What Millennials Want in a Workplace

10 min. read

Millennials will soon make up 75 percent of the workforce and they want workplace culture to improve.

Millennials will soon make up 75 percent of the workforce, ostensibly replacing Boomers and overshadowing the numbers of Generation X. Millennials have endured a lot of name-calling, including lazy, entitled, flaky, and many more. However, a Gallup report suggests that we should be focusing on what they call "the job-hopping generation".

Employment retention is (or at least it should be) a major concern for employers. The cost of losing staff, and then having to recruit, hire, and train someone to fill the empty position is exponential when you have a rotating door of employees. All told, this turnover costs the U.S. economy $30.5 billion per year.

According to the report, only 29 percent of Millennials feel engaged at work, and 60 percent of Millennials say they are open to a different job opportunity — 15 percentage points higher than the percentage of non-Millennial workers who say the same.

So in the interests of saving some of the bottom line, it might be prudent to take a look through another lens. Perhaps, instead of seeing “flaky” and “indecisive” behavior, maybe the answer is to take a look at what is causing dissatisfaction in the workplace.

Corporate culture is something that affects the daily experiences of employees, and it permeates every aspect of work and life. Many workplaces are still operating on a cutthroat, competitive, 1980s wolf of wall street mentality, which is steeped in archaic thinking.

In turn, many executives are still trying to force-fit their employees into this culture, instead of realizing that it is the culture that needs to improve so that the employees are fulfilled and feel that work enhances their lives, thus giving incentive for loyalty and longevity in their employment.

But what does an improved culture look like? The answer is quite simple and reasonable actually. To imagine what a great place to work looks like, one might only have to think of what it would take to make my place of employment one of the most amazing workplaces around.

At a high level, it's basically a workplace that encourages community, collaboration, mentorship, communication, career-driven, and offers comforts beyond just being a faceless cog-in-a-wheel of American corporate capitalism. No one wants to feel like they're living in 1984, punching clocks and feeling drab and grey.

A little life, a little fun, a little kindness, a little gratitude, a little empathy, a little consideration -- all these things go a long way to improve the culture of a business. Richard Branson once said, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough, so they don't want to”.

And therein lies the answer to employee retention, and workplace culture improvement. Treat people like human beings. It's painfully simple.

The "quit culture" of Millenials cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars, but nurturing the leaders of a not-too-far-off future is essential when we consider the alternative. Offering a more collaborative and supportive culture could literally be the antidote to this Millennial affliction.

If employers don't break the "we do it this way because this is the way it's always been done" routine and become open to a new way of doing things, they will soon become dinosaurs. When Billy Bean took the Oakland A's on a 20 game winning streak using his new Moneyball approach, it shook the Baseball establishment to its core. Now every baseball team uses his model. The rest were left scrambling for a place at the new table.

Workplace culture and hiring practices will see a similar paradigm shift. Those holding on to the threads of glory days past and a stubborn insistence that it's "My way or the highway" will find those threads more and more difficult to hold on to as their competitors welcome the staff who left via that highway.

Kindness, consideration, collaboration, and general human decency are not difficult things to accomplish. It takes a little effort to smile when you don't want to, but being inclusive and diverse in your approach will enhance not only the lives of your employees but your own as well. It costs you nothing to be kind. But it costs you everything to lose your staff.