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Millennials at Work: Navigating the Challenges

“They’re like Generation X on steroids,” says Bruce Tulgan, author of Managing the Generation Mix, of Millennials. “They walk in with high expectations of themselves, their employer, their boss. If you thought you saw a clash when Generation X came into the workplace, that was the fake punch. They haymaker is coming now.”

Tulgan’s remark continues to ring true as the first wave of constantly-connected human beings percolates into the workforce, their new styles, trends and obstacles in tow.

I’ve talked about the first two buckets in previous posts (here and here), so now it’s time for the tough part: the hang-ups. While this is nowhere near a complete list, it aims to give you an idea of the major pain points companies have been experiencing during the rise of this generation.

Hiiiiiiigh Maintenance

Varied expectations naturally come with cross-generational territory, but Millennials appear to be setting a new record of wants. Their list includes everything from office makeovers to the adoption of new technologies to more flexible work schedules.

You may remember catching a bit of this in the intro piece of this series, in which our college hire, Ryan, casually requested that he be allowed to attend a meeting via Skype. Like Ryan, real-life Millennials grew up speaking the language of technology, so they arrive at the workplace and expect this level of connectivity from day 1. They also expect policies and attitudes that both understand and support this requirement.

To top it off, they want more praise. “The millenium generation has be brought up in the most child-centric generation ever,” explained Cathy O’Neill of Lee Hecht Harrison. “They’ve been programmed and nurtured. Their expectations are different. The Millennial expects to be told how they’re doing.”

While this behavior may come off to many as a bit holier-than-thou, the demands Millennials make of their workplace often match the demands they make of themselves. Thankfully, they’ve got what it takes to deliver on those expectations. “They walk in with more information in their heads, more information at their fingertips,” continued Tulgan. Further, the Pew Research Center said that they “may be on track to emerge as the most educated generation ever.”

Information Demand and Deluge

Millennials were born to multitask, but their multitude of outlets has caused a flood of information across departments with no end in sight. While we all know and love meaningful data, many projects and ideas at one time can lead to a slowing of communications and, in turn, productivity.

Further, Millennials like to demand information just as much as they like to consume it. “Generation Y is much less likely to respond to the traditional command-and-control type of management still popular in much of today’s workforce,” said Jordan Kaplan of Long Island University-Brooklyn. “They’ve grown up questioning their parents, and now they’re questioning their employers. They don’t know how to shut up, which is great, but that’s aggravating to the 50-year-old manager who says, ‘Do it and do it now.’ ”

The demand and deluge of information has caused a shift in leadership, as businesses have found that an increase in transparency and full disclosure helps loosen up the traffic. When everyone is in the know about everything else, there’s a building of trust, respect and dedication among the workforce at levels that haven’t been seen before.

The Silver Lining is Quite Pretty

While these changes are relatively radical for the business environment, what many have found (and are continuing to find) is that companies that have managed to adjust on some level are seeing Agile-related benefits for employees across the organization — not just Generation Y. As I’ve noted on this blog before, Agile is absolutely key in preparing for inevitable change.

What sorts of benefits are you seeing by embracing these challenges? Let’s start a conversation in the comments below.

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