The value the millennial mindset brings to the workplace

Millennials. We’ve been the topic of heated conversation in the workplace for the last several years. For some, we’ve gotten a reputation for being a generation that’s too particular about the first career-oriented job we take right out of school, or for being job hoppers. For others, we’ve gotten a reputation for wanting too much flexibility or transparency in the workplace. For still others, we might even come across as uncommitted, unmotivated, or just downright lazy.

However, these beliefs about millennials are largely misconceptions. It’s true certain millennials are unmotivated in the workplace, but overall millennials demonstrate an almost unshakable loyalty to their employers when their unique talents are appreciated and nurtured, and their values align with those of the organization. And because millennials have advocated for a workplace that looks at them more holistically as people, they have helped shift our work culture for the better. In the last 10 years, chronic workplace stress has decreased by 30%, and employees also see a brighter future with their companies than they did 10 years ago.

Regardless what we might believe about millennials, their beliefs and attitudes about work-life integration, feeling purposeful in the workplace, and health and wellness have added value to the workplace. But while we may see this on a grand scale, this purpose-driven mindset and perspective also adds value to our daily workplace interactions on a more micro scale.

Questioning old ways of doing things

Millennials consistently question processes rooted in tradition, especially if they’re not efficient. They often question and flip their assumptions so that they think from a different perspective, which is a critical part of being innovative. As a generation, millennials possess several of the traits that make the most innovative entrepreneurs. By bringing this innovative approach to the workplace, they help the companies for which they work become more profitable.

For example, in our consulting work, our junior consultants — many of whom are millennials — tend to offer unique solutions to our clients’ challenges. In one instance, we replaced a very manually intensive process with a streamlined web session. The company had been using the manual process for years, and it involved numerous human interactions, which lead to errors and delays. Our streamlined web session eliminated all but the most necessary human interactions. This new process led to fewer errors and modified an interaction that lasted clients weeks and cut it down to one session, but its creation was only possible because of our junior consultants who were able to envision the technological components of the web session.

Because many millennials or junior consultants are innovative and have a lot of interesting ideas to offer, it’s important that they look for opportunities where their managers will listen to and genuinely consider their ideas. Many organizations adopt a “no, we can’t do that” or a “yes, but” attitude. Creative problem solvers: be sure to reverse interview any potential employers until you find an organization that possesses a “both/and” mindset rather than an either/or mindset. In an interview, even asking a question like, “Say I wanted to work on a new project for the company. How would you respond?” can help a candidate determine if a potential employer would shoot down their idea right away. Ideally, an interviewer would respond with something like, “We’d probably be open to that” or “That would be great!”

In short, by embracing this millennial growth-oriented mindset, employers will see their businesses experience increased innovation and, in turn, profit.

Understanding emerging consumer trends

In addition to questioning the processes we’ve had in the past, millennials are really strong with understanding emerging consumer trends. Because they are so plugged into social media, they are aware of topics that are trending, and they might have a wider view on where certain industries are headed. And since some of them are fresh out of college, they might have even studied some of the latest industry trends in school.

The goal is for employers to effectively leverage this knowledge. To do that, they may need to help millennials or Gen Z employees look more critically at the trends they’ve observed to apply that knowledge to projects that can benefit the organization. Or, at the very least, employers need to foster an environment where employees know their voice will be heard.

For example, at a clothing retail outlet, a millennial employee might notice that certain kinds of attire have been trending on Instagram. If an employee feels empowered in the work environment, like their perspective is valued, they might speak up and suggest to their supervisor that the company adjust their displays so that the type of attire that has been trending recently is more prominent.

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Utilizing technologies to streamline workflows

Earlier, I mentioned that some people might perceive millennials as lazy or unmotivated. However, a better description of the millennial mindset is to “work smarter, not harder.” In the workplace, this mindset adds immense value because it encourages organizations to examine and identify where they are being inefficient or making extra work for themselves.

Admittedly, this concept of creating more efficient workflows is not unique to millennials. What is unique is the ease with which they adopt or utilize new technology to streamline those workflows. For example, if they’re working too hard with a process that they could automate, they instinctively go to Google or the App Store and see if there is a process, checklist, tool, app, or workflow that already exists that they can integrate into their job function or organization.

To use a cliché, millennials like to avoid entirely reinventing the wheel, instead taking the hub, tire, and spokes from different sources, if possible. Their ability to see the big picture of how technology works within an organization and how to combine different technologies brings value to the workplace because they can adjust and modify workflows more easily.

It all starts with listening and prioritizing open communication that encourages unusual and forward-thinking ideas regardless of how practical they may seem at the outset. After all, after we have the idea and genuinely consider it, we can always refine it into a practical solution.

In summary

Millennials have a lot to contribute to the workplace, such as their critical thinking skills, creative problem solving, and desire to live a happy, healthy life, which has created more supportive and less stressful workplaces. They also seek purpose-driven, meaningful work, which is why they gravitate toward leadership opportunities within collaboratively minded organizations. All these mindsets help us do better work that capitalizes on the talents of all our team members, which keeps us more engaged and adding more value to our organizations.

Jonathan Taylor, MBA, is the business manager for CrossGen Solutions, a professional consulting firm in Madison.

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