Millennials In the Workplace: Trends, Expectations, Habits and More

by Elizabeth Dukes on October 9, 2018

What makes millennials in the workplace tick? What inspires them, motivates them and makes them stick around? What’s the best strategy for managing millennials?

Employers have been asking these questions since the percentage of millennials in the workforce started dramatically increasing around 2010. And now that millennials are officially the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, the answers to these inquiries are especially important.

If understanding millennials in the workplace is a priority for your company (and it should be), this article can shed some light on how best to approach this generation.

Aligning Priorities is Crucial

The 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey showed conclusively that millennials believe there is a remarkable discrepancy between what they believe employers should prioritize and what their employers actually prioritize. More specifically, millennials feel companies place too much weight on the financial aspects of running a business and not enough on the organization’s impact on its employees, the community and the environment.

According to survey participants, the five initiatives companies should focus on are:

1. Job generation and career development

2. Developing innovative products and services and generating new ideas

3. Enhancing the lives of employees

4. Making a positive impact on society and the environment

5. Emphasizing inclusion and diversity in the workplace

Instead, millennials say their employers base the majority of their decisions on how to generate profits. And while millennials of course understand that unprofitable businesses can’t survive, they feel companies should work harder to find a balance between increasing revenue and supporting their workforce and community.

The Millennial Wishlist

It’s long been touted that millennials place less of an emphasis on compensation than their Gen-X and Baby Boomer counterparts. A good salary and benefits are of course still important, but Deloitte’s report found millennials are more likely to choose their next job based on other factors, including:

A positive workplace culture

● Opportunities for continuous learning

● Well-being programs and incentives

● Workplace flexibility in terms of hours and location

To that last point, Deloitte found a direct correlation between employers that offered flexible working practices and employee loyalty. In companies that supported flexibility, 55 percent of millennials said they expected to stay for five or more years. But in companies that didn’t encourage flexible work, only 17 percent of millennials said they planned to stay for over five years.

Inside the Mind of the Millennial

In another report, The Millennial Mindset: Work styles and aspirations of millennials, the experts at Deloitte researched how millennials differ from non-millennials. They found that there are three common characteristics of millennials in the workplace that influence how they approach work:

  1. Millennials dislike ambiguity significantly more than Gen-Xers or Baby Boomers. They are uncomfortable not knowing all the answers.
  2. Millennials take more time making decisions, opting to collect as much data as possible and consider all options.
  3. Millennials enjoy planning every detail of a project and prefer to have all relevant information before kickoff.

The authors believe these characteristics are the result of millennials having near-instant access to almost any piece of information they’d care to know for most of their lives. This desire to avoid uncertainty and remove doubt is also what drives millennials to seek regular feedback on their performance from supervisors.

Deloitte’s report also offers employers a few different ways to maximize the millennial members of their workforce.

  1. Recognize that “professional development” does not equal “management training”. Not every millennial defines success in the workplace as being promoted to supervisor. Instead, many millennials prefer to be top performers, subject matter experts or industry innovators. Therefore, employers should create professional development programs that offer multiple career tracks, not just one that ends in becoming a manager.
  2. Avoid micromanagement and restrictive work environments. As mentioned previously, flexibility has a major influence on how long millennials stay with an employer. Don’t impose strict schedule requirements, and don’t force them to come to the office every day. Employers may assume having the ability to keep an eye on employees will guarantee productivity. But with millennials, autonomy is what inspires them.
  3. No news is never better than bad news. Remember: millennials crave knowledge and hate ambiguity. They want to know as much as possible and they don’t like digging through fluff to find the answers. Be honest and upfront with millennials, even when what you have to say may be unpleasant to hear.

Millennials may approach the workplace much differently than their predecessors. But since Generation Z shares many of the same values, it’s in your best interest to start embracing the millennial work style now.


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.

Capterra Ratings: ★★★★★ 4.5/5