This article includes further insights from Singapore Worktech’s panel, titled “Gen Y and Z and New Ways of Working” where millennial professionals from different industries were brought together by Veldhoen + Company to answer questions about their expectations and priorities in their work life. The first part of the article can be read here. Panellists highlighted the importance of finding connection in their work, both connection to a purpose and a continious flow of new information as well as deeper connection to their managers and co-workers, hence online and offline communities play a big role in how millennials learn and thrive at work.

Millennials are comfortable being hyper informed and hyper connected

Yes, social media is important. But it is not just a way to keep in touch with distant friends or an outlet for vanity. It is an important way to crowdsource information (about clients, industries and the world) much faster than traditional news channels can provide it. While no one person can process the volume of information that is constantly being created and shared, millennials can rely on a broad online network to prioritize the flow in useful ways. With the working world seen as a marketplace of ideas, millennials shared that they don’t want to miss any opportunity for growth or inspiration. They have grown up routinely, seeing ideas go from “laughable” to becoming “the new normal” before their eyes, with billion-dollar valuations to boot. So, they never know where the next big thing will come from and are constantly on the lookout and in the loop.

Since we’ve already mentioned in part 1 how seriously millennials take their own efficiency and productivity, it comes as no surprise that they also follow the latest research on achieving one’s mental best. The latest academic research in psychology and neurology is making it to the mainstream faster and more frequently than ever before. Through TED talks, best-selling business books, and the blogosphere. Stories emerge weekly about the deadly effects of loneliness or the meditation habits of successful CEOs.

Mental health focus

Similar to the clean eating revolution that is “killing carbs”, the growing volume of mental health tips is becoming its own mental health movement (think adult colouring books, yoga and meditation apps). Empathy, mind hacking, and emotional intelligence dominate business media that used to focus exclusively on economic and financial topics.

Millennials are aware of and in tune with this mental health focus; they want to have good mental habits and want work environments that support them. Several panellists mentioned wishing to better manage energy and focus (instead of managing time) throughout the work day. Almost every panellist mentioned the importance of time for reflection and discussion on topics outside of their immediate tasks, as a way to better absorb lessons and enhance their perspective. While each panellist expressed a willingness to take on extra hours as needed, reducing risk of burnout was also a balancing concern. A keen sense of responsibility also translates to anxiety about decision-making skills, so this finds millennials trying to balance the time management requirements of many jobs, with unbiased decision-making and in a strong emotional and psychological state… a lot to juggle!

The new meaning of work/life balance

We heard that for millennials, the lines between work and life are blurred, staying connected to both. They want to feel alive at work because the space/time opportunity for them to live life outside of work is shrinking. Making this sustainable in the long-run is a challenge employees and employers face together. Empathy and community in the office emerged as a big part of finding the new work/life balance.

When asked how they would run their own teams, answers showed a keen interest in motivating subordinates for success. Every single panellist assigned great emphasis on getting to know each individual, deeper, because they believe this is a big part of achieving the best outcomes. Several said they would partner with underperforming employees to better coach them. Earned respect, transparency, and leading from the back were some of the key values espoused by our panel.

Wether they are in charge or not, millennials want to know and understand their co-workers, and want to be understood themselves. They want to feel human and to feel valued. Participation trophies? Yes, acknowledge when they participate in generating good ideas or results! But also compassion for mistakes (no shaming, aggression, or humiliation) and acceptance to learn from failures.

What does this mean for workplaces?

Culture is a major defferentiator. The lavish perks typical of the early start-up boom years won’t impress employees for long, in an unhealthy, or damaging work culture. Emotional and psychological wellbeing are becoming essential for attracting great talent, and for keeping conscious and engaged consumers happy and loyal. 

Millennials are motivated by a vibrant community and by acknowledgment (not necessarily perks or bonuses) for a job well done. Eager to achieve results, millennials don’t mind occasionally over extending themselves. But they want their organisations to trust them enough to flex in the other direction when needed. Reserving wellbeing benefits (like remote work and other flexibility) as rewards for high achievement rather than rights, can send a dehumanizing message that clashes with the values millennials seek.

But let’s not get too emotional…

Millennials are hungry for achievement so that they know they have invested their time wisely. When preserving good feeling in the workplace turns into politics that get in the way of results, good ideas, or personal growth, millennials start suffering. Things seem to move very fast for them, and there simply isn’t time to be bogged down in a negative work culture.

For more about this project please contact Iolanda Meehan

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