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The Opportunities and Challenges of a Millennial Workforce

millennial workforce

The dynamics of the global workforce demographics are headed towards paradigm shifts. In most nations, millennials now represent the largest section of the workforce. In fact, in the near future, millennials will also achieve the milestone of being the largest generation in the global workforce. They are all set to take the baton from baby boomers and generation X.

For those unsure about the age gap of millennials, it is a generation of people born between 1981 and 1996 as per the Pew Research Center. Those born after 1997 are a part of the Y generation. Before the baton further passes on to generation Y, millennials are here to rule.

What is obvious is that millennials bring new vibes and energies to the workplace. Millennials have a unique charm and style of their own that separates them from others. But do their charm and wits always work in the favor of their organizations? Do millennials bring a spectrum of novel opportunities for organizations or do they pose new challenges? How should organizations look at these new developments in the workforce demographics? Well, the fact of the matter is that the ever-increasing number of millennials in the workplace brings both opportunities and challenges.

This thoughtful and meticulous blog sheds light on how talented millennials can be a great competitive advantage for any business. Besides, the blog also elaborates on the issues that business leaders need to address in the face of millennials taking over the business world. But before we move these merits and challenges, let us glance at some crucial statistics related to the representation of millennials in the workplace.

Some key statistics on millennials in the workplace

Millennials will be 3/4 of the Workforce

As per Forbes, by the end of 2025, millennials will represent three-fourths of the global workforce. Having said that, millennials will be at the helm of the corporate world in the years to come. This also implies that organizations will see some overhauling changes in the near future based on the characteristics, styles, and preferences of millennials. With millennial leaders, the dynamics of leadership will also witness overhauls.

Even at present, millennials make the largest working generation in the United States. As per TeamStage, millennials account for 35 percent of the American workforce with more than 56 million employees. As per the projections of the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, the percentage of millennials in the US workforce by 2030 will be 75 percent. On the other hand, the number of Gen X employees is around 35 percent. To add, the number of baby boomers in the American workforce is a little over 41 million.

Millennials prefer Remote Wrk

As cited by GoRemotely, more than 75 percent of millennials have a preference for permanent remote working opportunities. If not full-time remote work,  they seek at least some form of flexible arrangements in their workplace. The culture of telecommuting is gaining high popularity among millennials.  The majority of them are far more content to be in freelancing or work from home jobs.

Work-Life Balance is Crucial to Millennials

As concluded by Deloitte, maintaining an affluent work-life balance is the top priority for millennials. As many as 95 percent of millennials are looking forward to jobs that offer scope for the ideal work-life balance. For them, this factor is far more crucial than other determinants of job satisfaction and happiness.

Millennials are Motivated

It is intriguing to note that millennials hold values in much higher regard than wages and money in their ebank. Millennials feel more motivated and engaged when their organizations reflect a great purpose and strong values. Besides, as per Smarp, 75 percent of millennials are of the view that the purpose of their organization should be aligned with their personal virtues. In fact, a majority of them are even ready to take a pay cut to take a job at an organization that works with impressive values at the forefront. Millennials are the happiest working for organizations that embrace the values of diversity, integrity, equality, sustainability etcetera.

The Millennial Generation loves Digitalization

Millennials are quite in love with digitalization and they prefer digital modes of working to the conventional working styles. As per a report by Gallup, 85 percent of millennials prefer accessing the web from their mobile devices. Given that, they want their smartphones to be a medium of working.  They want to have access to their work tasks even from their mobile devices to work on the go.

What does this Mean?

The above statistics and trends offer crucial and worthwhile insights into the state of millennials in the workplace. These insights provide vital information on the proportion of millennials in the global workforce along with future projections. Besides, these trends also elucidate the behaviors, expectations, preferences, and priorities of millennials. Here, you should also note the fact that millennials are quite particular about what they anticipate from their workplaces.

