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What Can We Learn from Millennial Work Habits?

5 min read

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Published August 17, 2016

Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images

Picture of Jessica Wishart

Jessica Wishart
Senior Product Manager at Rhythm Systems

We’ve recently hired a new team member at Rhythm Systems. And, I’m thrilled! As Patrick says, when youMillennial Work Habits have a new team member, you have a new team. I’m so excited to see not only the impact Alicia, our newest digital marketing expert, will have on our company, but I also can’t wait to learn some tricks from her - she’s highly organized and comes with an impressive list of accomplishments from her previous positions. And, she’s the youngest member of our team.

Gallup calls millennials “America’s largest - and least understood - generation.” They’ve done extensive research on how millennials live and work and point out frightening statistics about their work habits like “71% of millennials are either not engaged or actively disengaged at work,” or “93% of millennials left employers to change roles."

However, millennials are the future of our workforce; according to a Harris Interactive survey summarized in Forbes, 34% of workers in the US have a manager who is younger than they are; 15% have a manager who’s younger by at least ten years. As my new coworker’s accomplishments demonstrate, there might be something we can all learn from their collective work style. (Full disclosure: I’m also a millennial, so I might be a bit biased!) 

Here are some millennial work preferences found in that Harris poll:

  • 55% prefer face-to-face work communication over email/text or phone.
  • 61% believe they should be promoted every 2-3 years if they’re doing a good job.
  • 64% prefer to work eight hours or less per day, and 69% work after leaving the office.
  • 52% like to dive right into executing, as opposed to writing out a detailed plan first.

When compared to those 55 and older who also took the survey, Forbes summarizes the findings as follows: "Overall, these findings indicate that millennials are more impatient about advancement or moving, they’re more open to flexible work schedule, and more methodical in their work, yet they show up later and work shorter hours."

Here are some tips for keeping Millennials (and everyone else) engaged:

  1. Provide on-going feedback. Replace painful annual performance reviews with real-time feedback on what’s going well and what isn’t. Setting your quarterly priorities together and clarifying expectations with Red-Yellow-Green success criteria sets the stage for ongoing feedback and coaching, and your weekly adjustment meetings are the perfect time to check in and provide real time feedback to the team. You can read more about the major companies who are ditching the traditional performance review process here.
  2. Do it in person, if possible. While millennials are more comfortable with email and text than more senior team members, they still prefer face-to-face communication when possible. The research suggests that millennials value purpose in their work, and part of feeling that sense of purpose is being connected to others. Make time to build relationships face-to-face.
  3. Get to know them, and provide appropriate support and recognition. Learn what your team members of all ages like, what their career aspirations are, how they prefer to be recognized for a job well done. Millennials own their own career paths and are constantly looking for better opportunities. Spend time understanding what they’re looking for, and if you value that team member, help them build the career they want with your company.
  4. Provide a more flexible work environment. Millennials value work-life balance, but they also value getting the work done. If you’re comfortable that you’ve hired a team of A Players, consider letting them set their own schedules so that they can work when they are most productive, accomplish what they need to in a day, and still have time for living the life they want.

Good luck keeping your teams engaged, and please share any tips or learnings in the comments section below.

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