Mike Airosus, Porter Consulting blogger
In our last blog post, we talked about the advantages a millennial workforce gives your organization. We also discussed ways to build an organizational culture that values and integrates employees from different generational groups. In this post, we will look at some of the pitfalls and risks of cultivating a millennial-centric corporate culture.
Multitasking and Distractions
We mentioned the adept use of technology and ability to multitask as some of the greatest advantages millennials bring to today’s workplace. However, there are downsides to the way millennials switch from one device, app, web page or communication method to another. With the many different ways millennials communicate and perform their work, becoming distracted or easily diverted from a task is a risk.
Researchers from the University of California Irvine found that it takes workers an average of 23 minutes to fully re-engage in a task after being interrupted. Moreover, the study found that people compensate for lost time due to interruptions by working faster, resulting in higher levels of stress, frustration and pressure. This affects the quality of the office environment and can also leave workers more prone to making mistakes.
Millennials enjoy trying out new apps and productivity tools and are not shy about introducing them as possibilities into the workplace. Although millennials are quick to adopt new technologies, learning curves for a multitude of apps, online platforms and services add up to significant time and contribute to a loss of efficiency. App functions start overlapping or frequently require updates, and processes become less streamlined between coworkers. Businesses and managers must ask the question: at what point does the integration of new technologies interfere with an efficient workflow?
Back to Basics
Despite many new forms of communication, some workplace practices have not grown old. One particular trend is millennials’ reluctance to use the telephone for communication. With the ubiquitous use of cellphones and the lack of landlines in our daily lives, millennials often silence or ignore calls more often than they pick them up. They no longer expect the phone to be a reliable way of reaching someone. For immediate communication, they more often rely on instant messaging, texts, or emails. However, in an office or business environment, picking up the phone is often the fastest option to get a quick answer to an immediate question or clarify an important detail. Additionally, non-written cues can be expressed over the phone that often are not conveyed via email or instant messaging.
Another time-tested strategy is to draft and brainstorm written work on paper, rather than on a computer screen. Many millennials haven’t written things down with pen and paper since high school and are accustomed to completing all of their assignments on laptops. In my own experience drafting posts for this blog series, I often find that writing my ideas down on paper yields more coherent and organized results. Physically writing something down is still relevant, as it forces me to think more clearly about what I am writing. Your younger employees might benefit from brainstorming sessions or dedicated times that involve writing their ideas down on paper. This process also gives them a break from day-long screen sessions.
Constant Collaboration vs. Private Focus
While this blog series has advocated for the rise of the open organization and the benefits of freely exchanging ideas, constant collaboration and crowd-sourcing create disadvantages as well. Depending on the project and role, some employees need time to work independently in order to finish up a long-term project, catch up on smaller tasks that have been deprioritized, or simply regain a sense of privacy. Strong management must recognize when employees need time to themselves to complete tasks and take ownership of specific assignments and projects.
The movement away from individual time is reflected in the modern millennial workspace. Open floorplans, group chatrooms and forums, and constant teamwork can be tiring for some people, especially those who have worked in environments without such a corporate culture. To mitigate this effect, consider offering relaxation or break rooms for your employees with a level of privacy that doesn’t exist at their desk.
Although millennials bring tremendous advantages to the workplace, their work styles and preferences present some unique challenges that must be addressed. Being aware of these common pitfalls millennials face in the modern workplace will help managers get the most out of their employees. Do you have any experiences successfully managing millennials? Please share your comments below.
Mike Airosus is a guest blogger for Porter Consulting. You can read more of his blogs at the Porter Consulting website at http://porterconsulting.net