While baby boomers and Generation X workers may still compromise on a few things, millennials do not. Millennials are pretty upfront about how they want their professional lives to be. For them, one of the biggest considerations from the viewpoint of employment or retention is company culture.

Moreover, millennials also prioritize the following dimensions that they want their employers or potential organizations to deliver on.

  • Learning and development opportunities in the workplace
  • Flexibility in working arrangements and autonomy
  • Competitive remunerations and proportionate perks
  • Employee recognition and management support
  • Consistent feedback from superiors and managers

The competitive advantage that millennials bring on board

Millennials are the future of workplaces and they have great potential to change the fortunes of any business. With dedicated millennials at the helm, organizations can scale new horizons of success. In contemporary times and in the times to come, innovation will remain pivotal to success. When it comes to millennials, it is a generation that is celebrated for its romance with innovation. To further elucidate on the perks and privileges of having a millennial workforce, let us delve into the merits listed below.

Millennials drive creativity and innovation in the workplace

As per the World Economic Forum, creativity is one of the top ten skills for future success. In fact, as per IBM, most CEOs rate creativity as the topmost skill for attaining great success in the future. Without a doubt, you want your employees to master this skill and build on it every day.
On similar lines, from marketing strategies to product development plans, you need exemplary innovation in the workplace. It would not be incorrect to say that innovation holds the key to excelling and remaining competitive. The future belongs to those businesses that can reap the most of creativity and innovation. From the purview of these two dimensions, millennials can be unparalleled assets for your business plans.

Millennials have a knack for thinking outside the box and defying the ordinary. They are often driven by the urge of trying new and simpler ways of doing traditional work tasks. The great rapport that they have with technology also proves to be a great driving force behind their creative and innovative mindsets. Creativity and innovation can open new doors for a business and script an unbelievable tale of advancement.

Having said that, investing in the creative intellect of millennials can indeed be a humongous competitive advantage. In fact, as per a review of millennial creativity, 73 percent of millennials in the United States are of the view that they are driven by creativity. Hence, creativity and innovation are among the strongest traits of millennials. They challenge the logic of things and can play a leading role in driving positive and innovative changes in the workplace.

Millennials are resilient to challenges

While others may feel overwhelmed with brisk transitions and befitting challenges, millennials tend to show greater resilience. They stand up to challenges or to put it the other way around, millennials love challenges. While they may otherwise get bored of things soon, challenges bring out the best in them and keep them engaged to the best of their abilities.

Furthermore, millennials also have charismatic leadership qualities that keep even the morale of people around them high. Given that, their resilience and acceptance of challenges can be a great addition to a workplace. Seeing their confidence and toughness, even others would feel far more comfortable around challenges.

How millennials responded to the swift changes and workplace challenges in the COVID-19 pandemic is a fine example of their resilience. They may show shorter spans of attention or commitment but they are always optimistic. They are driven by the urge to keep trying rather than taking the call to quit. Of course, you want your employees to be brimming with such resilience and optimism. Having said that, you should feel great about the increasing presence of millennials in the workplace.

Millennials come with high motivation

Millennials are often doubted for their engagement and loyalty to an organization. However, one cannot ignore the fact that millennials come with high levels of intrinsic motivation. They do not look at things as mere obligations or from the purview of necessity. Millennials rather have a different perspective about things. They commit themselves only to things they are passionate about and this passion further drives incredible motivation.

So, if their jobs offer them the right privilege of exploring their passions, motivation can be incredible. Needless to say, motivation is contagious and it can make the work environment far more engaging and positive. Millennials are clear about what they want and are quite uncompromising on that. This clarity further inspires prolific motivation in them that can set standards for others.

Millennials work hard on their EQ skills

Emotional intelligence is gaining great traction as a quintessential workplace skill. Emotional intelligence is a measure of an individual’s ability to understand their emotions well and channelize them in a positive direction. Moreover, emotional intelligence is also a metric for a person’s ability to understand and value the feelings of other people. Having said that, EQ in the workplace is imperative to formulate positive relationships and drive positive results.

