Depending on who you ask, Generation Y — the millennial generation — began as early as 1976 and ended as early as 1994; however, most sources agree they were born from 1980 to about 2000 or shortly afterward.
Millennials are the first generation to grow up as babies in a world where they were exposed to technologies like computers, wireless phones and the internet. They likely learned to spell through interactive software or computerized toys instead of wooden blocks, and they grew up playing video games instead of board games.
According to 35-year-old Amity Pecenka, an academic advisor at Indiana University, millennials use technology more efficiently than previous generations. “Millennials have less fear of technology,” Pecenka said.
“They are more receptive and adaptive to new systems.”
As such, the millennial mindset has brought the invention of technologies that are changing the way people live and work. Unlike in the past, today’s technology is adapting to people, instead of making the people adapt to it.
For instance, management software for client relations help salespeople know their client’s needs and preferences by replacing handwritten paperwork with the ability to store and organize information digitally, from their client’s contact information to recorded conversations.
Tech and Millennials Go Hand in Hand
Technology is integrated into the everyday lives of most millennials. What that means for businesses that hire them is that millennials expect their jobs to have whatever modern technology exists that makes it possible
for them to do those jobs professionally and proficiently.
“I think that millennials bring a sort of thirst for knowledge,” said Michael Mink, emergency management specialist for the U.S. Navy. “They always want to know what is the latest tech available and how we can work smarter, not harder. Using the latest gadgets and gizmos add to the efficiency of how we do business.”
Pecenka remarked, “We use the internet for everything. All university info, policies, courses, major planning guides, etc. are found online; long gone are the days of a 2-inch thick course catalog.”
Since they have experienced the rapid upgrading of communication methods via technological changes, things like texting, instant messages and group chat apps are preferred. Even email is becoming outdated
“Emails are dreadful. I spend hours, daily, responding to emails. They are the biggest time-suckers and the biggest enabler of students’ non-thinking,” said Pecenka. She further explained that one of the problems is that emails are normally read on a smartphone nowadays, and students at the university don’t handle it the same as they might other forms
“Info sent by email consistently is not read, understood or used to inform behavior — like good decision-making,” said Pecenka. “My biggest concern with the modern world is that we have a massive problem with information processing.”
To cope with this, millennials are personalizing their communication methods, so they work with them instead of against them. For instance, today’s tech savvy employee can customize the apps they use so all the dozens of emails, text, calendar pop-ups and more are optimized to align with their daily needs.
Millennials also use technology to leverage a better work-life balance, so they can work whenever they need to from wherever they are. This way, they don’t have to stay at a
desk for the traditionally structured 9-to-5 workday.
One survey by the Pew Research Center estimates three million Americans are working from home, and that’s expected to rise. A company that can provide these types of perks will attract and keep millennial employees. Companies like Google and Apple have been very successful in hiring talented millennials because they are innovative businesses with a culture that doesn’t accept tradition as a fact of life.
Stress Can Complicate the Millennial Workforce
Millennials are predicted to make up half the workforce by 2020, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). They are known to be able to manage school, a profession and a relationship all at once just fine, but they are also known as the generation that struggles with stress more than any other before them.
According to John Collins, founder of Critical Victories near Lansing, millennials should be given a lot of credit because they have been “overloaded with more information and chaotic imagery than any other generation in history.”
The American Psychological Association recently released a Stress in America survey. It revealed millennials have the highest stress levels of any previous generation; another survey said that around 19 percent of millennials suffer from anxiety and stress. Some of the reasons for this included work, job stability and money woes.
Collins thinks millennials handle stress reasonably well, but added that they “tend to withdraw, as a way to escape, mainly because they have more ways of doing so — earbuds, video games and so forth.”
“You just have to take it with a grain of salt and move on,” said Mink. “Only after an event can you decompress, take a breath and look back on what happened and how you can improve on and make better decisions in the future.”
Transitioning into the Future Will Take Time, Cooperation
According to Collins, businesses have yet to learn how to fully leverage the generational line existing in today’s workforce.
“In many cases, there are age-related tensions that can hinder business progress,” said Collins. “We live in a very open age where we expect everyone to work together and get along.” Collins stressed that businesses have a lot to learn about diversity especially. Differences like age, race, sex, ethnicity and religion can be overcome with effort, education and time.
“The best approach to age diversity is to give different age groups more opportunities to work and be alone with each other,” Collins said.
The bottom line is today’s workforce is hardly related to that of millennials’ parents and grandparents. Technology has changed dramatically and is likely to keep on doing so; that means learning how to provide employees with the technology needed to do their jobs, keep innovation top-of-mind and bring businesses into the world of the future.