Millennial workforce: Handle with care

They are ambitious and crave recognition. How organisations handle Millennials and fulfil their creative requirements will dictate their future

Published: 07, Sep 2016

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Open office structure will surely allow for a better work culture, and include the freedom that millennials crave today (Photo: Shutterstock)
Open office structure will surely allow for a better work culture, and include the freedom that millennials crave today (Photo: Shutterstock)

The Millennials of today are much different and unique than we have ever been. This mysterious generation has been the unorthodox kind, who has never been satiated with anything conventional. The standard operative procedures may not apply to them, and they are the ones who intend to flow within their comfort zones to deliver results that are par excellence.

Although Millennials at times are pulled up for being slack or for not following the norm, we really can’t fault them for the socioeconomic landscape that they are being brought up in. Come to look at it, they are not much different in their outlook as compared to other age groups where for them, all that matters is good work, an amicable culture, and strong teamwork. All that it boils down to for them is a sense of acceptance where they could find meaning in the work entrusted to them and respect at the workplace, which they can call their own. What Millennials want is beautifully captured by Lynne Lancaster, co-author of When Generations Collide, who says, “All Millennials want is to be mentored and coached, and for bosses to show an interest. When they get ignored, they start to ask ’Why am I here?’”

In times to come, Millennials will be the main employment drivers across the world. A PwC research paper titled ‘Millennials at Work - Reshaping the Workplace’ states that by 2020, Millennials will form 50 percent of the global workforce. The same sentiment is reflected in a study released by Catalyst pointing that by 2020, half of India’s population will be younger than 25 years old, and organisations may face a talent shortage if not labour shortage. Hence, it is in common interest for organisations across the world, and especially in India, to learn and inculcate the Millennials way of working in an effort to understand how to attract them, fuse them within the structure and motivate to achieve greater goals.

The Millennials are of a different kind, and they need to be treated differently. They may not only aim to get material gains and sometimes are swayed by money or perks. Primarily what attracts them is a mix of creative genius and a constant challenge to excel in their fields of action; which underlines their quest for a life less ordinary. Ask any group of Millennials and you would find nearly half of them readily agreeing to take up a job that stimulates their intellect and nearly everyone being up for risky ventures just to value-add to the society.

Millennials want to work for a purpose, and it is our responsibility to offer them a business environment that stimulates them to achieve their life’s calling. A 2015 Millennials’ research by IBM found that a majority of Millennials across corporates want to make a positive impact on their organisation and help solve the larger challenges of life. Quoting Leigh Buchanon from Meet the Millennials, “One of the characteristics of Millennials, besides the fact that they are masters of digital communication, is that they are primed to do well by doing good. Almost 70 percent say that giving back and being civically engaged are their highest priorities.”

So what is it to be a Millennial? What is it that satiates their cravings for betterment? These are some of the questions that Gen-X’s and Baby Boomers need to inherently understand and imbibe to create a seamless integration with the Millennial way of function.

Today, managing Millennials is among the most complex conditions for managements across organisations. Creating a healthy mix between generations of workers with specific comfort zones and ways of working is a challenge that every employee engagement manager goes through. So how do you manage the Millennials, in a way that nobody has to cut a corner, and all can be unified in a singular organisational goal?

Teach empathy - Millennials are bound to be different, and unfortunately, everything they do will look rebellious. Hence, teaching the older generation to be empathetic to the ways of the Millennials and accommodating reactions might help in creating a common comfort zone. Remember, all that a Millennial seeks is a creative independence in the way they work. Give them the liberty to attempt a task as according to them, and see them flourish with wonderful results.

Encourage cross-generational teamwork - Millennials love being a part of a larger team. Teamwork offers them the responsibility of collective action while giving them the freedom to achieve their bits as well. Hence, creating teams with a healthy mix of cross-generations will allow everybody to adjust accordingly and help achieving the desired goals.

Encourage new-age work practices - From bring your own devices to offsites and team actions via activities; these are some actions that the new-agers love to incorporate in their work cultures. Encourage the older generations to also inculcate these practices into their actions as well. They would certainly love the change from the mundane and this will help you address a particular work mission from a radical perspective as well. Who knows the complex client brief you wanted to crack since ages can be achieved while the team bonds over a Saturday evening out.

Open management and open communication - Being transparent is the way of the world today. Break down the rigidities of organisational hierarchy and watch communication among employees become more lucid. Yes, you may face initial resentment over breaking hierarchical lines, but once everybody comes round, this open office structure will surely allow for a better work culture, and include the freedom that Millennials crave today.

Create measurable recognitions and be accommodative - Gone are the days when material recognition ensured better work cultures. Today employees (especially Millennials) crave recognition that goes way beyond monetary compensation to celebrate good work. From an intranet release announcing a particular employee exceeding their targets to an out-of-turn promotion or designated responsibility goes a long way in ensuring validations and greater work culture. Also sensitising the old-timers in being accommodative of the Millennials’ request (they are bound to come) allows breaking down of generational glass boards and helps create an enviable organisational setup

Going forward, organisations will be better suited to engage employees who come with specialised work skills. While Baby Boomers are the ones with the halo expertise, and Gen Xers and Yers are the ones who have ridden the transition, hence are the best at management, Millennials are the fulcrum that will take an organisation into the future. These Millennials are the power bank of oncoming success and how we handle them today will decide how our organisations shape up tomorrow.

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