Probing further, emotional intelligence in itself is a broader skill set that is an amalgamation of the following skills.

  • Intrinsic motivation
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

Clearly, each of the above components of EQ has its own relevance and merits in the contemporary workplace. Millennials are quite empathetic in their conduct and they also work hard to master the other dimensions of emotional intelligence. Speaking of the relevance of EQ in the workplace, let us look at some important statistics on workplace EQ. As per PR Newswire, more than 95 percent of HR professionals and employees feel that EQ is essential in the workplace.

In fact,  a large segment of employers and employees now believe that EQ is more valuable than IQ.

Do you agree with the same notion? Sooner and later you will for sure once you realize the true prowess of emotional intelligence in the workplace.

As cited in an article by Forbes, 80 percent of millennials responded in a survey with the view that emotional intelligence is a vital part of career development. They responded by saying that they have an active focus on developing emotional intelligence capabilities to attain greater success in their careers. This implies that having more millennials on board can bring greater emotional intelligence to the workplace that can be a key determinant for success.

Millennials are genuine at their emotions, they care for other people’s emotions and may portray exemplary emotional intelligence. All these aspects will go in the favour of an organization given the correlation between EQ and success. Here it is interesting to note that as per Workforce, in any job, 58 percent of the performance is based on an individual’s EQ. This again proves the vitality of EQ in the workplace and success.

Millennials display great eagerness to learn

As stated above, millennials are open to learning and expanding their abilities. This is the reason why they prioritize organizations that offer learning and development prospects to employees. As concluded by Lorman, 87 percent of millennial professionals opine that workplace learning opportunities are salient. Needless to say, learning opportunities will be a key consideration only for a generation that is eager to learn. This is where millennials excel as they understand the need to pivot skills for a better future in this competitive era.

As a business leader, if you look at it from the viewpoint of change management, you want your employees to be open to learning and developing new skills. We have seen quite a few paradigm changes in work cultures in the last few years. Given the pace of automation and digitalization, there would be some massive changes in the future as well. As they say, change is the only constant!

Having said that, each transition would require your employees to adapt and learn new dimensions and skills. This is where the eagerness and openness of your employees to learning will be vital. Even in the general sense, for every new technique or tool blended into the work culture, employees should have the readiness to learn in real-time. Henceforth, the excitement around development opportunities in millennials is one of their greatest strengths.

Millennials are receptive to feedback

Would you prefer employees who are receptive to feedback sharing or the ones who snub feedback? Needless to say, you will prefer the former kind that is receptive to feedback and is ready to make consistent improvements in the best interest of the organization. Both feedback sharing and acting on feedback are vital components of performance management.

When employees are receptive to feedback, it makes the process of performance management far more optimized. This is where millennials outperform others as they are not only happy to receive feedback but are eager to get it. Millennials believe in the process as much as they believe in the outcome. Moreover, they also have faith in the fact that by enhancing the process, they can drive better outcomes. This is what keeps them excited about the idea of receiving feedback.

Millennials have a great zeal to prove themselves and in this pursuit, they are happy to hear from others and make constant improvements in their performance. Besides, they value the experience and expertise that their managers and superiors behold. The gist of the matter is that millennials are streak smart and they do acknowledge the significance of feedback.

Millennials have the key advantage of technological literacy

It is a well-proven fact that the future of the work is remote and no organization can choose to neglect this reality. Besides, the constant developments in automation, artificial intelligence, and IoT are steering new changes in the corporate world almost every day. The gist of the matter is that for emerging as a leader in your industry, you need a workforce that is accomplished in terms of technological literacy.

This is where the tech-savvy millennials take a giant leap ahead of baby boomers and generation X. Millennials know technology well and they are comfortable with the usage of the diverse business tools and technologies that are defining the contemporary business world. While telecommuting is indeed the future of work, you need excellent virtual collaboration and communication skills from your employees.

