Hold on tight – the millennials are here!

I take a keen interest in management trends and how businesses adapt to the world around them. A very interesting change is underway as those born in the 1980s through to the late 1990s start to influence corporate culture.

The so-called ‘millennials’ are a generation that have never known life without the internet; everything they have ever done has been shared, posted, Googled or Snapchatted across social media. Their attitudes to money and careers are radically different to the generation before and they have a lack of enthusiasm for traditional corporate structures. As they take their places in the management teams of companies, we are seeing a slow transformation of how businesses are run.

If we stand back and take a wider look, we can see that there are many trends emerging as a direct result of the influence of millennials in management. Here are just a few:

Flexible working as the norm

Millennials are very comfortable with technology and this has no doubt led to the rise of remote working as a valid employment option, however it is not the only factor. A strong value placed on work-life balance coupled with an awareness of being part of a 24/7 economy, has led millennials to embrace remote working as a way of life. This in turn has led to fresh approaches in management thinking, with millennial managers facing up to the challenge of galvanising remote teams in innovative ways. A phrase coming to the fore is ‘the gig economy’ as young workers prefer to freelance, soaking up knowledge from many employers rather than stay in one place. Presenteeism, loyalty and staying late at the office are no longer pre-requisites to a successful career.

Collaboration

Millennials love to collaborate. It’s a creative and productive method of working and employers who have encouraged a collaborative approach are now reaping the rewards and attracting young talent. From a management point of view this places a high degree of reliance on technology and influences the hiring policy for all levels of staff.

Entrepreneurialism

The app boom and the success stories of contemporaries such as Mark Zuckerberg give millennials the confidence to pursue original approaches to business. ‘Crazy ideas’ in the board room are becoming the norm and thinking differently has led to some radical business approaches.

Social consciousness

Never knowing life before the internet has given us a generation of plugged-in, socially aware global citizens. As these people find their way into management, we are seeing more companies make meaningful contributions to society with their corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. We are also seeing bold and direct approaches to reputation management due to their implicit understanding of social media and its effect on brand perception.

IT policies

Millennials expect to be able to use whatever software or hardware they think is suitable. This has seen the rise of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies in previously strict corporate environments. Rather than IT departments dictating policies, millennials are choosing the best tool for the job and this has led to more productive workforces. At board level there are concerns about the risk of exposing data, however the industry has responded with tools and techniques to keep company data safe, while giving wide access on a range of devices.

New performance measures

Annual appraisals and box-ticking of ‘goals achieved’ does not suit the millennial-friendly workplace. Guiding performance on a more frequent, less formal basis provides better results than the old-fashioned annual appraisal. This has meant companies having to overhaul their entire approach to HR to make it more employee-centric but this process has improved the effectiveness and productivity of young employees.

Empowerment

Millennial managers are known as excellent listeners and problem solvers. This means their teams feel empowered to change processes, influence decision making and speak up. In turn this ‘flattens’ the traditional hierarchy of management and arguably creates better, more productive working relationships.

Money

Rates of pay are still an important part in the career choice of the millennial, but it’s not the only factor when they are deciding where they want to work. Company culture is as important to them as their pay packet and as they get into management positions, we see a trend towards organisations being far more people-focused.

It’s easy to criticise and malign millennials for their failure to conform to ‘the way its always been’, however if we embrace the strengths of this radically different generation, we will see fresh approaches in HR, IT, Management and CSR. This is a much-needed shot in the arm as we try to get to grips with how to manage businesses in a global market. I believe the millennials have the answers, we just have to allow them to guide the changes to get us there.

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