to only a few minutes.”

Cinman says this inability to stay the course has deep implications for relationships and careers. “It may manifest as an addiction to excitement or as intolerance for boredom or continuity. In the workplace it shatters the long-term employee archetype.”

The upside is that young people are less likely to remain in dead-end jobs and this has helped stimulate an explosion in entrepreneurship where economic conditions enable it.

The second characteristic is the End of Silence. Nothing has changed our lives more than the cellphone and nothing has changed cellphones more than connecting them to the internet. People are literally never cut off from the steady pulse of news, entertainment and social exchange. “The world is thus paradoxically more silent – as people engage with their phones instead of one another. It is also absent of mental silence as the phone pours the internet into each person’s mind with relentless efficiency.”

Cinman believes it remains to be seen whether this relentless noise will lead to a greater desire for silence or an inability to tolerate it. “It’s certainly not going to get any less noisy with the advent of Google Glass and similar wearable technology that will, in effect, bring the inevitable direct connection between our brains and the internet one step closer,” he says.

Finally, the workplace is characterised by the need for prestige. Cinman says success is a drug we all crave in one form or the other. “But if the internet and the proliferation of entertainment and content has made us impatient with tedium, our exposure in social networks has made us crave status. And, again, the newest generation to hit the workplace comes with this heightened need for extrinsic value baked in.”

Cinman says this is not to say that 80’s kids lacked ambition, but there is something about the respect for earning status that has changed. “Or perhaps it’s a belief in hard work per se that has eroded. This seems to be the result of status being earned too rapidly or too easily or too predictably in the online world. Or perhaps it is just a consequence of being a part of the first generation to really live in the kind of society that social networks have produced.”

Whatever the reason, Millennials have their status expectations on overdrive and this can be a challenge in a workplace created by people who are used to career advancement measured in decades rather than months.

So what will the future world created by this generation look like? Once those over 35 are done with it, and once today’s children are grown and ready to work, what will the then 40-somethings have forged? “Will those workplaces and cultures be more accepting to the fickleness and impatience we struggle to integrate today? Only time will tell,” concludes Cinman.



Compiled on behalf of NATIVE by Cathy Findley Public Relations