The Millenial approach to project work - opportunities and challenges for management


millennials in the workforce


It’s often called the “C” generation. Because Millennials are the first generation to have grown up with devices from a very young age. And there are a lot of other characterizations of this generation, not all of them complimentary. They are sometimes described as lazy, self-absorbed, averse to hard work, and “pampered.”

In fact, this generation – aged 22 – 38 as of 2019 – is not lazy or work averse. It is a generation that has new perspectives on work and how work gets done. To older generations, this can be frustrating, considering that they value a structured, hierarchical work environment, in which everyone shows up to work on time and stays as late as necessary to meet the demands of their task responsibilities (often sacrificing social and family life). This can be in direct conflict with the following millennial values:

  • They view the workplace as an egalitarian environment, not hierarchical
  • They value flexible hours and opportunities to work remotely from any variety of places
  • They value technology as the giver of the flexibility they want
  • They like to multi-task, network with as many others as possible, and learn on-the-go.
  • They value their personal lives and activities as much as those of work and are not willing to sacrifice their lifestyles for job demands.
  • They are willing to change positions as often as will meet their needs and demands. And this willingness to “job hop” costs employers about $30.5 billion every year, according to Gallup.

Why All of This is Important

All of this matters, because, by 2020, millennials will comprise 50% of the global work force (by 2030, that will increase to 75%). So, given the fact that their views of work and loyalty to an organization are in direct conflict with the status quo, there are some major challenges for project managers of older generations that are used to operating very differently.

Implications for Project Managers

There are several aspects of project work that are impacted by the new millennial work values:

1. Re-thinking work scheduling

…deadlines, and decision-making. Traditional project management and tasks occur in-house. The project team gathers, holds meetings, and individuals provide progress reports. Issues are discussed, perhaps there are PowerPoints and/or flow charts, and schedules and deadlines may be adjusted. These meetings occur on a scheduled basis, in person.

Millennials consider this model a waste of time. They expect organizations they work for to have digitally transformed, so that all of the “meeting stuff” can occur remotely, through video-conferencing and messaging. Emails are as bad as snail mail in their minds.

2. Teamwork and Collaboration

Here is an area in which millennials excel. They do value teamwork and collaborating with one another. They are willing to solicit input and advice, without concern for others knowing they may have an issue or something they don’t understand.

This is a shift from traditional mindsets. In that framework, team members have their tasks and focus on completing them individually. Many are concerned about letting others know they are struggling, because they may look incompetent to peers and superiors. So they dig in, put in those long hours, and deal with the stress this may cause.

Millennials will reach out to other team members and even to peers outside of the workplace to get insights, answers, and the help they need. Their goal is to get tasks completed well but as quickly as possible, so they have time for the other priorities in their lives.

Organizations will meet these needs by incorporating the latest project management software and apps, so that communication is instant, allows rapid brainstorming, updates in real time, access by all team members, video chats, and more. The other need this transformation serves is obvious – team members can work remotely from anywhere.

3. Communication

Millennials are great communicators, but not in the traditional sense. They don’t engage in email conversations; they have all of the necessary gadgets to message on-the-go, and they are not concerned with perfect spelling, sentence structure, etc. Further, they are prone to add such things as inspirational quotes, informal drawings/visuals, and emojis in their communications. Traditional, structured organizations that have not made the right digital transformations may find this disconcerting – after all, they are used to formalized progress reports, Excel spreadsheets, and such. Millennials are way beyond this. Organizations that intend to keep millennial talent will embrace these new communication venues and verbiage.

4. Work/Life Balance

Millennials area committed to their work projects. And most area willing to put in work during non-traditional work hours, so long as they have the time for other priorities. If a millennial wants to attend his child’s soccer game in the middle of the afternoon, he will take his gadgets with him and be available for any emergency. And he will put in work in the evening or on a weekend. His goal is to meet the project requirements, but on his own schedule, and to be evaluated based upon project completion, not on time spent.

What Organizations Need to Take Away From All of This

1.Millennials are the future work force. They have a fully different way of approaching work and won’t tolerate working for organizations that cannot accommodate this. (Money is less important than other priorities, so just throwing more money at them will not work). They don’t have the loyalty that older workers have had.

2. Millennials eat, drink, and breathe technology both at work and in their personal lives. This makes them powerful contributors to project work, but only if the organization continues to embrace the newest technology and makes the digital transformations to accommodate.

3. Organizations must find the balance between satisfying the needs of older generations who are still valuable and this new generation of on-the-go workers whose talents must be harnessed and kept. It’s a huge challenge.

4. Millennials will be moving up in organizations, into project management positions. All of the technology and the work place environment must be attractive to them, if they area to remain with an organization. Companies must plan for this inevitable evolution.

5. Millennials want the tools, the freedom, and the independence to meet the challenges of project work, and they want to communicate and collaborate on their own terms. Forward-looking organizations will adjust to this.

6. Globalism is also a factor. As organizations spread their wings, move into global markets, and outsource some of their project work, it will be critical that local millennials can communicate with their global counterparts on projects. Translations services, like The Word Point, that can deliver immediate translations of messaging and other collaborations, through the latest digital tools, will be more in demand than ever.

It’s a Full Plate

Organizations that have not made digital transformations and have not adopted a new mental shift to how project work should occur are going to find themselves left n the dust of their competitors. Millennials are taking over the work force. And their demands for an entirely different work pace environment cannot be ignored.

photo1 The Millenial approach to project work - opportunities and challenges for management

Pauline speaks Portuguese, English, Spanish and Italian. She travelled the world to immerse herself in the new cultures and learn languages. Today she is proud to be a voting member of the American Translators Association and an active participant of the Leadership Council of its Portuguese Language Division.

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