Why do you need to offer flexible, meaningful and engaging roles to millennials?
To answer this question, we need to understand who millennials are and how they grew up.
The millennial workforce
Millennials are the first digital generation, born between 1982 and 2004.
With rapid technological development, the mid-2000s marked a fundamental shift in the relationship between work life and personal life.
I witnessed this shift as a millennial. I grew up observing this technological transformation first hand. I remember the slow, awkward dial-up tone that connected us to the internet.
I now have an iPhone 6S, and that’s not even the most recent model.
My parents, part of the Baby Boomer generation, grew up without the instant, ‘anywhere’ connectivity that came with the explosive adoption of the smartphone.
Before the era of the smartphone, ‘work’ and ‘life’ were easier to separate and, for most, it was possible to achieve a ‘work-life balance’. Work was left at work.
Seeing those before them achieve the elusive work-life balance, millennials have sought it for themselves.
Yet, there is a growing realisation that it no longer exists.
Evolution of phone devices
The millennial work culture
Work-life boundaries began to erode around 2002 with the release of the popular Blackberry smartphone, which targeted corporations. Five years later the first iPhone arrived and the era of constant connectivity dawned.
A recent survey of 200 executives found “a decrease in the amount of leisure and personal time as a result of work-life integration”. This was “mainly due to an increase in globalisation and mobile technology, which required many of them to be available outside of their normal working hours.”
Other studies have shown that in the space of 5 years, from the explosion of the smartphone market in 2007 to the rise of social media, our work-life boundaries became increasingly blurred, particularly “as people began to seek connectivity across work and non- workspaces”.
Recent research has reinforced this idea. One survey found that “33% of mobile workers admitted that they check their phones for emails and messages throughout the night”. Scarily, it also found that “nearly 50% [of mobile workers] wouldn‘t even think of going to bed without have their Smartphones tucked under their pillows”.
The invasion of smartphones – and your work email – into your bedroom surely marked a pivotal moment in the nature of work-life balance. In 2013, Emily White, a Facebook Executive, coined the term ‘work-life merge’. It described the new reality of professional and personal lives being blended together.
The ‘addicted’ millennial generation
How to engage your millennial employees in the ‘work-life merge’ era
What does this mean for your recruitment practices in this increasingly connected world? How can you attract millennials in this new world of blurred lines between work and personal life?
You must recognise and embrace the more flexible millennial work culture and retire the outdated, inflexible ‘work-life balance’ model.
The ‘work-life merge’ or ‘work-life integration’, marks the beginning of the future: flexi-work. With the continual advancement of mobile technologies, it’s clear that the more fluid our ‘work-life’ boundaries become, the more you will need move towards a flexible working structure.
Stuart Hearn, CEO of Clear Water, a performance management software, highlights that flexible working practices are needed by millennials. He believes that, “by the year 2020, almost 50 percent of the workforce will comprise of millennials” and that “to get the best out of this generation, a degree of flexibility is required”.
Flexible working matters to millennials
Recently, Flexjobs undertook a survey to uncover why organisations may need to adopt flexible working practices. It found that “40 percent of millennials are ‘working parents’” and so want more flexible working options.
The survey also highlighted that “70 percent of millennials say the desire to travel is the primary reason to work”.
Interestingly, it reveals that “no millennial cited the office…as their location of choice for optimum productivity”.
Simon Sinek, the author and speaker, points out that millennials “have a pervasive sense of purpose or cause”. Previous generations might have an unsatisfying job but would tend to “suffer in silence”. He suggests that millennials, however, “want to have a job that makes an impact”. They want to “be part of an organisation that stands for something that they believe in and they are much more vocal when they’re not given [what they need]”. Millennials are less hesitant than previous generations to leave an organisation if they’re not happy or satisfied. Given that they live in a 24/7 working culture, this makes sense; their job is a fundamental part of the their life.
Read our ‘anywhere stories’. See how people make flexible working work< Therefore, it’s clear that your business needs to stand for something that millennials can believe in. Put your mission front and centre. You also need to think about how you can adopt flexible-working practices. When your employees care about what they do, they will work to achieve your mission, wherever they work. Rocketwerkz, a gaming studio in New Zealand has already adopted flexi-working practices. Dean Hall, the founder, offers his employees unlimited, paid annual leave and also a share of the company’s profits. Dean does this because he sees his employees as his greatest asset and so he ensures that he motivates them, gives them flexibility, and, as result, has created a creative working environment.
Rocketwerkz is just one company adopting a flexi-work culture. Industry giants Vodafone, BNZ and Unilever are developing similar policies. This is in direct response to the working preferences of millennials.
The 24/7 work culture
How to implement flexible working
So, how can your business support work-life integration and implement flexible working?
Ade McCormack, a business strategist, suggests that “work-life integration needs similarly integrated technology”.
More integrated technology (instant messaging, time tracking software etc.) is needed within your organisation as it allows for enhanced collaboration and communication between your employees as they work in different places at different times.
>Read more about how you can integrate technology into your businesses<
It’s clear that the concept of ‘work-life balance’ has shifted. Companies now need to recognise the ‘work-life merge’.
The work-life merge means that work now happens anywhere. Rather than force your employees into the old style of working, embrace flexible working. It allows millennials to engage with your mission and get work done when it is done best.
Millennials intuitively recognise the work-life merge. So, to gain, motivate, and retain millennial employees, you need to provide jobs with purpose and adopt flexible working practices that integrate collaborative technology in your organisation.
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