How Millennials Are Changing The Facilities Management Profession

by Elizabeth Dukes on July 23, 2014

It’s no secret by now that the workplace is changing dramatically. But, just what is causing those changes? One major factor causing a shift in the work environment are the workers comprising this “new” workforce. While ours is a multi-generational workforce, recent studies indicate that by 2015, “75 percent of the world’s employees will be young people” (ie., the Millennial Generation). These changes are shaping how businesses are run and how the facilities manager does their job. As we move towards the time where Millennials comprise a majority of our workforce, FMs who expect to support and lead their teams to success would benefit from encouraging their workforce to put aside their generational differences and learn from each other.

The Evolving Workspace

As facility managers learn more and more about their workforce, the environment they develop has evolved into one that supports inspiration and increased productivity, with technology at its center. Previously, each workerhad their own cubicle or office, where they sat with their head down, deep in concentration, until it was time to leave for the day. But, as an increasing amount of our youth enter into their careers, Facilities managers and the organizations they serve, are realizing there must be major changes in office design and support.

Technological advances have supported us in a more mobile lifestyle, both personally and professionally. Organizations are realizing that, armed with the right tools, they can do more with less; and that starts with their spatial assets. Facility managers are designing new, innovative spaces where each member of their team has the specific support they need, including open floor plans, huddle rooms and the ability to work from home or on the road at least a portion of the time. And, since the Millennial generation thrives on the collaborative workspace, those companies that hope to attract and retain the top talent must jump on board.

Environmental And Social Awareness

Previously, volunteer work was left for weekends and vacations. But this new generation of workers has a strong sense of awareness and is not afraid to do something about it. Millennials place a higher importance on helping those in need (21%) over having a high-paying career (15%). They want to be a part of something bigger and more special and want to know that they have made a difference in the world. This is true for both their professions and their personal lives. Armed with this knowledge, those facilities that are looking to grow with the new generation are developing volunteer and sustainability programs. Organizations are making community service and environmental programs a priority, often allowing their employees company time and resources to build these programs. The results: their workforce feels a stronger sense of loyalty and commitment to their employers, empowered by their work. In turn, they are more apt to stay with the company long-term and productivity rises.

Realizing The Importance Of Work-Life Balance

It is no secret that American workers are over-worked. According to the International Labour Organization, “Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.” There is no Federal mandate regarding sick leave or paid annual leave. Couple that with smart phones, laptops and tablets and you have a workforce that rarely takes time off to decompress and re-group.

Studies show, however, that we must have real time off, where we “unplug” from our careers and just spend time with family and friends. Without this opportunity, workers experience burn-out and productivity suffers. Millennials are more aware of this than their counterparts and take it very seriously. They have a strong work ethic and consider balance between work and home life to be major factor in maintaining that strength.

Embracing Technology

Millennials have grown up with technology an integral part of their everyday lives. They have come to use it as an avenue to express their feelings and be heard. As a result, they embrace change and expect efficiency in every aspect of their lives. They expect meetings, phone calls and emails to be quick and to the point. They expect their facilities to embrace the same tools they have become accustomed to and are confident enough to go elsewhere if they feel stifled in any way. To meet these demands, companies are no longer banning social media in the workplace and are actually encouraging its usage, recognizing it can be used as a tool to aid in their company’s growth, rather than a hindrance to productivity, as originally thought. Those facilities that wish to continue to evolve and grow have recognized that it is not enough to just have technology in the workplace, they must evolve and connect with it.

Educate Your Workforce

In the past, employees were trained in their first few weeks at their job and the rest of their education came from on-the-job experience. But, this new class of workers consider themselves the perpetual student, always seeking out new information for all of their career and lives. Millennials don’t want to just be mentored, they want to be encouraged to build on their knowledge through seminars and continuing education. In response, forward-thinking companies are developing educational programs to ensure their employees have all the information they need. As a result, we have perhaps the most educated workforce to date.

Ours is a multi-generational workforce. One in which the Baby Boomers are preparing to retire and the Millennials are readying to take over. In the past, the youth was simply viewed as those with “a lot to learn” and were expected to conform to their company’s workspace and strategies. The facilities management main priority, however, is to serve their customers and their needs. It is with this knowledge that FMs and their companies are realizing that promoting and incorporating an already prevalent method for creative thinking and work organization amongst your incoming workers is much more effective than trying to re-train every new worker to function in an outdated office model. Staying on the forefront of change allows for small adjustments and re-structures, but playing catch up to trends and new office procedures will always handicap even the best organization.


Elizabeth Dukes

Elizabeth Dukes' pieces highlight the valuable role of the real estate and facility managers play in their organizations. Prior to iOFFICE, Elizabeth was in sales for large facility and office service outsourcing firm.

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