top of page
  • Chris Graham


Today we’re going to talk about Millennials in the workplace in particular, but we're also going to follow up with a discussion on millennials as customers at another date. When looking at Millennials in the work place, I always base it on this hierarchy of acquisition. This is my own Theory, but I think if you look at human history, human beings are naturally acquisitive. Capitalism works well because it's aligned with that acquisitive human behavior. If you think about it, we spent almost the entirety of human history trying to just fulfill our basic needs, in particular food. But once we were able to achieve a certain caloric breakout, as Steven Pinker puts it in Enlightenment Now, then we were able to address comforts and wants and go beyond just basic needs to really develop into a modern society.

I want you to notice that both of those things (basic needs and comfort and wants) are physical. It wasn't until Gen-Xers were in their mid-20s that we started getting into this information age. When I was working for Arthur Andersen, we didn't even have cell phones. It was a beeper if you wanted to reach us. The information age dawned really with cell phones beginning with the millennials, so they have lived in this non-physical world because all of the physical needs were met. If you think about it, social media is really just about consuming and conveying information, but now that we're saturated with information and we have full access to everything, everywhere, all the time, now we’re evolving into this experience culture. This quest for acquiring more experiences directly relates to Millennials in the workplace.

I hear a lot of complaints about loyalty and entitlement in Millennials in the workplace, but the data shows that's just not true. They do bounce from job to job, but actually would prefer not to. 65% say they would rather keep the job they have, but all these other things you’ll see below are not being satisfied to fulfill them so that they keep that job.

As any other generation would show you, engaged employees perform better and stick around longer, so this is really about engagement of your millennials. The same thing goes for the claim of entitlement. It's really more about a lack of clarity in conveying exactly what the job entails, what would be required to advance, and what that time frame would look like. Clarity around those things prevent entitlement and the next four things on the list prevent a loyalty issue.

Work/life balance is a big one with modern technology. Us physical acquirers of assets and things from previous generations think that more productivity and more reach out and more task completion is a good thing. But if you're in the experience acquisition culture, then what you need is work to be separate from life. Life acquires a certain set of experiences and work acquires a different set of experiences. When they blur, you end up getting not a rich work experience, and not a rich life experience. That’s why it's so important for Millennials that when they are out of the work mindset, they're not working and you're not emailing them or texting them and expecting answers. This is tough for Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, me included.

The next element of the workplace experience is a flexible workspace. A lot of people think that this means collaborative space, but the truth is that Millennials would actually prefer some private space for when they need to do deep, critical thinking work, and some collaborative space. This is one of the reasons why I think “WeWork” has been so successful, at least in concept. As Millennials rush into the workplace, you'll see more and more of that kind of space. I think if you can build your offices with some flex space where you do have offices- don't get rid of the offices- and just create pockets of collaborative spaces.

Next on the list for Millennials is development- they really want personal development. Most of them say they would give up compensation if they felt like they were learning a new skill and being invested in by their employer. Again, it's about engagement. Our non-monetary compensation video covers this concept in depth. You can actually show development through one-on-ones with managers, but one of the problems is that CEOs will set vision around purpose (the “why” of what we do) and talk about how they're going to develop you, but then the managers don't do it because they're Baby Boomers and Gen Xers.

Finally, big among the list is the “Why.” Lots of their experiences are about why they're doing things. Now, the “Why” is both about their function in the job, their job in the workplace, and their workplace in society at large. You need to be clear about what the purpose is and set that Vision to the CEO, but then you need to drive that vision and the development down through the management teams so that it actually reaches the Millennials. If there's a disconnect between the sincerity of the vision and the action on the ground, they will be very dissatisfied in their workplace.

All of these things will help you experience a much better Millennial in the workplace for a population that is going to take over the workplace with 75% millennials by 2025. I hope that’s helpful.

29 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Today, I’m going to talk about the youth bulge, and it’s not what you think. It's actually this really fascinating predictive tool that’s been used by even the CIA in predicting disrupted cultures aro

Today, we're going to talk about nonmonetary compensation and how much more impactful it is than actual cash compensation. Certainly, you have to have a certain baseline of cash that competes with the

Today we’re going to talk about how fees distort markets and how they can impact yield, which is a little more obvious, but we'll also talk about less obvious derivatives of those fees as well that mi

bottom of page