Given that, millennials can add new dimensions of advantages to a workplace with their brilliance in working with even the most complicated technologies. With millennials, an organization can be brisk at adopting new technologies that optimize results and success. Also, technology can make businesses far more time-effective and cost-efficient.

The right investments in technology can save time as well as the operational costs of a business. However, for the integration of technology to be successful, you need employees who are good at handling technology. Millennials have seen it all in terms of technological revolutions and evolutions. They love to work around new technologies and they look at technological literacy as a standout factor in their personalities. So, in a corporate world riding big on technological advancements, millennials by default offer a premium choice.

Workplace challenges of a large proportion of millennials

Contrary to the merits of having a large percentage of millennials in your workforce, there are also some challenges you need to address. In fact, these challenges are considerable enough to pay heed to while employing millennials. Yes, millennials bring a wide spectrum of bright opportunities to the table but every coin has a flip-side. Some of the most significant problems associated with a millennial-centric workforce.

Millennials exhibit high levels of disengagement

As a business leader, you expect your employees to display active engagement in the workplace. As long as your employees show great engagement, the company’s pursuit of success will keep gaining momentum. In fact, there is a direct correlation between employee engagement and business profitability.

To substantiate, Gallup concludes that disengaged employees can lead to a 15 percent downfall in profitability. Besides, they can also pull down the overall productivity of an organization by 18 percent. As you can see, high disengagement can be quite synonymous with hefty losses. You do not want this to happen for sure!

Speaking of the state of engagement among millennials, the trends are far from promising. As per the findings from Gallup, a mere 29 percent of the millennial workforce is engaged in work. To put it the other way around, almost 70 percent of millennials are disengaged at work. That is something organizations ought to worry about, isn’t it?

You have to be innovative to engage your millennial workers as you overhaul your workforce. You ought to acknowledge the fact that driving high engagement in millennials can be a lot different from getting the best out of baby boomers or Generation X folks. Millennials have a distinct set of expectations and motivating factors. There ought to be streamlined strategies for fostering high engagement in millennial workers.

Millennials switch their jobs too often

Millennials are often termed as the “Job hopping generation” and that is where the problem lies. As an employer, you want to invest in people who can be long-term assets for your business. Are millennials the best class of employers to look at from the purview of retention? The answer sadly is no! With more millennials in the workplace, you need to look at more strategic ways for combating employee turnover.

Millennials show high rates of turnover unlike how organizations want it to be. In fact, the findings from Gallup further reveal that high attrition among millennials costs a fortune to the economy of the US. The US economy loses around 30 billion each year to overwhelming turnover among its millennial workforce. Having said that, an organization with a large proportion of millennials is also vulnerable to hefty losses because of high attrition.

Probing further, as cited by GoRemotely, as many as 43 percent of millennials have plans for leaving their current organization within two years. A mere 28 percent of the millennial workforce is interested in staying at their current job for more than five years.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that millennial retention is a challenge that organizations need to navigate through. Millennials have the tendency to switch between jobs too soon hence affecting the stability of an organization. Millennials tend to feel monotonous or frustrated too soon. Moreover, they are quite indecisive about their career choices and plans. These characteristics to some extent can overshadow the spark they otherwise have.

In fact, because millennials do not see themselves as a part of the long-term journeys of their organizations, engagement levels are miserable. A majority of them do not feel the urge to commit to an organization’s success knowing the fact that they will hop to another job soon.

The competitive advantage in the future will be seen in terms of how effective business leaders can be in retaining their top-notch millennial talents. Your leadership qualities will be tested to the core as the presence of millennials amplifies in the workplace. Are you up for the challenge? Of course, you are!

