Millennials: Creating a New Workforce

Generation Y isn’t working to survive or to bring home a paycheck. They seek fulfillment and active participation in a bigger, more important organizational vision.

They’ll pay their dues, put in their time and even take less pay as long as they feel they are contributing to an organization’s big-picture goals. But when they feel marginalized, millennials walk out the door without hesitation.

The impact of this attitudinal shift is being reflected in the ways Gen Y leaders are beginning to create a new workplace culture.

Here are three changes they’re inspiring:
1. Connectivity: The workplace is becoming a social organism. Call it the Facebook effect. Gen Y employees and their leaders are building cultures that foster stimulation and creativity through constant contact with others. Co-workers no longer connect at the annual office party. They connect professionally and socially every minute of every day.

2. Collaboration: The old maxim that “there is no I in team” holds true — but on steroids. Gen Y leaders are building organizations that recognize the value of differing perspectives. Within these organizations, teams fluidly form to explore the many points of view that comprise reality and collectively work toward the bigger goal.

3. Competition: While competitive, millennials are not cutthroat. Millennials are often more competitive with themselves than they are with their colleagues. The new Generation Y workplace provides opportunities for well-rounded growth and a multitude of professional experiences. These organizations are also more likely to recognize and reward departments than they are individuals.

The infusion of millennials in the workforce and their rise as leaders is an evolution, one current leaders must support to retain talent and keep their organizations relevant in the future.

To encourage Generation Y and their leaders to completely buy in to the new regime, here are a few best practices:

Account for work-life balance. We no longer live in a 9-to-5 world. The lines between work and home life aren’t just blurry, they’re gone. Today’s employees take work home, they frequently check into the office while on vacation and they never turn off their smartphones.

It’s also natural that home life spills into the office. Online shopping, fantasy football and personal Facebook use will happen at the office. Managers should do more than permit these activities, they should encourage them.

Create a growth lattice, not a ladder. The traditional paradigm of moving up the corporate ladder one rung at a time is dead. Today’s millennial employees demand cross-discipline growth opportunities, not infinite specialization. Develop career paths that allow team members to explore diverse experiences in different departments throughout the organization.

Communicate the big picture. Never before has it been so important to align teams behind a clear vision of where the company is going. It’s more than a strategy for focusing resources.

It’s a critical motivational tool for Gen Y staff. Unless they feel their efforts, however menial, are in pursuit of the key objective, millennials won’t become emotionally engaged, and they will leave. Provide the opportunity for them to buy in fully.

Whether or not leaders agree with or appreciate the cultural changes millennials are inspiring in the workplace is irrelevant. What’s more important is recognition that this new generation of employees — and the future leaders within their ranks — aren’t waiting for these changes to happen organically.

They’re thrusting these changes upon organizations, and organizations are becoming smarter and more efficient as a result.

Halley Bock is the CEO of Fierce Inc., a leadership development and training company. She can be reached at