After graduating in 2017, Laura-Jane (LJ) Ellard joined the Microsoft Aspire Experience as a Marketing Communications graduate. LJ now manages all campaigns across Modern Workplace, with the aim to reach customers with content and messages that provide genuine value to them and their business. As someone who thrives on bringing people together and helping others to reach their potential, LJ is passionate about supporting customers on their transformation journey towards a diverse and inclusive culture that fosters better collaboration, communication, and employee experience.
There’s no shortage of information around millennials. How they’re shaking up the workplace with new ways of working, the expectations they have from the companies they work for and the roles they do. But as a millennial myself, I can safely say that there’s more to us than you can read about online.
My generation varies as much as any group of people. We’re not all the same and whilst we might be changing the workplace, we’re not doing it alone.
The importance of work-life balance (for everybody)
Yes, we want to have a positive work-life balance, but doesn’t everybody? According to a 2017 flexible working survey, 67% of employees wished they were offered flexible working – an unsurprising statistic when you see that 45% of people spend over an hour commuting each day. Think what else you could be doing with that time if you were able to log into your meeting on Microsoft Teams within a second from the comfort of your home. No longer would you have to battle train delays in heavy snow or sit in standstill traffic to wind up missing your meeting.
It’s not a new conversation. It’s one people have been having for years as they precariously try to balance the school run, kid’s homework, and quality family time, in addition to meeting the demands of their jobs. Technology makes these challenges easier by giving valuable time back to everybody, regardless of whether they’re a millennial or not.
The benefits are there for everyone.
The impact of technology on the workplace
No, most of us don’t want to do the same role throughout our whole working lives. But with the pace of change and new technology like AI transforming the way we work, the ability to re-skill for the new working world is becoming increasingly important. And it doesn’t discriminate. This changing world of work will impact everybody, across every role, in every industry. In fact, 46% of UK leaders believe it’s worth investing in re-training their current workforce for the AI era.
“AI will make us re-think what it means to be human”
– Matthew Griffin, Futurist & CEO, 311 Institute.
As millennials, we’ve grown up with technology. Whilst we may be digital natives, we’re not the only ones embracing technology. I challenge you to find a friend or family member who doesn’t own a mobile device. When we look at how different generations prefer to work and the different technologies they use, Generation Z are most comfortable using online chat services than any other age group. But 61% of all employees prefer shorter methods of communication over long ones. Studies show we’re on twice as many teams as we were five years ago, so perhaps this change is simply due to the volume of work we have to do rather than a generational difference. After all, the amount of time we all spend in collaborative work has increased by 50%, and takes up around 80% of our time now. It’s unsurprising then, that we prefer short, easy ways to communicate. We simply want to get stuff done.
Ditching generalisations to celebrate your diverse and inclusive culture
Generational difference shouldn’t define who we are and how we like to work. We’re all unique and have our own ways of working. Ultimately, age doesn’t define that. The most important thing is that you have a diverse and inclusive culture, and you celebrate it. Every one of your employees is different and that’s what makes them so great. It helps them challenge ideas and be creative.
I love the idea of reverse mentoring where it’s not always the millennial that’s new to the workplace who gets shown the ropes. There’s a lot your other employees can learn from millennials too.
No two millennials, or members of any other generation are the same. That’s why understanding them doesn’t start with online research. It starts with a conversation about what they want and how they work best as an individual. Only then will you be able to understand, engage, and lead your employees successfully.
Workplace psychologist, Ian MacRae wrote a great book called Myths at Work which explores what holds us back as a business, including the generalisations we make about millennials. You can listen to his podcast interview here.
Come as you are, do what you love
Starting my career in Microsoft, I’ve been very lucky to be part of such a diverse and inclusive culture that really embraces everybody’s unique working style with our “come as you are, do what you love” culture. Technology can enable us to do some amazing things and it’s time we embrace our differences and focus on creating a great experience for everybody, no matter what their age or background is.
There shouldn’t be a 101 guide on engaging millennials. The same concepts apply to most of your employees and we shouldn’t be treated any differently. We should instead focus on how to leverage the unique strengths of each of your team members as individuals and provide them with the tools and space they need to collaborate and deliver their best work.