Millennials are sometimes too dependent on support

One of the drawbacks associated with millennials is that they tend to have an over-dependence on support from others. They anticipate regular feedback as well as emotional support to cope with their stressors. In other words, most millennials want their superiors to coach them at work. While being receptive to feedback is a great trait to have, being too dependent on it may reflect a lack of self-belief. To substantiate, as per Harvard Business Review, millennials expect to receive 50 percent more feedback than their colleagues from other generations.

Such great dependence on consistent feedback can affect productivity. Besides, as per the American Psychological Association, millennials are the worst impacted by workplace stress. Besides, they face the maximum trouble in dealing with their stress and coping with it on their own. Having said that, millennials are far more vulnerable to burnout situations than baby boomers and employees from generation X. This scenario can result in hefty productivity losses for a company.

To substantiate, as per Deloitte, 33 percent of millennials have admitted that they have left their jobs in the last year because of high stress. 44 percent of millennials responded to the survey by Deloitte saying that they feel overwhelming stress at all times. So, because not all millennials know how to cope with stress, they seek others’ support most of the time or choose to quit their jobs. From the purview of professionalism, this does not seem bright, does it?

Millennials can have questionable work ethics

Needless to say, work ethics are imperative components of a working environment. Besides, they also have a massive role to play in the success of an organization.

Some of the key work ethics that any employer expects from their employees include the following.

  • Accountability
  • Reliability
  • Commitment
  • Cooperation
  • Diligence
  • Integrity
  • Decorum
  • Allegiance

Now, when it comes to being accountable and reliable, millennials may not have the best work ethics. As an employer, you would have to pay heed to the process of developing these in your millennial employees. Besides, the millennial generation is more accustomed to digital communication. To some extent, they devalue face-to-face communication and may lack the ethics of formal workplace communications in a physical space.

As mentioned above, they are happier to be in the virtual world even when it comes to working. Having said that, the way they conduct themselves during face-to-face interactions in the workplace, a lack of prerequisite ethics may be missing.

Moreover, we have already seen that the millennials are not very keen on staying in an organization for a long time. They are quite fickle-minded when it comes to their career choices. Given that, they may not have the magnitude of commitment and responsibility that an organization expects from them. These values would rather exist in employees who have a sense of allegiance to the organization. The job-hopping generation does not score well on loyalty.

However, it is also worth noting that millennials who come with strong work ethics can indeed be a priceless asset for a company. As a business leader, it is up to you how you lead by example and model essential work ethics for them. Millennials are always happy to learn and evolve after all!

Millennials are mostly too upfront for business diplomacy

Although straightforwardness is a good trait to have, diplomacy holds great value in the business world. An organization needs to be selective at being diplomatic while dealing with its suppliers, associates, and clients. However, this can be an issue with a millennial dominant workforce.

Millennials, most of them are too upfront about things and that can affect an organization. Besides, their straightforwardness or boldness may even come across as rude at times. Having said that, this knack for being upfront can subdue client relationships and other valuable relationships that make a business successful.

Diplomacy in business is a major driving force behind engagement and communication. Further, the efficiency in engagement and communication determines the ability of a business to cultivate positive relationships. It would not be incorrect to say that diplomacy in itself is a skill set. One ought to have the persuasive skills, politeness, and temperament to foster working relationships. This is where managing millennials in the workplace can be quite tricky.

To encapsulate, irrespective of merits and demerits, the demographics of the global workforce will anyway tilt towards the millennials in the near future. Millennials will be at the forefront of business organizations and their excellence is what will determine business success. Speaking of the advantages of having a millennial workforce, as seen above, millennials bring a sea of opportunities along with them. On the contrary, there are also some challenges associated with a millennial workforce. If you can address these challenges and inspire the best in your millennial assets, the business world is yours to rule!

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Contributor at Due
Jessica Robinson is a charismatic corporate leader, a selfless educator, and a versatile content creator. Despite a management degree, her vision behind blogging is not only to follow her passion but to create more informed societies. Her selflessness reflects in every piece of her work on The Speaking Polymath.

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