Every generation has its own challenges and opportunities in the workforce, but it seems none have been more scrutinized, written about and discussed than the millennial generation. Just as the baby boomers and Gen-Xers had their own characteristics, this generation of recent college graduates to early 30-year-olds comes with its own attributes and expectations.
As aging baby boomers retire and millennials step up to take their places, many companies are undergoing drastic changes to their workforce. While we read about companies looking for ways to adapt to millennials, let’s put the shoe on the other foot: how should young professionals approach these dynamic workplaces?
The business world has changed considerably since millennials were born. The internet is a necessity, not a luxury, smartphones grant continuous access to the office that continues to go paperless, and work-life balance seems harder to achieve with technology’s expanding reach. Millennials, just like me, enter the workforce confident in their abilities to use advanced technology in a flexible work environment.
While we have the tools do our work, there are other, somewhat bigger issues to look at. Here are my top five concerns:
- Flexible schedule. While working remotely, either from home or elsewhere, isn’t new, many companies are still realizing the value of flexible schedules. What I’ve discovered is that a flexible work schedule is more often earned rather than given to an employee. As a result, millennials should focus on building trust through quality work and demonstrate the ability to work independently. It’s also not all about you; when asking for a flexible work schedule, highlight how this arrangement will benefit the company. If working from home one more day a week increases your efficiency, stress the productivity gains during the proposal, but ensure that you also deliver on your promises.
- Be visible. Communication also varies greatly between generations. The same technology that allows the freedom to work outside the office also enables us to ask questions or hold meetings without ever leaving our cube. While millennials may prefer communicating through texting and email, face-to-face communication may be preferred by managers. Moreover, seeing each other in person is essential to building strong working relationships. Walk down the hall every now and then, instead of sending that email! Communication around flexible work schedules is also key to making these arrangements work. Checking email frequently, and answering any urgent items, are very important. Managers and team members should view the remote employee as available, even when working outside the office.
- Strive for a work-life blend. As mentioned above, technology also makes work-life balance more difficult to achieve, but instead of looking for the perfect balance, millennials should try embrace a work-life blend. Smartphones make potential work interruptions inevitable, but setting and communicating boundaries can make these blips less frequent. One way of achieving boundaries is to check work email after hours only during busy times, or if asked by the manager. Likewise, millennials should respond in a timely manner, when necessary. Understand, however, that these boundaries should not be set unilaterally – the millennials and their manager should discuss a plan so both sides have the same understanding.
- Get regular feedback. Millennials are accustomed to constant feedback. Social networking and smartphones allow for immediate updates and information. Yet, frequent performance updates may not be the standard for most companies, and most companies probably only offer feedback on a set schedule. Instead, informal conversations may need to be initiated by the millennial, but be sure to give the reviewer ample time to prepare. Suggest a quick meeting after a project wraps up, and remind the manager a few days before the scheduled meeting.
- Recognize the internal differences. With such a wide age span, millennials also have varying attributes. For example, older millennials may be less likely to share the communication preferences of the younger half of the generation. Conversely, as they learn to manage the extra connectivity to their jobs, older millennials may have more difficulty finding balance between work and their personal life.
Adapting to the changing workforce is not the responsibility of companies alone. Millennials should be willing to embrace opportunities created by these adaptations. This generation receives unprecedented access to their jobs through ever-advancing technology that can make achieving balance much more difficult. Two-way communication between the company and the young professional is key for a smooth transition.
In addition, millennials should be considerate of how they communicate with other team members and ask for feedback. Each new generation forces the need for new adaptations; as today’s “Generation Z” grows up, millennials will be the established group looking to adapt. Learning these skills now is valuable to us, as we advance in our careers.
Editor’s note: There are ways that other generations should adapt to the millennial’s perspective as well! To learn more, check out the Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax Pro Center article “Lessons from Millennials: How to Use Content to Grow Your Practice.”