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Millennials at Work

The oft-cited war for talent is over. In case you haven’t felt it in the job marketplace, talent won!

We’ve now entered a new era of talent scarcity, a time when buyers of talent must focus on attracting and retaining the vital talent they need to execute their strategic plans and get work done.

The new workforce is composed of a complex web of generations, genders, nationalities, needs, desires, etc. which has blended together in the new corporate environment of uncertainty. Many of these workers no longer wish to be employed full-time, instead they are looking for the flexibility and exposure to interesting work that comes with being a freelancer, consultant, or independent worker. The era of staying with one company, doing the same tasks day-in and day-out, for the duration of a career are over. Today’s knowledge workforce is mobile, and only as loyal as the next interesting and well-paying project.

One interesting aspect of this new talent equation is being driven by pure demographics: It is predicted that the number of Millennials in the workplace will outnumber the Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) sometime this year as the leading edge of the Baby Boomers begin to exit the workforce.

The Millennials

The US workplace is increasingly shifting towards the Millennials. This generation is typically defined as people in the age range of 18 to 34. According to the US Census Bureau, there are a projected 74.9 million Millennials, and they will outnumber the Boomers sometime this year.

This means if companies aren’t thinking about what Millennials are looking for in a job, they better start soon. So let’s take a look at what’s important to them. Millennials, like all generations, are definitely interested in the paycheck, but this group is interested in more than just money when it comes to work.


Millennials want the flexibility to pursue a better work-life balance. When surveyed, Millennials share that hobbies, outside-of-work activities and interests are just as important as work-related activities. Research shows that 49% of Millennials say flexibility to establish a healthy work-life balance will improve their happiness, and 59% say more flexibility will improve their productivity. A key part of this flexibility includes the option to work remotely.

Coaches NOT Managers

Millennials prefer managers be more of a coach and less of a job supervisor. While managers tend to be associated with accountability, blame, and barking out orders to employees, a coach brings a more positive aspect to the workplace by promoting a culture of equality and responsibility. With the coaching approach, Millennials can create a closer relationship with their supervisor, one where they view them as a mentor rather than a boss.

No Micro-Management

On a similar note, don’t micromanage this generation of worker. Millennials are happy to own their autonomy. A certain amount of mentoring and coaching is always necessary but don’t overdo it. Millennials want to be empowered with trust and responsibility, and have the freedom to explore new ideas and challenges.


Millennials don’t like to become bored (arguably, like most generations). Entertainment and opportunities are important requirements to keep this group engaged. This makes it important to have a workplace culture that is both challenging and fun. This means more than just a ping-pong table in the office. Because Millennials are often motivated making the world a better place, volunteering through the workplace may be an effective option. Millennials are more likely to be interested in a company that cares about global, social and environmental causes.

Collaboration and Leadership

Millennials are more into collaboration and less into direct competition. This generation wants to work with others to learn and teach at the same time. Working together toward a common goal is obviously good for the organization, but it will also help your Millennial employees feel valued. Collaboration encourages employees to utilize their interpersonal skills, and create a more productive company.

According to a Culture Amp study, 74% of Millennials feel that having confidence in company leadership is important to their engagement at work. Clearly defining everyone’s duties and responsibilities in the company is important, as is ensuring that leadership has an open two-way communication with employees.

According to Intelligence Group studies of Millennials:

  • 64% say it’s a priority for them to make the world a better place.
  • 72% would like to be their own boss. But if they do have to work for a boss, 79% of them would want that boss to serve more as a coach or mentor.
  • 88% prefer a collaborative work-culture rather than a competitive one.
  • 74% want flexible work schedules.
  • 88% want “work-life integration,” which isn’t the same as work-life balance, since work and life now blend together inextricably.


In our work with enterprise clients we increasingly see that the Millennials are an important component of the total workforce. While people in their twenties today are more aware of the evolving workplace culture, it is not such a bad idea to apply these guidelines to all workers, regardless of their age. The counterpoint argument is that these trends have less to do with age-defined generations and more to do with the evolving nature of work.

The way you motivate people at work has changed. Many of the needs of Millennials (e.g. desire for more autonomy, purpose and mastery) are actually the consequence of the changed world we live in and the changing nature of work itself. To succeed in this new world of work, we have to change the way we work – and that has nothing to do with what generation you belong to!

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