Millennials are set to make up 50% of the global workforce by 2020. As such, employers are looking to understand the generation and what they want in the workplace.
For a deeper look at how this cohort is shaping the office of the future, we spoke with Jaxson Khan, co-author of, “2 Billion Under 20: How Millennials Are Breaking Down Age Barriers and Changing the World”.
Jaxson leads Public Relations and Influencer Marketing at Influitive. He is the co-founder of Young Diplomats of Canada, an advisor with Venture for Canada, and a Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum.
Do Millennials approach the workplace in a different way than the previous generation?
Many millennials are all about work-life integration. They want to be comfortable in their workplaces and for their workplace to be flexible enough to adapt to their lifestyle. Further, many millennials don’t see their colleagues as living behind a professional barrier or separation, but as peers and friends with whom they actually want to spend time with and hang out.
How are Millennials shaping what the modern workplace looks like?
Millennials approach the modern workplace looking for a place to enjoy spending time in, not just completing the daily grind to make a living. The modern workplace is one that is optimized for productivity, but also health and enjoyment. The ergonomics of workstations have taken a much higher priority.
Recent research has shown that energy levels go down and negative health effects are incurred by long periods of sitting. Some people even say ‘sitting is the new smoking’. Hence, we’ve made this workplace innovation a standard for every employee (with sit-stand desks).
Open offices are also now the default. I’ve worked in a cubicle-oriented office before, and this is completely different. There are no walls here. It feels far more open and collaborative. On the flip side, you definitely have to be ready to focus because colleagues feel it’s more easy to come to you, which can distract you from your work. But, that can usually be fixed by throwing on headphones (wiring in) or jumping into a call room (hiding away!) for when you need to focus with zero distractions.
Is this a result of a new generation, technology and communication advances, or both?
Generational changes are inevitable, and have happened rapidly throughout the last century. So yes, there’s certainly a significant amount that has to do with a new generation making its way into workforce and up the ladder. But what’s most evident is the radical impact of mobile, instant communications and relative expense of technology.
You can start and run a global internet business from anywhere in the world with just a laptop and a phone. When a critical mass of your employees are young and ambitious and equipped with powerful technology, it’s absolutely going to demand changes to your workplace.
Do you see Millennials demanding more technology in the workplace?
Yes and no. The modern worker’s two key tools are a laptop and a phone. But to what extent do we need to keep adding onto that before it becomes a distraction? While millennials get criticized for a lot as a generation, there’s also a noticeable trend of minimalism. We want to carry less, we want our devices to be simpler and very high quality.
More broadly, cloud computing has moved servers and advanced technology out of the workplace, so that companies can focus on creating software and value, rather than doing intensive IT administration on a piecemeal basis.
How do you see successful employers adapting their workforce and place to attract and retain Millennials?
Successful employers are investing in programs that make their employees’ lives easier, less stressful, and more productive. They recognize that work-life integration and constant connection is more or less the norm, and so investing in the holistic success of their employees is essential. Successful employees will invest in policies like we have at Influitive: we give unlimited vacation (all employees must take at least 3 weeks per year), outstanding health and dental benefits, and a dedicated learning and development budget for every employee, no matter how junior.
Our policies are based on trust and mutual accountability, and one of our key values is that we are “a company of owners”. Encouraging that type of personal responsibility and being open to employees’ agency and ownership is empowering, especially for ambitious millennials.