by Traci L. Fiatte, Group President, Randstad US
Some perceptions about the work ethic of Millennials are just plain wrong.
Millennials have proven to be eager workers, focused on advancement and contributing to their companies and the economy.
But just as important, they have positively disrupted conventional workplace practices due to their insistence on true work/life balance and technology-driven flexibility. That’s not entitlement or narcissism, as some have suggested. Rather, they are progressive changes to the workplace environment that are benefitting workers of all ages.
And the next wave of workers—Generation Z, a younger group who are just entering the workforce en masse—will no doubt have their own constructive changes to workplace culture.
If you are an up-and-coming Millennial or Gen Z administrative worker seeking to make your mark in an organization, you can do so in countless ways. Just don’t let anyone with a closed mind get in your way.
Perceptions are changing, and you can hasten the process by being creative in showcasing your professionalism and eagerness to be a team player—steps that can further the Millennial-inspired cultural changes that are redefining the workplace.
Together is Better
Any employers or workers who believe younger employees have a vastly different work ethic or point of view on workplace culture are misinformed. We’re all more alike than different.
A recent survey by Randstad US and Future Workplace revealed that younger workers share many of the same desires and traits of their more experienced and seasoned colleagues. For example, only about 20 percent of Millennial/Gen Z workers prefer to work in a home office, with more than 62 percent desiring either a traditional corporate office or a co-working space (a communal setting populated by freelancers, remote workers and/or other independent professionals).
Why? Because they are eager for a collaborative work environment—so much so that some pundits are renaming them the collaboration generation. Indeed, 39 percent view in-person as the most effective communication method, much higher than second-place email (16 percent). Plus, one in five believe that co-workers do their best work when collaborating.
This news may come as no surprise to administrative workers and office managers, who—by the nature of their roles—are less likely to work exclusively offsite or under a flex-time schedule. But it does reinforce the importance of collaboration—regardless of how, when and where colleagues work together.
Administrative personnel who are aware of these trends can leverage that knowledge to quash negative stereotypes about Millennial or Gen Z workers while bolstering their visibility (and indispensability) to their bosses.
Top Tips to Help Change Their Minds
Here are a few suggestions for doing so.
Do Your Best
Sure, this would seem to be a no-brainer. You should always do your best. But it’s especially important to be diligent and self-motivating if you sense your co-workers and/or supervisors are skeptical about your ability to perform. Prove them wrong!
Don’t Forget the Give (in Give and Take)
Flexibility runs both ways. Millennials have fought for—and in many cases received—work/life balance options that are transforming how business is conducted, especially in this age of always-on connectivity. In fact, the recent Randstad US/Future Workplace study found that Millennials and Gen Z desire flexibility as a benefit even more so than healthcare coverage.
But currently, according to the aforementioned study, only about one-third of employers offer flexibility (such as remote access, flex hours, etc.). So if your employer does grant you these options, be cognizant that the arrangement needs to be mutually beneficial. Don’t take two-hour lunches when working from home, and ensure you can be reached by email or mobile device no matter where you are throughout the work day. If you’re not reliable while working offsite, you may see flex options scaled back or eliminated.
Raise your hand—especially when your workload is light or you see that others are struggling. Your willingness to reach out and encourage collaboration will be noticed and appreciated. Similarly, encourage your supervisor and collaborators to share feedback about your work performance frequently. As the survey discovered, Millennials and Gen Z prefer constant communication and feedback; so if you want feedback, be sure to ask for it.
Spread Your Wings
Extending the previous tip further, you can make your career more satisfying and rewarding by showing interest in and enthusiasm for new opportunities that may be beyond your existing skill set. The deeper your engagement with the company, the less likely you will be to seek another job elsewhere—like the 21 percent of Millennials who have changed jobs within the past year (per a recent Gallup report).
As Millennials get older, they are assuming more manager-level roles. But older generations are wary of this phenomenon, with nearly half believing that younger workers are ill-equipped for supervisory positions. They may be right. Just 28 percent of Millennials say their educations prepared them for the requirements of their current roles.
Ease any angst you may have about a leadership role by taking advantage of training courses, post-graduate education and mentorship opportunities. Many companies offer extensive educational opportunities, including—in some cases—college tuition reimbursement plans. But it’s up to you to make it happen.
Organizations understandably have high expectations for all employees, especially those they may not fully relate to or understand. Millennials and Gen Z professionals in administrative and office management roles have all the resources at their disposal to reverse outdated thinking about workplace expectations.
Make good use of them, and you’ll be worthily recognized for the valued contributions you are making.