The workplace is evolving rapidly as millennials enter and change legacy business practices that have existed for a century. By next year, they will comprise 36 percent of the US workforce, will increase to 46 percent by 2020, and five years later become 75 percent of the global workforce. Today, 15 percent are already managers and in twelve years, they will be calling the shots and it’s a good thing for the corporate world.
Currently, corporations are suffering from poor reputations as created from the economic collapse, the Wall Street banker bailouts, and the perception that they are only in business for profit not purpose. Millennials have a different view of how work should be done and what a company’s role should be in society. They want companies to give back to the community, to eliminate the traditional 9 to 5 workday, collaboration instead of isolation, and to create a organization fabricated by social media.
Millennials, relative to older generations, are all about giving back to communities that align with their core values. They want to make a difference in a world through their employer, not just do busy or meaningless work. In a study by Deloitte, they found that 92 percent of Millennials believe that business should be measured by more than just profit and should focus on a societal purpose.
When I interviewed John Mackey, the co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, for Forbes, he confirmed this by saying, “I’m very encouraged by millennials and their drive to make the world a better place.”
Smart companies like TOMS have created programs that support communities and are very appealing to millennials. TOMS has the “One for One” program that matches every pair of shoes purchased with a new pair given to a child in need and showing the direct impact these shoes have on children’s lives. Contrary to the sentiment that millennials don’t give to charity, 81 percent of them donated money, goods or services in 2011 alone reports Harris Interactive.
The traditional 9 to 5 workday isn’t relevant in a 24/7 technology driven world, where we’re always “on call.” Where and when work should get done is irrelevant. All that matters is business results! Millennials want the flexibility to work from home and make their own hours. A Cisco study shows that 70 percent of students believe it is unnecessary to be in an office regularly. Millennials will make working from home or from shared office spaces the norm — goodbye cubicles!
The New York Times reports that the average amount of office space per employees in the U.S. has already dropped from 400 square feet to 250 and in the future will be reduced to 150. The idea that we’ll be walking into a major office building will face away. Some companies are already leading the way, including Aetna. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, 47 percent of Aetna’s 35,000 employees work from home now, and it’s saving them millions of dollars.
The best way to facilitate new ideas and incorporate the creativity and ingenuity of workers is to form a collaborate work setting. Millennials want to collaborate instead of being confined to a cubicle and watch as people walk by. Instead of the traditional office space, there will be social spaces customized to match individual worker needs.
In response to this need, Cisco created the Cisco Connected Workplace, which is a flexible and open office environment at all of their offices worldwide. Employees don’t have assigned workspace, can choose from the space that meets their needs at the moment, can have spontaneous meetings in a lounge area or formal enclosed meetings. There’s even a standing countertop so they can quickly check their email or make a phone call. Collaborative work environments will make workers more productive, and give them more flexibility so they can better focus on their tasks.
All companies will soon take down their firewalls and allow employees to access social networks. Millennials are always connected through technology to the people who surround their lives and they view their personal and professional identities as one in the same. 31 percent of companies currently block access to social networks reports OfficeTeam, but 56 percent of millennials wouldn’t work a company that blocks it says Cisco. If workers are forced to do business outside of the office, such as making a call to China or answering an email, then they should be able to do personal related things inside the office.
Social tools allow for faster and cheaper communication, boost employee morale and allow for global networking. They are also becoming more important to influence the marketplace. In a new study for my book, Promote Yourself, in partnership with American Express, we found that 17 percent of employees view using social media profiles to actively contribute to online industry conversations as either very important or extremely important. Social media allows employees to express who they are, their skills and connect with people who can make work more enjoyable.
Despite millennials getting pinned down with remarks about how entitled, needy and lazy they are, they are going to shape the future of work in a positive way that will benefit everyone. Employers need to embrace this generation and support their needs and ambitions if they want to stay competitive in the global marketplace.