Millennials now account for the bulk of the U.S. labor force, eclipsing baby boomers in that realm in 2014 and Generation Xers in 2016. As noted by Pew Research Center, more than one-third of the current workforce was born after 1996.
While there’s a certain familiarity here — each workforce majority is eventually replaced by a younger demographic — millennials face challenges unique to their generation, such as massively inflated housing and education costs paired with significantly reduced job stability.
The result? Work-life balance is more important to millennials than climbing corporate ladders or securing big salaries. For organizations, this requires a commensurate shift in support practices: How do businesses help millennials walk the line between their professional and private lives?
For Millennials, Flexibility at Work and in Life Matters Most
Research from staffing firm Randstad found that millennials and their younger counterparts Generation Z want technology-enabled flexibility above all else when it comes to work experiences. Respondents to the firm’s survey of more than 4,000 such workers cited work flexibility as the most important employee benefit, above even healthcare, and 61 percent preferred using technology — ranging from email to collaboration portals to videoconferencing — to communicating face to face.
“Generation Z and millennials want to be able to use any and all technology tools to enable every aspect of their lives, from work to personal, scheduling, planning social events,” Jim Link, Randstad’s chief HR officer, told CIO. “Millennials and Generation Z see less of a segregation between work and life — they're more about balancing that and making it seamless so work gets done anywhere, anytime.”
That seems consistent with other research into the preferences of today’s younger generations. Homeownership rates among millennials, for example, are substantially lower than they were for Generation X or baby boomers at the same age, according to the Urban Institute. That’s partly due to economic factors, but it’s also a function of younger generations’ desire for flexibility and their preference for experiences over ownership of things.
One experience millennials emphasize is that of the family. As noted by recent Deloitte research, 87 percent of fathers are now “mostly or fully involved in day-to-day parenting duties” and 68 percent have a spouse who also works full time. But 45 percent of millennial parents report tension from employers around this parental priority, with a third regularly frustrated by trying to balance work obligations with leaving the office on time.
The Office Tech Demanded by Millennial Workers
To help achieve necessary balance between work expectations and life experiences, millennials have turned to technology. Businesses can support these digital natives by embracing solutions designed to simplify their schedules, including:
- Collaboration Tools: Millennials want the option to work from home: As noted by Business Insider, 75 percent said they would take a pay cut to gain more flexible work options. They’re also willing to work outside normal operating hours, with 68 percent of professionals checking business emails before 8 a.m., half checking in bed and almost 40 percent opening their inbox at dinner. Here, businesses can boost millennial balance with access to top collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex. By making it easy to connect with other employees and quickly finish up work after regular hours, organizations can align productivity best practices with millennial expectations.
- Automation Solutions: Nearly 60 percent of U.S. workers are “swamped” by daily to-do lists and say they spend most of their time on “peripheral” tasks. For millennials, the cost of this continual busywork isn’t just lost productivity; it’s the inability to leave work on time or the need to take tasks home. Automation solutions can help companies solve this problem by leveraging real-time analytics and evolving AI to digitize rote and repetitive processes. For example, robotic process automation can detect and correct data entry mistakes to reduce time wasted, while artificial intelligence solutions can learn and then effectively mimic data entry processes, allowing staff to focus on more mission-critical tasks.
- Intelligent Ecosystems: As noted by Forbes, millennials represent “the largest share of the home buying market” and they’re not satisfied with the status quo — they want purpose-built spaces empowered by smart home technologies. The demand for intelligent ecosystems extends to their workspaces. According to ReadWrite, millennials want attractive, modern office spaces that leverage automation, wireless connections and smart assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, which increasingly are being deployed inside businesses.
- API-driven Applications: Millennials are the top users of mobile apps. The result? Many companies are now investing in managed application programming interfaces to enhance user experiences and boost productivity. From applications that work seamlessly across mobile devices, digital vehicle systems to simplify commuting and VPN-enabled remote connections that deliver on-the-fly access to corporate networks, organizations need applications that match millennial expectations.
The bottom line? Balance is the new millennial mandate. Organizations can support this largest labor force with better collaboration tools, intelligent automation options, seamless smart devices and enhanced applications.