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What millennials want (and don’t want) in the workplace

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7 mins

The age of the baby boomer dominating the landscape of the workplace has come to a close. According to research by Inc., millennials now encompass half of the American workforce and, by 2025, will comprise 75 percent of the global workforce.

The needs and wants of millennials differ significantly from those of their parents. Millennials grew up watching their mother and father head off each day to a very structured work environment, with the hope that they would work for the same company for forty years and retire comfortably. Their parents worked in an environment where uniformity was valued, and the corner office was the brass ring. Times have certainly changed.

Walking into today’s modern office is proof of that. Private offices are few and far between, with clustered seating dominating the office layout. Breakrooms with free snacks and beer are not uncommon, and it’s not unusual to see dogs freely roaming about the office. Some baby boomers have adapted to these changes; many have not.

Millennials, those born between 1981 and 1996, are very particular and very clear about what’s important to them when it comes to the workplace. They are not afraid to change employers if they are not fulfilled and happy with their current job situation. This has forced employers to take notice of their needs and do their best to elevate employee retention.

What exactly do millennials want in the workplace? Here are some elements of their wish list when they are conducting a job search. Employers would do well to take notice of their desires to attract and retain this very valuable sector of the workforce.

Professional development

Millennials know what they don’t know and want to learn. They are not opposed to training by qualified instructors they view as highly competent on the subject matter. Contrary to the opinion of some members of previous generations, they take great pride in their work and are willing to commit to ongoing education to learn and perfect their craft.

Equally important to them is how the information is presented. They are a generation used to having things done quickly, particularly the dissemination of information. Because of this, they will lose interest and concentration quickly if education is not presented accurately and efficiently. The most valued instructors are those that can concisely present the necessary material in an engaging format.

Diversity and inclusion

Knowing that they are going to invest a large percentage of their time working, millennials want to spend that time someplace that meets their cultural needs. They value comfort and informality.

When visiting their workplace, you’re met with the feeling that you’re in someone’s personal living space. Over-sized chairs, ping pong, and foosball tables, modern art, and refrigerators stocked with their favorite foods and snacks are the norms.

It’s important to them that their office reflects their personalities and cultural values. They are proud of their individuality and want to express that in the workplace, which is shown by the personal items in their workspace. They are unguarded in their display of what is important to them, with the emphasis being on substance rather than form.

Work-life flexibility

Millennials are not big on structure, which is why flexibility in the workplace is important to them. They have witnessed the frustrations of their parents in workplaces that were unbending in rules, regulations, and policies, and they are committed to not being subject to that same type of culture.

They want to get their work done when and where it suits them best. Progressive companies recognize that employees vary in their temperaments and preferences. They understand that some employees perform better in the evening than they do in the morning, that some prefer to work standing up rather than sitting, that some like to work in a group and some like to work alone.

Smart employers also recognize that millennials want the opportunity to work remotely. Millennials care more about the finished product than they do about where it was created. They want the chance, and trust, to be able to work from the corner coffee shop, in their living room, or at the office. Successful organizations applaud the quality of the work, not where it was produced.

[Read: 7 healthy work-life balance tips to guide your career ]

Collaborative environment

Though there are always some “lone wolves,” by-and-large, millennials enjoy working in groups and sharing ideas. Many modern-day offices have personal work areas set up in pods or clusters, allowing teams to interact and communicate freely, something millennials value and enjoy.

Millennials want a workplace that encourages teamwork but also respects their privacy. Throughout many offices today, you’ll see chairs set apart from others, allowing more introverted individuals to have a personal space where they can re-charge their batteries after group time. Around the corner, you’ll likely find two people sitting on a couch, working together on their laptops. Collaboration is encouraged by progressive companies, but individuality is also respected.

Supportive management

Millennials are not averse to supervision. They recognize that teams and departments need a leader, and they are more than willing to support and follow someone who is competent and clearly communicates personal and group objectives.

They want a manager that will not only support them in their work but one who values what they do and will offer encouragement and praise. Having a manager that they trust will significantly increase the quantity and quality of their production.

Open and honest communication is also a must-have for millennials. They abhor hidden agendas and will not get behind a manager who is not being forthright with them. If they are dealt with dishonestly, they are not afraid of networking with friends and finding employment elsewhere.

Employee benefits

Millennials want security as well as freedom. They want an employer that offers them more than just a paycheck; they want an employer that will provide them with a feeling of well-being. They want to partner with an organization that cares about them as individuals and is willing to show that commitment with a comprehensive employee benefits package.

Most millennials have grown up experiencing the value of having a good health insurance program. They may have personally experienced the loss of a parent and seen the difference a life insurance policy made for their family. Or, they may have seen a parent become disabled and went through a drastic change in lifestyle because their parent lacked adequate disability insurance coverage. Events like these have colored their desire to have generous employee benefits.

They also value education as one of their benefits. Instruction on such topics as financial well-being and fundamentals of retirement planning are welcome additions to their overall benefits plan. It’s another sign that their employer is listening to them and providing them useful information.

Millennials are very good at expressing what they need and want in the workplace. They are well educated on their craft, and knowledgeable about what companies are willing and able to offer them. Today’s employers will do well to ask and listen to what millennials want in exchange for the excellent work they put their signature on each day. Theirs is a generation well positioned to carry the workplace into the future.

Jack Wolstenholm is the head of content at Breeze.

The information and content provided herein is for educational purposes only, and should not be considered legal, tax, investment, or financial advice, recommendation, or endorsement. Breeze does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, reliability or usefulness of any testimonials, opinions, advice, product or service offers, or other information provided here by third parties. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

— Published May 20, 2020
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