The Millennial generation is entering the workforce at an astounding rate. In fact, they are expected to comprise over 50% of the working population by 2020 and up to 75% by the year 2025. These numbers, coupled with the technological advances that have occurred over the last decade, point towards the need for workplace managers to rethink how organizations are structured. Procedures that were once engaging and productive are now obsolete, making room for more streamlined, automated processes.
Due to a lack of understanding and inability to relate, many Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are censorious of Millennials. Buzz words such as “entitled” and “arrogant” are often tied to this emerging workforce. Spend a moment delving deeper into what makes this generation tick, however, and you’ll come to realize they are much more complex than these criticisms. Growing up in what many of us still view as “the future,” workplace leaders stand to learn a lot from this wise generation. Regardless of your opinion of the Millennials, they ARE our future and are currently laying the framework for future generations. The core of what they desire? An agile workplace culture.
What is an Agile Workplace?
Before you can even begin to consider building such a workplace environment, you must first understand what this means. By definition, it means much like it sounds – a fluid workplace that responds to the ever-evolving environment and workforce needs. While processes are critical, adhering to a strategy, no matter what, often proves stifling to organizational growth and productivity.
Let’s examine a few of the most critical components of this modern workplace:
- Flexibility – While every workplace must implement boundaries, a nimble work culture recognizes that there is never just one way to solve an issue. Thriving in a more collaborative environment, Millennials prefer to work towards a solution as a team. Accustomed to functioning as individuals, this method is often uncomfortable for more seasoned generations. Innovative solutions and procedures, however, are often the result.
- Accommodating work conditions – As part of this flexible work environment, the agile workplace expands employee boundaries. Management teams place more trust in their employees by more remote opportunities and open-ended schedules. By encouraging each employee to find the work style that works best for them, employee engagement is enhanced.
- Fluid structure – Historically, businesses have been more structured, with managers overseeing a group of employees. A strict division of labor was assigned with formal rules enforced. In an agile work environment, employees work more collaboratively, with managers taking on more of a “leadership” role. Procedures are treated more like guidelines, rather than hard, fast rules, leading teams towards industry innovation.
Why is Agility So Important?
Rappler recently conducted a study to uncover what sets Millennials apart from the older generations. While the standard, negative buzzwords were mentioned, the results were interesting. Empowered, strategist, fearless, and loyalist were among the top words. These are not typically the words used to describe entitled, lazy people, are they? The truth is, Millennials want to work hard. They want to pave their own path to success and strive to make a difference in the world along the way. They know what they want and understand that a more agile culture is an effective strategy for achieving long-term success.
With the evolution of technology, consumers have come to expect stellar customer service, at an accelerated rate. Recognizing the need for quick results, Millennials find it more effective to forego antiquated methods. Their thought process; if information can be submitted via mobile app or text message, why would they want to wait for an in-person meeting or formal email? For them, a more innovative and immediate method garners immediate results and increased productivity. At the end of the day, it’s more about the result, than the process, right? While agility and flexibility doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome, it does support their individual needs, setting them up to make a difference in the world, both professionally and personally.
Laying the Groundwork for Future Generations
For those of us who are accustomed to a more structured and defined workplace culture, the agile workplace tends to feel chaotic and uncomfortable. It’s important that workspace managers continue to consider the needs of their Baby Boomer and Generation X employees, while positioning themselves as leaders for attracting and retaining today’s top talent. Setting a workplace up for long-term success means designing a culture that fits the needs of both current and future work styles. It requires being in a constant state of transition.
Millennials have witnessed the evolution of technology, recognizing the need to adapt organically. Generation Z, born between 1995 and 2012, have never known a world without the Internet, smartphones, and social media. They view technology as just one of many tools to assist them in making their mark on the world. Also known as “Linksters” or “Builders,” they’re accustomed to a world where information is readily available and reliable. They have been taught to adapt, able to work both collaboratively and individually. To realize success, flexibility is a key component. The youth currently entering the workforce, therefore, is paving the path for future generations.
An agile culture isn’t the right fit for every organization, or even every employee, for that matter. For those striving to be progressive and forward-thinking, workplace agility is another facet to the overall work landscape. For others, whom have structured working conditions which remain productive and fit their needs, change may be more of a gradual process, which implements change over time. It’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel in order to be successful but, refinement of a process and being aware of current working trends is also never a negative. Find the balance which works best for you and your organization.