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MILLENNIALS IN CHARGE The nation's young adults are shaping offices and worksites, and management must adjust or fall behind.

By ,
A group of young marketers, designers and
project managers from Liquid Interactive
collaborates in a breakout room for a
brainstorming session at company offices in
Upper Macungie Township. (Contributed photo)
A group of young marketers, designers and project managers from Liquid Interactive collaborates in a breakout room for a brainstorming session at company offices in Upper Macungie Township. (Contributed photo)

As the largest generation in the workforce, millennials have a lot of clout.

Their thoughts, ideas, goals and aspirations will be shaping and influencing the world of work for years to come.

And that is why people who hire and manage millennials need to pay attention to this emerging powerhouse. One that this year will increase in size to 75.3 million and become the nation's biggest population group, according to the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan research organization based in Washington, D.C.

For a generation coming of age in an era of rapidly evolving technology, these young workers born between 1981 and 1997 will play a significant role in defining workplace environments, habits, policies and culture.

Generally speaking, millennials value a work-life balance that puts them in greater control, allows them to use multiple methods of communication and gives them opportunities for a flexible, more open, collaborative work environment that offers opportunities to share ideas and develop mentorships with older workers.

They tend to have a more personal approach to work and a strong desire to succeed. However, the tradeoff is that feedback can be taken more personally.

These are all important factors for many millennials in the business world. They play a huge role in determining the value and meaning of their work and whether their impact on the company is successful or not.

Managers and business owners can work more effectively with this demographic by understanding what drives a millennial's need to succeed and how to foster this desire on a daily basis.

“Hiring managers need to acknowledge that millennials have a lot to offer,” said Shoshana Deutschkron, senior director of communications at Upwork, a global freelance talent marketplace headquartered in Mountain View, Calif. “They are inventing what it means to be successful in a technology-driven world where work days are infinite, needs change on a dime and independence and flexibility are at a premium.

“It is a manager's job to understand this demographic's challenges and evaluate them in relation to the world they've grown up in.”

Often, millennials value a work-life balance more than the amount of money they make, said Bret Ludlow, 26, digital marketing manager for Liquid Interactive, a digital marketing agency in Upper Macungie Township.

Having flexible work schedules creates a more meaningful work-life balance. With the connections that technology offers, they enjoy opportunities to work from home for a few hours.

“It's not like people want to shut off at 5 p.m.,” Ludlow said. “People are still willing to do that, but be more flexible as to when and how.”

As an example, millennials like having the ability to know if they have a personal appointment at 10 a.m. they will be allowed to work a few hours outside their typical schedule.

“That's a valuable perk,” Ludlow said. “I think you have to be able to keep an open mind, to be able to learn and be flexible. People like that type of environment where they have that flexibility.”

Some employees tend to work better outside the office without distractions and are, in turn, more productive, Ludlow said.

When it comes to business, there are differences in preferred methods of communication among the generations.

Communication among co-workers via text is increasing, particularly for millennials, noted Ludlow. Since emails can take longer to sift through, often co-workers will text each other about meetings or projects even if they are within the same building.

At work, millennials will multitask through phone, email and social media unlike any other generation, said Erica Berman, 32, client services manager for Active Data Inc. of Bethlehem.

For Berman, staying connected also helps her stay organized.

“These days, it's really hard to focus on one medium of communication,” Berman said. “I love digital communications, but it doesn't mean I don't love a phone call. I think it comes down to, what is the best way to communicate?

“I think the answer is persistent follow-up. To rely on one type of management style or communication vehicle for a millennial will be less effective than trying many.”

Technology is requiring more of millennials and affecting the way they work, and because of the digital age they grew up in, they are more comfortable with emerging technology and communication such as email or chat versus picking up the phone, Deutschkron said.

“I think most millennials have at least five communication systems going at all times,” she said, “so the most important thing is to learn each person's style and fit your communication methods to it or implement a consistent tool across team members.”

Ludlow said Liquid has 40 full-time employees. It's a good mix of people, and Ludlow said many are millennials who appear to value a collaborative work environment where they can walk across the room or down the hall to work directly with others. With a more collaborative environment and more communication, chances are businesses will have happier and more engaged employees, he said.

Liquid moved to Upper Macungie Township in Fogelsville about a year ago, having previously been in TekPark in Breinigsville.

“We internally designed the floor plan to offer more collaborative breakout rooms; that type of environment where people can get up and move more quickly,” Ludlow said. “That type of environment has helped improve productivity since we moved here.”

Millennials take a more personal approach to work and depend on feedback and reassurances, Berman said. Often, they can take feedback more personally than other generations.

“I think millennials need to know how to rebound,” Berman said.

While all millennials cannot be lumped into the same category because they all have different personalities, they are a generation that is rising in the workplace because they are task-oriented and driven to succeed, she said.

“What I've been seeing now in the millennial workforce is this strength and resilience, and there is a hunger to succeed, especially among millennials in the Lehigh Valley because they come from different states and colleges,” Sandra Soliman said. At 25, Soliman is sales and business developer and public relations specialist for Offix Systems in Hanover Township, Lehigh County.

However, she said, it is important for millennials to be diplomatic and to respect the older generations in the workforce who have paved the way for them and can offer mentorship opportunities.

Millennials care more about the people they work with, good mentorship and exciting work – and less about money than managers realize – so mentorship is critical, Deutschkron said.

“That's the best way to achieve success, to tip your hat to those who already achieved success,” Soliman said. “I would like to see more millennials volunteer, give back, attend events; we need to step out of ourselves and make the community we live in a better place.”

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Brian Pedersen

Brian Pedersen

Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4108. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLehigh and read his blog, “Can You Dig It,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/can-you-dig-it.

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