The Future Is YOU
Millennials hold the keys to unlocking the secrets of tomorrow.
GLOBAL CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, DELOITTE TOUCHE TOHMATSU LIMITED
We are Millennials. We are eighty million strong and we’re taking over the world. I am fully confident that this generation will transform business as we know it for the better. We’ve lost trust in organizations, we’re pushing them to align with social causes, and we want them to support our local communities. We aren’t fond of corporate hierarchies and don’t want to feel constrained by a nine-to-five workday. We believe that companies shouldn’t judge performance by tenure, age, or hours worked but on results achieved. As more of us enter the workforce, change will happen rapidly and companies that don’t adjust will lose out on the most in-demand talent pool in history. In 2014, 36 percent of the U.S. workforce will be Millennials (aka Gen Y). By 2020, we’ll be up to 46 percent, and we’ll account for 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025.1 We have the power to change corporate America because a decade from now we will be corporate America. We have the power to change corporate America because a decade from now we will be corporate America. Valerie Grillo, Chief Diversity Officer of American Express, understands the full potential and magnitude of Millennials. “We live in a world where digital and social media have completely changed the way we connect with and market to our customers. Attracting and retaining the best available talent is critical to long-terms success—Millennials are a key component of that strategy.”
But this isn’t a story only about the future. A recent study by my company and PayScale concluded that 15 percent of Millennials are already in management positions.2 As our influence continues to grow, I believe that we’ll force companies to be more transparent in the workplace, have a more honest recruitment process, and become more collaborative. Hierarchies will collapse, mega corporate buildings will consolidate and turn into optional coworking spaces. Employees will be able to work anywhere at any time and will be judged only on the results they produce.
The workplace will become more like a game instead of a chore, and will have a culture that looks more like a start-up than an old-school enterprise. This is great news for workers and for any and all companies that adapt to these changes. But don’t just take my word for it. Cynthia Trudell, Chief Human Resource Officer at PepsiCo, also sees the tremendous impact Millennials will have on the workplace. “Many of the operating changes we’re making today are designed to move ourselves to a flat hierarchy and away from the old traditional command and control. If you envision the future and you watch the way Gen Y works as a team, it’s because they’re trained to do that in school, and that’s the way of the future.”
So why am I telling you all of this? Simple: I think that by understanding the impact your generation will have on the workforce in the years to come, you’ll know what you need to do now to get noticed at work and get people interested in your ideas. Once that’s in the bag, you’re well on your way to becoming a leader at your company.
Some companies have already begun changing their culture to make it more Millennial-friendly. The same PayScale study I worked on shows that the average tenure for Millennials is two years (five for Gen X and seven for Baby Boomers). Chegg Inc., an online textbook rental service based in Silicon Valley, had trouble retaining its Millennials for even the two-year average.3 The company created an unlimited paid-vacation policy, something that HubSpot, Netflix, and a few others implemented years before. Employers that offer these plans find that besides being a good recruiting tool, they also increase employees’ productivity by eliminating stress from their lives that could impact their job performance. Some employers have gone even further, actually giving employees spending money to use during their vacation, but with the caveat that they can’t do any work and have to be completely disconnected from technology while they’re away. Employers say that when employees get back they’re more refreshed and ready to go.
The annual turnover rate of Millennials at Chegg has fallen by 50 percent each year for the last two years as a result of the program. Another company, software maker Aprimo, guarantees recent college grads an increase in responsibility within a year, a policy the company credits with increasing their Millennial retention rate by 85 percent.4 Bottom line: Companies that demonstrate to employees that they care about them and their careers (in part by making the workplace more Millennial-friendly and providing opportunities to take on more responsibility) will retain them. Everyone else will lose the battle for talent. But we still have a long way to go.
Here are a few more examples of the tremendous impact Millennials will have on the workplaces of today and tomorrow:
• We’ll take down the firewall. Millennials are always connected through technology, and use social media tools and their smartphones to keep in touch with family, friends, and coworkers. Smart companies will allow for social usage at work because it makes workers more productive, allows for fast and cheap communication across the world, and makes their employees happy. On the other hand, companies that block social media sites in the workplace and limit our mobile device choices will have trouble recruiting and/or retaining Millennials. When Millenials take charge of the workplace, all companies (with a few exceptions in highly regulated industries) will allow for open technology use. Thirty-three percent of Millennials would choose social media freedom and device flexibility over a higher salary. And according to Cisco, 56 percent wouldn’t work at a company that banned social media use.
