The Generational Workplace Shift: 5 Ways to Stay Ahead of the Curve

The Generational Workplace Shift: 5 Ways to Stay Ahead of the Curve

This article was updated on August 7, 2018.

A generational workplace shift is currently underway and it's having a big impact on the way organizations work and engage their employees. Millennials, employees born between 1981 and 1997, are now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, according to the Pew Research Center. They have different assumptions and expectations about work, and wise organizations should adapt quickly to the multiple challenges that arise in retaining and developing a younger-skewing workforce.

One thing is certain, this generational shift will happen.

Here are five ways to help ensure the transition will be smooth:

1. Embrace Digital Options

Millennials are notably more tech-savvy than prior generations and view technology as a solution to many workplace challenges. Technology also helps define millennials in their personal lives. Most rely on social media and nearly all have a close physical and psychological connection to their smart phones and electronic devices. They expect their workplaces to accommodate their highly positive views of technology.

Technology, according to a new ADP Research Institute® (ADP RI) study The Evolution of Work: The Changing Nature of the Global Workplace, has "introduced new flexibility" into the workplace, allowing employees "a greater sense of freedom," more efficiency, and greater connectedness "without the traditional limitations of time and place," says the report.

No matter what HR or the rest of the organization does, it should have a digital component to meet the expectations of millennials. Rolling out a new training program? Well, it needs to have a digital component that allows them to access the content anytime, anywhere.

2. Implement eLearning and eBenefits to Personalize Services

Millennials are used to accessing information through their devices, because they've grown up learning almost everything via technology. They expect the same when it comes to things such as access to services, benefits and training. Help ensure they feel their needs are understood and met by offering a wealth of possible avenues to access organizational information.

3. Foster a Creative and Collaborative Workplace

Millennials want to see their innovation supported and rewarded. They also like to collaborate, which is increasingly done via technology such as videoconferencing and social media tools such as Yammer. Your offices should be designed to promote the sharing of ideas and support a variety of functions.

4. Communicate a Clear, Strong Sense of Mission and Values

Millennials are also driven to contribute to their communities, and they share a passion to improve the world around them. "Today's workforce is more and more guided by a search for meaning or doing important work rather than by simply earning a paycheck," notes ADP RI. According to Cone Communications, 62 percent of millennials would take "a pay cut to work for a responsible company."

Millennials want to work for organizations that have a mission to make a difference in the world. They view the success of a business as more than just financial results but also as a chance to address the socio-economic concerns of both local and global communities.

Because they crave opportunities to make a difference in the world, any business wanting to recruit and retain millennials should show them how working for your organization can help them achieve just that. Connecting with millennials through multiple social channels and telling stories about your organization's community-oriented/sustainable initiatives and your values on your website are vital steps to attract and retain mission-driven millennials. For example, according to Fortune, Detroit-based Quicken Loans attracts millennials with its commitment to its community and its open-door culture — the CEO actually gives his cellphone number to all new employees.

5. Provide Consistent Feedback

Millennials are looking to be coached and mentored. They expect to have a lot of communication with supervisors/manager and demand more recognition for their work. If you expect younger employees to keep their heads down, remain silent and pay their dues like prior generations, then you risk alienating and eventually losing them.

Your business is changing because of a tectonic generational shift. Therefore, the role of HR leaders will be to champion enhancements that adapt your organization to the expectations of a younger generation that will increasingly dominate the U.S. workforce.