Understanding millennials and the opportunities they bring to the workplace

You work a lot with people, you know that each person is a unique, however, you can’t help seeing shared personality traits in a certain group. We will approach the topic with an analytical mindset, and hope to give you a clear and fair description of Generation Y (Gen Y).

We are doing a modified version of a SWOT analysis on Gen Y. SWOT stands for Strengths - Weaknesses - Opportunities - Threats. In this first post, we will look at Gen Y’s strengths and the opportunities they bring to the workplace. In another post, we will discuss the traits that are considered their weaknesses at work and the challenges one faces when working with or managing Millennials. You may notice the missing T, instead of considering Gen Y a threat, I am focusing on the challenges and how we can overcome them.

Gen Y - Who are they?

Generation Y is the demographic cohort after so-called Generation X. They are also widely referred to as Millennials. There are no precise dates on when Gen Y began. The general consensus is that its members were born sometime between the 80s and early 2000s; their shared personality traits are shaped by their times.

Firstly, this generation was born and raised in the era of technology and social media. They were the first generation who grew up with computers in their homes. Do you remember when the internet was introduced and seemed to redefine everything that happened before? Millennials belong to that world. They are digital natives. They are good with technology by default. Of course, the levels of technology competence vary within the group (the late 90s vs. the early 80s), but generally Millennials are familiar and comfortable with technology.

Moreover, it is actually not an exaggeration to say that Millennials are connected 24/7. Their location is often updated on their Facebook pages, tweets are real-time and frequent, and their Instagram accounts are filled with photos taken and posted at the same time. Additionally, Foursquare, Tumblr, Google+, Vine, Flickr, and LinkedIn also help this generation to stay connected. The list is getting longer by the day. The proliferation of social media is driven by Gen Y’s increasing desire to be connected at all times. Haven't you noticed them directly asking for the wifi password once entering a cafe or a bar? It seems like an obsession.

They want to connect not just for sharing personal moments on social media, their professional life and personal life are merging in one place called the INTERNET. In a survey carried out by Cisco in 2014, more than half of Millennials asked consider themselves accessible for work 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, via email and phone.

Secondly, Millennials grew up in a much more globalized and mobilized world, many of which are in neighborhoods where multiple different ethnic groups. In their world, various cultures can coexist. They grew up holding diverse perspectives and a high level of tolerance towards differences. It is quite common to meet Millennials who truly embrace differences and benefit a great deal from their open mindset.

Read Harvard Business Review about what Millennials want from work, charted across the world.

Millennials strengths

Tech-savvy

It is in Millennials’ nature to understand technology. They are comfortable with using technology to get their work done. Their usage of smartphones and apps helps them to finish their tasks quickly and effortlessly. According to Cisco 2014 Connected World Technology Report, 82% HR professionals think that Gen Y employees are able to perform tasks faster than older employees using mobile devices and apps. Their tech sense enables them to multi-task easily. They speak to customers on the phone, input data into the system, and check updates on a second screen - all at the same time.

Gen Y’s passion for technology and their ability to quickly understand and adopt new tools are impressive. Undoubtedly, this is the most prominent strength that they bring into the office.

Collaborative

Millennials’ desire to connect drives them into workplaces that encourage teamwork. They like to be involved and included. They work well in teams because they tend to communicate regularly and openly. Having a high level of tolerance towards differences, they are more likely to accept other opinions and willing to try new methods.

Innovative

They are willing to take a risk in finding a new path for themselves. Facing global issues like economic recession and climate change, they are forced to seek creativity in their decision-making, ideas, and work habits. They innovate to solve the problems they face and are not afraid to try new solutions. Their creativity is benefited a great deal from their diverse perspectives.

Connected

Gen Y is connected 24/7. The Internet offers seemingly unlimited knowledge and resources. Connecting to various networks of friends, colleagues or even strangers, they gain updates of trends, helpful insights and lessons learned. They are very well informed, which prepares them for any possible opportunities, no seems impossible anymore.

Resourceful

They have the ability and the mindset to look for solutions using a tool they have and are familiar with: The Internet. For example, if they want to improve feedback sharing practices in their company, they are likely to first google something like: how to give constructive feedback. If they are not happy with what has been found, they will post their concern on relevant forums, like HR LinkedIn Groups or Quora. There, they can get advice from their peers and the industry experts. With the various opinions they gather, they can make a poll and share it with their colleagues. Along the way, they finds quite a few possible ways to grow and improve.

Gen Y (and newer generations) focuses on gaining knowledge and continuous learning. They don’t keep themselves locked in one way of working, and are curious to learn and to develop. With this mindset, they tend to learn fast, have a broader understanding and retain more.

The opportunities Millennials bring to the workplace

Innovations

Because Millennials are innovative and resourceful, they can bring in better and faster ways of getting things done. There are a few initiatives you can try in order to encourage innovation within your organisation:

Higher productivity

When Millennials are engaged, they can be very productive, and are capable of multi-tasking. Gen Y is the force behind continuously embracing new technology advancement, and increasing efficiency. If you set up the right environment for them to collaborate and thrive, you can produce fruitful results.

Things you can do to enable higher productivity:

Recruiting through their network

Gen Y employees are more likely to become your brand’s ambassadors, thanks to their online presence. They are most likely to share their good experience working at your office on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and many other places. Their talented peers are pulled towards your direction without you even noticing it. It saves you the time and money on advertising your job posts on various platforms.

Besides, it goes without saying that young talented people inspire and attract other young talented people, we all know the saying 'like breeds like'.

Things you can do to make the most of this opportunity:

Internal insights

Your Gen Y employees are your free pass into their ways of thinking. Their generation will soon become the largest group of consumers and decision makers. Often being outspoken, your Gen Y employees are likely to fill you up with insight into the generation’s habits, preferences and desires. If you want your new marketing message to appeal to Millennials, test it out internally first. This can serve as market research or user testing.

Things you can do:

Conclusion

As we mentioned earlier, each person is unique. You are likely to find contradictions among Millennials. However the majority of that generation is tech-savvy, collaborative, innovative, and resourceful. They can make great employees if you find the right way to unlock and promote their strengths. The rest is up to you to grab the opportunities they bring.

Download our Whitepaper to further your knowledge about Millennials in the Workplace.

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