As my dad always says, we no longer live in a day and age (like Don Draper) where we go to work for a company post-college graduation, and then retire with that company 30 years later. Instead, we are living in a day and age in which our workers (the Millennials) piece together part-time jobs in order to make full-time income, spend a couple years at one company and then skip to another, and are placing stronger demands on their companies to adapt to the Millennial lifestyle and expectations.
The 20-Something Millennial worker expects work to be “fun”: I hear lots of my friends say, “I need a new job; this one isn’t fun”. Perhaps it occurred with the school system saying learning should be “engaging”, or that we had so many colleges with cool amenities to pick from, or we have too many good fast food restaurants to go, but for some reason, the 20-Something Millennial expects that their job be “fun”, and if it’s not “fun”, then they think they shouldn’t have to work it. To some extent, I think this is true–Americans spend an average of 47 hours per week, which is basically half of your life, so your job should be something that you somewhat enjoy, but it doesn’t necessarily always have to be THE MOST EXCITING AND STIMULATING thing in the world; sometimes, you just show up to your job to make money, and then your leisure time serves as your stimulation (this could be why people are skipping from job to job within two year time spans).
The 20-Something Millennial worker is adept at technology, and lacking in functional skills: In schools, we push the use of technology; there are so many applications and programs that output almost any task that the 20-Something Millennial worker is really great at knowing how to use the technology, and really inept at knowing how the technology actually works. My dad, a land surveyor, says this is one of the biggest issues with new workers in his field; while they know exactly how to set up the equipment and push the button, they don’t know how the equipment came up with those computations, so when the computations are incorrect, the surveyor doesn’t actually recognize that, and (in his words), he has, “seen whole buildings fall over and roads go down in the wrong spot because the kid relied too much on his technology”.
The 20-Something Millennial Worker wants less work for more pay, and four day work weeks: I live in Denver, which is definitely a more entrepreneurial city, where more people are owning their own businesses, transitioning to flex spaces, working from home (to be honest, as a teacher, I am sometimes a little jealous of this, because my job will never allow me to take a conference call in my pajamas or decide to ‘work from home’ on a snow day); it seems that everyone must have their ‘office day’ on Thursdays, because that is when I witness the most traffic.
I can’t necessarily say that these qualities in the Millennial worker are a bad thing because I think we have grown up with parents and grandparents who were WORK-A-HOLICS, who we saw destroy our families, their happiness and now health, and we reject that lifestyle by committing to spending less time working, and more time doing stuff that makes us happy. In some ways, I think the Millennial worker is putting pressures on companies to adapt to a changing social climate, and that could definitely be a good thing.
I think part of the expectation that “work must be fun” derives from our educational backgrounds; we were taught that learning must be fun and therefore must consist of games and bright colors and competitions, and so we carry that into our adult lives. We were told that we could go to any college that we wanted to, and we could become anything we wanted to, and we could do anything we wanted to, and we could snap on a different cellphone cover for every mood we experienced during the day, and I think the limitless amount of choices for the Millennial worker lead us to believe that there are limitless amounts of jobs out there, with limitless amounts of tasks, so, like my attachable phone case, why stay stuck in one that isn’t directly making me happy when I can easily pick a different option?
And, it’s great that Millennial worker is so adept at technology. With the advent and innovation of technology, companies are able to hire for and create new tasks that, traditionally had to be done by a person, but can now be done with a computer; instead of having employees who were in charge of typewriting and stapling and hole punching all day, we can now use a machine, which means this alleviates time and man power for more product development, for more social media advertising, for more network research; we can learn more and do more than we’ve ever been able to do before.
During my ‘summers off’, I like to find myself a job, where I’m working with and doing what the normal population is doing. And, I’m always astonished at how little work actually gets done in an 8 hour work day. Based on an informal poll, people responded and said they spend about 30% of their work day actually doing work, and the other 70% of the time, scrolling through social media, watching Netflix, looking at cheap flights, picking out future bridesmaid’s dresses, etc. Some research is actually being done about the productivity of the worker and they are finding that shorter work weeks or shorter days actually yield more productivity, because employees know they must be more efficient with their time (and they know they have time to do that non-work related stuff at home).
So, like everything else (the predator-prey relationship, juggling you and your significant other’s weekend events, your foot pushing into your thigh during yoga tree), life is all about a series of tensions–in this case, the tension between the old, traditional work place environment and the demands of the Millennial worker–and finding compromise and common ground so that all needs and expectations are met.