More than a third of all US workers today are millennials. This means many of the major shifts taking place in the modern workforce—remote working, geographically distributed teams, the growing popularity of online collaboration tools—can be attributed to the millennial generation’s preferences that flow into their careers.
Myself, I am a GenX’er – right smack-dab in the middle between the Boomers and the millennials – and I have a genuine appreciation for all generations, and the style and uniqueness of everyone. To me, we should celebrate generational differences as they make us stronger, better – and push our businesses to grow.
But I have learned that being a millennial isn’t all selfies and avocado toast. 🥑Being born between 1982 and 2000 also means being a part of the first generation to be worse off than their parents, and will be the first generation to truly manage through the rising threat of climate change, based on decades of neglect.
All of which is to say, millennials can improve aspects for all of us – and in the modern workforce, here’s how they have shaped the much needed, collaboration style.
Millennials Are Raising the Bar on Productivity
First, let’s smash the common myth that millennials are lazy and not interested in hard work. As research reported in the Harvard Business Review finds, millennials are actually workaholics. For example, they forfeit their vacation days to get work done at much higher rates than older generations in the workforce.
Because they were raised with more technology at their fingertips than any previous generation, millennials are also more comfortable with getting work done outside the office, at any time, wherever they happen to be. These younger workers have no problem, for example, jumping on a late-night call with a colleague or sending a file from their phone while out to dinner. Also, because they’re regularly using cloud-based project management apps like Trello and Asana, millennials are just as capable of making real progress on projects from home, the train, or a coffee shop as they are at their desks.
In other words, the things that have gotten the millennial generation unfairly labeled as unwilling to work hard, such as their desire for work life balance and more flexible office hours, come not from laziness but from approaching work with a different perspective than employees of other generations.
Millennials know their jobs. They know the tasks they have to get done. They’re perfectly comfortable managing those tasks and collaborating with their team online, using productivity and collaboration apps. And they know how, when, and where they can do that work most effectively—which isn’t always in a cubicle or office.
Millennials Are Redefining the Office Meeting
This also helps explain millennials’ skepticism toward traditional office meetings. Millennials do not agree with the old-fashioned idea that “It’s Monday morning!” is reason enough to drag everyone into a conference room for an hour. Millennials want their meetings to be held in functional and creative spaces, have clear time-boxed agendas and above all, a clearly defined purpose.
Not surprisingly, then, millennials are comfortable with online meetings with their teams, particularly video conferences. Although 51% of millennials value face-to-face communication with coworkers, they believe they can achieve this virtually. In fact, 60% say better communication technology—such as online meeting software—could even make in-person communication obsolete in the future. In other words, millennials want plenty of collaboration with their teams and coworkers. They want to talk to their managers often, receive regular feedback on their performance, and engage in “collaborative goal setting” to define their jobs.
The difference between millennials and previous generations is that millennials do not believe collaboration needs to happen in a company’s office building, but instead can take place anywhere and at any time the company’s workers feel most productive and creative.
Millennials Are Also Reshaping the Collaborative Work Environment
Loads of research has shown that the millennial generation would like more opportunities to work remotely. They have the tools and technology to get work done anywhere—from project management apps to file-sharing apps to collaboration and video conferencing platforms. So they don’t feel the need to sit in an office building during business hours.
Speaking of business hours, 88% of millennials wish they could work at times they choose—as opposed to a fixed 9-to-5 schedule—because that flexibility would give them a better work life balance. And again, if this sounds like laziness, remember that these same millennials are perfectly willing to jump into an email exchange or hop on a video chat with their team after-hours, or even on a weekend, if that’s what it takes to keep a project moving.
Let’s give the millennial generation their due – and appreciate them for their witty humor – but moreover, they are bridging generations rather than creating silos.
The millennial generation is helping to reinvent the modern workplace; giving us all more opportunities to be productive when and how we choose and using the right tools and technology to work even more closely and collaboratively with our teams.