The Millennial Mindset; the new age workplace

Millennials now make up more of the workforce than any other generation.  Millennials, the next generation after Generation X, are born between 1981 and 1996, currently being around 23 - 38 years old. With the added influence of technology and having everything at your fingertips, it appears they are causing more change in the workplace then before. A clear challenge that is being seen by companies is adapting the workplace environment to meet the needs of ‘job-hopping’ millennials. This can be further broken down to what millennials define as a successful career and how a workplace can meet these desires, with a sense of purpose and modern technology seeming some of the key drivers.  

The millennial mindset with regards to self-awareness and constant drive of ‘purpose’ has driven employers to adapt in recent years to ensure the needs of their current and future employees are being met. No longer is a salary all that an employee wants from a job. This shift in mentality has been necessary to not only make employers an attractive proposition to future millennial employees but also for companies to maintain their current employees who have shown a relentless drive to find their ‘purpose’, willing to move around if their needs are not being met. 

In the eyes of millennials, ‘purpose’ can be broken into the following key considerations:

  • Culture: Millennials value a positive culture in their workplace. A culture which is more than just working 9am – 5pm however less than a team dinner in the office because everyone is working late or boozy Friday nights. Millennials are more aware of what they value with emphasis on personal growth, inclusion, diversity, relationships and at the same time keeping the workplace fun! 
  • Social: Millennials are self-aware, now more than ever about the environment, sustainability and feel a sense of responsibility to contribute to the betterment of society. Millennials value working for employers which have a sustainability policy and are actively seeking to make a positive impact. These policies focus on measuring a company’s environmental footprint, and making a positive contribution through targeted improvements or even seeking to become Carbon Neutral through the purchase of carbon offsets. 
  • Contribution: Millennials seek to feel as if they are positively contributing to the organisation and adding value with their skills. Employers with a focus on their company values and seeking buy-in from millennials promotes engagement on all levels. Companies with strategic plans which are explained to their employees ensure they feel as though they are involved and can contribute to the companies success. 
  • Progression: Millennials have a drive for progression, continuing professional development and a want to be constantly moving forward. Employers which are able to provide professional development plans, provide regular feedback, celebrate achievements and promote training and learning are attractive qualities to millennials. 

Not only do millennials want to feel a sense of purpose in what they are doing, they are generally also the first to know of and introduce modern technology to streamline the day to day tasks and focus on the more important parts of the day. An article titled ‘Why we’re wrong about millennials’ written by Mark Emmer for Forbes states “…to have a fixed, static 9-5 schedule has become completely impractical and uncompetitive in today’s workplace. Employees of all ages are trying to balance work, diet, exercise, families and commutes...”. With the functionality to complete work remotely simply via an app within a mobile phone, it is easy to see why millennials are redefining the modern workplace and culture, and not having to be in the office every day to experience it. 

When someone mentions workplace flexibility, many minds automatically jump to flexibility in relation to maternity leave and parenting.  The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2018 notes that a key takeaway is that “…workplace flexibility and a positive work culture were the key motivators for millennials to remain loyal to their employer.”   In the eyes of millennials, workplace flexibility is about:

  • It doesn’t matter where or when the work is getting done, as long as that it is actually being completed and being communicated well by others. Not being at your desk doesn’t mean that you are not working. 
  • The ability to work remotely (external from the office), whether that be at home, on the commute to/from the office, travelling the globe or simply sitting in a park. 
  • Part-time employment with the possibility of job sharing (Two part-time people doing the same job to complete one-person workload) 
  • Being flexible with start and finish times; Flexible working hours not only aimed at parents (more commonly accepted) but for anyone, such as sporting commitments or preference to start and/or finish at certain times of the day. 

Organisation management need to align with modern work practices.  With work places becoming more flexible it is imperative that everyone is still communicating and understanding who is doing what, when and where.  For these reasons, as technology continues to evolve it is enabling the ability for workplaces to be flexible, beyond the basics like a mobile phone and laptop, other ways technology can be adapted includes:

  • Virtual meetings for employees within different locations; Video or phone conferencing, screen sharing etc. with various programs similar to Microsoft Team and Skype for Business providing these functions and more. 
  • Sharing calendars openly within the workplace to help staff to understand each others availability and schedule
  • Multi-user collaboration tools like OneNote, Bear or Evernote which can be very useful to note ideas or actions and then share with others, particularly useful for those teams who job-share.

Although a sense of purpose and the use of technology are highlighted as millennial drivers, the related changes within the workplace will also provide a cascading effect on to all employees. It just appears millennials are the current generation challenging the norm and forcing the re-evaluation of the modern workplace. A more common question being asked is ‘why can’t we have it all?’ and adapting the workplace environment to meet the needs of the employees which have the drive to shape the future industries appears to be the obvious place to start. Besides, by the time workplaces have adopted policies to provide comfort for working millennials, the next generation of Gen Z works will be taking over the workforce and no doubt the debate of a modern workplace will start again. 


Written by members of the SA Future Directions Committee: Luke Faranda, Rebecca Pierotti and Rachel Ralphs