• We will turn work into more of a game than a chore. Millennials grew up playing video games, and we’re constantly pursuing our dream jobs. We aren’t willing to settle, are highly optimistic, and believe that our job should reflect our lifestyle. When we’re bored with our job, we end up leaving. In the future, Millennials will turn the way that work gets done around. Gamification in the workplace is already starting to gain traction now but will become standard in the future. Gamification is a new way to train and develop employees using games. One example of a company that’s already used gamification to cultivate a loyal millennial employee base is BlueWolf Consulting.5 Employees at BlueWolf earn points by posting new topics for discussion or responding to coworker posts, which keeps the company innovative and increases engagement. In addition, they are encouraged to share posts, white papers, and other materials through their own social network profiles. They earn points when their posts are clicked, which can be cashed in for different prizes such as iPads or lunch with the CEO. As a result, their Web site traffic increased by 45 percent, and traffic on their corporate blog went up by 80 percent. Gartner predicts that by 2014, more than 70 percent of companies will have at least one gamified application.
• We will work with our friends. Millennials want work to feel more like home, and we’re more likely than workers of previous generations to choose a job just to be with our friends. This is why so many of us start businesses and choose our friends as business partners. We see the lines between personal and professional blended and feel that it’s easier to bring our social life with us to work that way.
• We will build a collaborative organization. Millennials are big on collaboration. And if we’re going to have a more collaborative workplace, the actual physical structure of the workplace has to be redesigned (individual cubicles, for example, are quite isolating). So instead of traditional office space, we will have social spaces customized to our own needs. Two examples of this are Unilever’s Hamburg office and Microsoft’s office in Amsterdam, where employees don’t have permanent desks and are encouraged to move around and find the place they can be most productive.6 In the workplace of the not too distant future, you’ll see offices designed without cubicles, more extensive use of open spaces and round tables, virtual offices, and more companies using coworking spaces instead of enormous corporate buildings with thousands of employees in them. Technology will be a major part of how employees collaborate and we’re seeing this already through internal social networks and social media tools that allow for blogs, forum posts, video, and so forth. The goal in all of this is to facilitate employee-to-employee communication and interaction.
• We will have a positive influence over older generations. Actually, this is already happening. For example, we were the first to adopt social networking. Older generations came on board later often because they wanted either to keep in touch with or spy on their children. Since Millennials are so different from previous generations in how they act, behave, make purchasing decisions, and see the world, they will start to change the perceptions and behavior of their elders (74 percent of Millennials already believe that they influence the purchase decisions of their peers and those in other generations).7 “We can actually see Gen X changing their perception of brands and what they expect of products and services and experiences because Millennials are raising the bar for everybody and that plays out in the workforce,” says Ross Martin, Executive Vice President at MTV Scratch at MTV Networks. Part of the issue is that Gen Yers don’t just want to be marketed to, they want to be part of the branding and product creation process and engaged with online.
Gen Y’s influence extends to the offline world as well. Traditional retailers such as Macy’s have begun to offer completely new fashion brands—and are even redesigning their brick-and-mortar stores—to make them more attractive to younger shoppers. And in the workplace, younger workers are reverse mentoring Boomers, making them more tech-savvy, and helping them better use technology to do their jobs.
• We’ll give corporate America a better reputation. In many circles, corporate America is still seen as impersonal, out of touch, and driven by the bottom line. But 92 percent of Millennials believe that business should be measured by more than just profit and should focus on a societal purpose.8 Millennials are all about giving back to communities, making a positive difference in the world, and we’re known to place meaning over money when it comes to making decisions about where to work. In this way, we’re going to have a positive influence on the way business is done, support global charities and nonprofits, and paint a better picture of corporate America in the future.
• We will change the way workers are promoted. Promotions typically come after a certain length of time on the job. But Millennials want faster promotions and often aren’t willing to wait years to get to the next level at a company. We believe that promotions should be more aligned to accomplishments and results instead of based on age and years of experience. Traditionally, promotions tend to happen at the beginning of a company’s fiscal or calendar year. But as our influence grows, promotions will happen anytime they’re deserved. The key word here is deserved. You’re still going to have to work hard and produce results to constantly add value to your team and your company.
By understanding the impact your generation will have on the workforce in the years to come, you can better prepare for it now and become a leader at your company. This will help you get noticed at work, make people interested in your ideas, and even give you more confidence.
Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? The future is bright and the future is you!
Copyright © 2013 by Dan Schawbel