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"Is Your Company Ready for the Millennial Shift?"

9/29/2014

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"Is Your Company Ready for the Millennial Shift?", author: Adams and Reese Partner Laurie Young, published by JD Supra and Law.com

With Boomers exiting and Millennials entering, significant shifts in the work environment are coming—along with shifting concerns for employers. Are you ready?

Much has been written about Millennials. Whether considered pluses or minuses, here are the statistical facts:

  • The U.S. Bureau of Statistics projects that by 2020, Millennials (one of the 76 million people born roughly between 1980 and 2000) will make up 40% of the workforce. By 2025, 75% of the workforce.
  • Unlike Boomers thriving in individualized work, organizational hierarchies and traditional working hours, Millennials thrive in team settings, lateral structures and flexible work/life balance.
  • Unlike Boomers traditionally loyal to jobs and companies, Millennials aren’t afraid to leave their jobs.
  • Millennials want more flexibility in where and how they work – whether it is from the office, home or on the road.
  • They are not lazy. Millennials have technical and multi-tasking skills and given the right environment, they will stay and work hard for the employer.

Employers are already adjusting work environments to attract, and perhaps more importantly, retain Millennials. The Wall Street Journal notes that employers are “jumping through hoops to accommodate [Millennials] demands for faster promotions, greater responsibilities and more flexible work schedules.” Further, employers are recognizing that if you don’t offer incentives to retain your Millennials, someone else will. Examples of such shifts in the work environment include:

  • The United States Department of Labor adopting a policy allowing employees to work from home one day every two weeks and flextime work schedules, including allowing employees to accrue time for taking personal leave.
  • Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. scrapping workday start time, implementing flexible hours to accommodate Millennials and giving them feedback immediately after presentations.
  • Deloitte posting videos on YouTube to attract Millennial talent and touting social responsibility, team spirit and other corporate traits important to Millennials.
  • Chegg, Inc. (online textbook service), to counter high turnover, allowing a more hands-on exposure to projects and introducing an unlimited paid vacation policy (a policy used successfully by, among others, Netflix, Zynga and magazine publisher Rodale).
  • The Nerdery, an interactive web development company, allowing employees to select a core set of hours when they will be at work and then finish their work at a different time that day, or even remotely.

With these shifts in employees and office culture, shifting employment issues are emerging. Millennial-related employment issues that employers in general, and HR in particular, are likely to encounter are:

  • Turnover Costs: Millennials are not afraid to change jobs. The costs to the employer of having to hire and train replacements will be an increasing concern and all the more reason to focus on retention.
  • Conflict with Millennials: However, if your company, like the ones identified above, change or implement policies to recruit and retain Millennials, expect some tension among the existing employees (especially the Boomers) whose attitudes often collide head-on with those of Millennials. Aside from resenting the catering to Millennials in general, the policies established may be of little or no interest, or even appear counter-productive, to non-Millennial employees. Management of increasing conflict, frustration and morale issues will become more frequent.
  • Devices: Millennials are technologically savvy and more likely to bring personal devices into their work and workplace. Given their higher rate of job change, proper polices and safeguards will become paramount so that former employees do not have access to company records.
  • Managing Digital Diversions: Tech/social media savvy Millennials, with their own devices in hand, will tweet, text and surf about personal matters at work. Such activities can sap efficiency. Whether by allowing time for personal screen use or strictly monitoring non-work screen use, management of such activities will be an increasing concern.
  • Wage and Hour: The propensity of Millennials to work “on the clock” from a remote site away from the office will require monitoring systems to be implemented to track and properly pay non-exempt Millennial employees.
  • Non-compete Agreements: Because Millennials are more prone to hop between jobs, expect increasing use of non-compete agreements to protect the employer’s interests, clients and/or proprietary information.

The Millennials have brought, and will continue to bring, significant shifts in the work environment as their numbers increase in the workforce. The question is whether employers will be ready, or instead lag behind and lose opportunities to attract and retain these dynamic employees. Are you ready?