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Work Talk

5 Great Ways to Support Millennials at Work

In one of my favourite Ted Talks from 2016, Mary Donahue adeptly informs us about the difference between Boomers, Gen X and Millennials. Boomers were privileged post-WW2 babies (born 1946-1964), Gen X’ers entered the work force in a recession (born 1965-1983), while millennials (born 1984 – early 2000’s), were the first to be born into technology and coddled by overly protective parents.

All of us communicate differently; boomers prefer words and communicate orally – they grew up with radio, Gen X’ers love visual cues; they grew up with television (they love Power Point!), and Millennials are consumed by social media and the written word – they often hide behind it. Mary Donahue, Ted Talk Toronto

So, it’s not surprising there’s a clash of generations in the workplace. But at least two have one gripe in common – about the millennial’s working style. You’ve heard them, complaints about the hours they keep, how they laugh at our clumsiness with technology, and their disrespect for corporate cultural norms. At the same time, we’re in awe of their ease with technology and social media, and how quickly they can figure stuff out and get work done. In my industry, which is advertising, that’s ease with handy tools like Mail Chimp, Photoshop, Word Press, Web Monkey surveys, Google analytics, search, social posts, videos…the list goes on.

But instead of continuing to complain, I thought, why not find out how they really feel, and what they really want? So I surveyed our millennial generation at work. For starters, I found out that they’re not happy at all with the bad reputation of their generation, in fact, they’re tired of it. And when I asked them ideally, what they wanted at the office?

Here’s what they said:

  1. Flexible schedules, a choice between 9-5, 10-6. Interestingly, no one wanted 7-3, or even 8-4.
  2. Workplace culture incentives – like a keg on tap, ping-pong, anything that mixes work with play, and sets the office apart. Something fun, or cool (or both).
  3. They’d like weekly twenty-minute 1:1 meetings, where they can safely talk about relationships in the office, set goals and plan their day or week ahead directly and alone, with their manager.
  4. A career mentorship program that matches employees with colleagues more like them. This is especially important for those of diverse backgrounds or in the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and queer) culture, where there’s a profound need to discuss issues with someone with a similar point of reference.
  5. Continued opportunities to learn – whether that’s time together to listen to a one-hour webinar, or a Lunch and Learn. It doesn’t have to be a conference (but they’re great too)! The end goal is improvement.

In reviewing my list, it seems perfectly reasonable. And in the end, the only conclusion I can make is, what they want, is exactly what we want. At the very heart of it, we’re all humans, social creatures – who are simply looking for a safe place to make a living, to learn, to grow and to be inspired.

And maybe even have a little fun.

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Article written by:

Rachel Connell is an advertising director and writer, living in Toronto, Ontario. With over 18 years of working experience across cultural norms in both South East Asia and North America, she contributes to Martha's workshop and brings us her unique perspective.

Join the discussion

  1. Matthew

    Well written and concise.
    I appreciate her balanced perspective and well thought out presentation of the facts, with a little humour thrown in.

    Great article

  2. Beth Powning

    Fascinating. As an author who works alone until publication time, this gives me a look into a workplace very different from my own. Good article, Rachel!

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