Millennial How-To: What Makes This Generation Happy at Work?

Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce, yet data shows they are dissatisfied. Why? Find out what senior leaders can do to foster a happy and productive work environment for millennials

At the end of 2015, millennials became the largest generation in the workforce. And yet, many companies still have not been able to nail down how to effectively foster a workplace that satisfies this massive new wave of employees.

This is due to the fact that millennials, and the generations that follow, have grown up in the age of technology. It poses an interesting and completely new context for obstacles that employers often face — what tools should we leverage, how should we do it for maximum results? But there is one clear thing amid this confusion, companies that want to remain competitive with great talent will have to figure out how to cater to younger generations while still successfully growing and managing the business. They have to figure out how to appease the needs of heavily tech-driven workers while ensuring they don’t lose themselves in the wave of new technology.

So what makes millennials happy at work? Based on Teem’s 2017 Employee Happiness report, here’s how the largest working generation feels about their jobs — from particulars of office design to job perks — and what companies can do with this information to continue evolving for the future of work.

What’s Fueling Millennial Dissatisfaction

As research and common sense often point out, unhappy workers are bad for business. The largest working demographic is no exception and it’s happening more often than we like — 67 percent of millennials report they are “somewhat happy” at work, compared to 55 percent saying they were “very happy” in our 2016 survey. Why? The decline appears to be due to a lack of work/life balance and recognition for a job well done (48 and 46 percent, respectively) — the two most important factors for millennials.

Adding to the negative feeling are offices themselves, as opinions on office layout vary. Where 70 percent of millennials enjoy the open-office layout, only about half of boomers feel the same. And it seems this love is more for the idea that its reality. The open-office plan’s biggest fans can be its biggest detractors — for instance, 83 percent of millennials feel that the lack of privacy in an open-office negatively impacts their work.

Then there is also the issue of technology. Although millennials are almost twice as excited (58 percent) as boomers (33 percent) to see AI-fueled solutions and automation in the workplace, they are not happy about what it can imply. All generations say their least favorite aspect of the modern workplace is feeling they are always on — which can seem inescapable with cloud-powered solutions, automation and communication tools that are originally meant to be helpful.

Tapping the Right Tools to Boost Fulfillment

It’s not all bad news. There are ways to help millennials feel better about work and it’s all about how organizations introduce and leverage new tools. And it all begins with feedback. Consider that millennials (76 percent) are most excited about the introduction of digital assistants to the workplace — why introduce backend automation tools when workers clearly want help with their daily workflows? If they’re asking for digital assistants, there’s likely a good reason for it — such as increasingly complex workflows, too many data points to sift through, too many actions to take, etc. Further, why introduce more communication tools when 49 percent of respondents report that today’s communication tools make them feel obligated to respond to colleagues regardless of where or when?

Millennials are being overt about their needs, it is up to organizations to heed their call and execute accordingly. As I pointed out above, the two most influential factors on millennial happiness at work are work/life balance and positive recognition. These two things can only be achieved through a data-driven strategy fed directly through employee feedback. Organizations’ will never know what they want and they won’t be able to congratulate them for a work well done without them.

Ultimately, employers cannot provide work/life balance or praise without being truly attuned to their workforce, especially with the one that is currently dominating the workforce. Although it may be enticing to dive head-first into the sea of new tools and work environments, it’s best to take the temperature before doing so. Millennials know what they want and organizations need to make it their business to do the same or risk landing in hot water.

Millennial How-To: What Makes This Generation Happy at Work?