Making up more than one-third of American workers, millennials constitute the largest segment of the U.S. workforce today.
Think what you want about this generation—although most negative stereotypes about them have been disproven—the fact remains that employers must find ways to accommodate this dominant demographic, and learn what motivates them to do their best work.
Millennials are the largest age group to emerge since baby boomers, and are the largest generation on the planet, which means that not only will they be a force in your workforce, but also as consumers.
They also have different ambitions and interests than their parents’ generation – they are tech dependent, seek more flexibility in their job role and workstyle, are natural collaborators, and are motivated by finding work with meaning.
It makes sense that your company should alter, in some way, the traditional corporate approach to productivity to better cater to them.
To find out what changes employers should make for millennial workers, I consulted a millennial—attorney James Goodnow, who co-authored a book titled, “Motivating Millennials: How to Recognize, Recruit, and Retain the Next Generation of Leaders.”
Here are Goodnow’s tips for fostering motivation and productivity for millennial employees:
1. Go easy on the dress code
Goodnow says his firm was “one of the first major U.S. law firms to allow blue jeans and casual clothes… 365 days a year.”
This move may be somewhat controversial among more traditional sensibilities, but the number of workplaces allowing casual dress every day is on the rise, with positive feedback from employees and supervisors alike.
Millennials, especially, are looking for flexibility in the workplace. Relaxing your company dress code to allow for blue jeans and sneakers rather than suit pants and high heels is one of the simplest ways you can cater to younger generations.
2. Provide tools to enhance employee wellness and engagement
“Gallup surveys found more than 20 years ago that… providing the correct workplace tools for success is a key ingredient of retention,” says Goodnow.
Once upon a time, the right tools might have been pencils and a notebook or a personal computer and printer, Goodnow explains, but now those tools might look a little different. Millennials have matured in a world streamlined by software and the internet, so it is vital to cater to their needs in this area.
For example, employees in his office receive Apple Watches or Fitbits to help everyone feel connected and healthy.
You might alternatively consider investing in productivity software such as Slack or Trello to help team members increase the efficiency of their workflow and communication and feel less constrained by bottlenecks.
3. Address employee concerns in a meaningful way
When Goodnow learned that some employees on his team felt “suffocated by sound” in the office’s tighter working spaces, he helped implement a program allowing workers to use noise-canceling headphones to achieve deeper focus.
“The perk really isn’t just the headphones,” he says. “It’s the fact that we implemented a program that addresses concerns that were raised by our team members.”
To find solutions for employee concerns, you must first provide a sounding board for those concerns. Establishing an anonymous feedback system—whether it’s a suggestion box in the break room or a dedicated email address—will encourage team members to make their voices heard.
4. Create a workspace conducive to creativity
“Millennials have… grown up in an entrepreneurial, think-big world,” Goodnow explains.
“This innovative spirit can be galvanized by providing… tools such as writable surfaces in our offices or common areas for team-based brainstorming,” he continues.
Fittingly, Goodnow’s office features a chalkboard wall, and one of his team’s conference rooms boasts 100% writeable surfaces.
You can also provide other unconventional spaces or perks to promote employee creativity, which in turn boosts productivity.
For example, in 2016 Mattress Firm introduced siesta rooms in its corporate headquarters. Google has instituted a company rule that no one can be farther than 200 feet away from food. Moves like these represent serious investments in employee well-being and allows them space to be creative.
5. Allow them to participate in important decisions
Just as millennial employees appreciate their concerns being heard, they also appreciate having a voice when it comes to business decisions and other areas of the company.
Goodnow suggests establishing task force committees that employees can join in order to increase their impact at work.
That opportunity for input, he says, will help them feel more invested in the company—making them more likely to stay long term.
6. Recognize and value their strengths
Perhaps the most important step employers can take to support millennial workers’ productivity is simply to appreciate the strengths that define this particular workforce. By understanding how this generation differs from previous generations, employers will also learn to understand their needs in the office.
“Millennials are the largest, most educated, and most diverse generation ever,” Goodnow says. “That background makes us eager to work with and interact with our colleagues.”
Find ways to support that eagerness by expanding your idea of traditional workplace etiquette and investing in their needs. The increase you’ll see in productivity and innovation will be more than worth the effort.
What is your company doing to help millennials be more productive?
How has your company worked to better cater to the millennial workforce? Let us know in the comments or by connecting with GetApp on Twitter.