How Millennials Are Shaping the Workplace

Changing workplace norms has been a hot topic for years now, but as more millennials enter the workforce, the idea of “new work” has dominated the conversation. Read on to find out the connection between the two.

What do millennials have to do with new work?

Millennials make up a significant portion of the current workforce, but recruiting and retaining this generation is no easy task. Considered the “job-hopping generation,” millennials won’t stay in a position that doesn’t offer a solid work-life balance. In fact, Gallup estimated the turnover cost to the economy at $30.5 billion per year. If you want your top picks of the crème de la crème and want to keep them happy too, it’s important to understand the New Work approaches that millennials are looking for in the workplace.

Why do millennials matter?

Millennials, those born between 1980 and 1996, are now entering the workplace in vast numbers. Currently, this generation represents 35% of the US labor force, and by 2025, millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce. There’s no doubt that millennials will continue to shape the 21st-century workplace, and for companies to continue to expand it’s crucial to attract and retain talented millennial workers.

Are millennials actually any different from other generations?

As one of the largest and most diverse generations, it’s important to note that millennials can’t be completely homogenized, but they do embody some common characteristics that foster an understanding of their behaviors and attitudes in the workplace.

According to a report conducted by Gallup, millennials are changing working environments and culture in six significant ways:

Purpose over paycheck - Millennials look for meaning in a job, which means they want to support companies and organizations that follow a concrete mission and purpose. In the past, the purpose wasn’t a driving factor in choosing a career, it was more about supporting your family and community. Of course, a paycheck is important to millennials as well, but it doesn’t tend to take priority over meaning and culture.

Development over satisfaction - A common characteristic among millennials is the desire to continue learning and professionally progressing. Over half of millennial job seekers (59%) claim that opportunities to learn in the workplace are extremely important when applying for positions. They assign the most importance to this job feature, accounting for the greatest difference between millennials and other generations.

Coaching over bossing -  Rather than a scary and commanding boss, millennials prefer a modern style of management, coaching. They believe that their coach should value them as an employee and an individual and assist with their professional and personal development.

Conversations over reviews - Growing up in a digital world, millennials are familiar with smartphones, laptops, and social media being the norm. They’re used to instant and unlimited access to information. That translates into the workplace in that millennials need ongoing conversations and constant feedback. Annual performance reviews aren’t going to cut it!

Strengths over weaknesses - Although workplaces shouldn’t ignore shortcomings, millennials want companies to “minimize weaknesses and maximize strengths.” They want to add value to their jobs to stay engaged and connected.

Living over working -  More so than any other generation, millennials are asking themselves if their current or potential workplace values their strengths and contributions. Because to them, “a job is no longer just a job,” but a life too.

While it’s not necessarily their goal to target millennials, the companies that have been the most successful in recruiting this generation are naturally innovative employers - think Google, Facebook, and Apple. Because of their willingness to “go against the status quo” and implement new working approaches, they are able to have their pick of the younger talent pools.

Millennials and new work methods

With millennials projected to dominate the workforce in the upcoming years, they’re likely the driving forces behind the change. That’s why it’s crucial for companies to take into consideration millennial workplace behaviors to remain successful in the future. Catering to millennial wishes of purpose, development, and work-life balance could take the form of new work, a framework of conditions that prioritizes employee-centered work and leadership.

Encourage self-organization

Self-organization means that a company’s collective goal is achieved by identifying and utilizing the skills, knowledge, and resources of each individual. It’s a system that demands experimentation and flexibility, but it encourages self-actualization. Since millennials value employers that maximize their strengths, self-organization is an important strategy to implement into workplace practices. In turn, it sets up individuals to reach objectives and feel fulfilled at work.

Support individual goals

When millennials feel like their goals are considered and valued, they tend to be more motivated to participate in overarching goals. For example, an OKR goal-setting strategy encourages a management framework that allows goals to be set both bottom-up and top-down, leading to a mutual goal-setting process that provides intrinsic motivation at all levels.

Empower positive leadership

Millennials have a new perspective on leadership thinking. The task manager isn’t just around to delegate tasks and control them later. Rather, a quality manager is someone who can effectively coach employees and understand the fundamental factors that motivate that individual in order for them to optimize their performance. In other words, managers should care about their workers as people and want them to succeed professionally and personally through job clarity, ongoing feedback and communication, new opportunities for development, and accountability.

Implement agile systems

An agile system refers to the project management approach that helps teams deliver more value to their customers in a faster and more efficient way. There are many different ways to implement agile characteristics, but many teams welcome a trial and error approach. Such methods would appeal to millennials who appreciate a flexible working environment that promotes continued learning and more opportunities to grow.

Millennials in the workplace are here to stay

As one of the largest generations, millennials are poised to reshape the workplace with their unique wants and needs. In order for companies to tap into millennial talents, it is crucial to understand what conditions motivate this generation to work well. Millennials look for growth opportunities, great coaches, and jobs that cater to their talents and interests. When companies implement new work structures to accommodate this change, they’re more likely to see success in the future.

A New Way to Plan OKRs

Redefine goal setting in a way millennials can get on board with.
Find out more about millennials in the workplace


What defines millennials?
People born between 1980 and 1996 are considered millennials
What do millennials have to do with new work?
Millennials are entering the workplace in large numbers and are likely the drivers for a change in workplace culture. According to Gallup, this generation is more likely to break down traditional organizational working structures.
Do millennials have a strong work ethic?
Millennials have a strong work ethic, but it presents itself differently than earlier generations. Millennials tend to be more collaborative and passionate about their work.
How do you work with the millennial generation?
Try working in groups, provide consistent feedback, give them the technology they need, and connect them to the company vision.
What do millennials want in the workplace?
Millennials want growth opportunities, great coaches, and roles that highlight their talents and goals.