Turning On The ‘No Collar’ Workforce

by Nick Shore, MTV Insights

Millennials in the workplace seems to be the topic d’jour in business media right now. And small wonder: around 10,000 millennials turn 21 every day in America right now, and by some estimates there are already 40 million millennials in the workforce.

While much of the media commentary can seem to caricature the Millennial worker as an “entitled” hot house flower, MTV’s new “No Collar Workers” study seeks to understand the working experience through Millennial eyes…and to help employers decode how to leverage the abundant creative energies of their cubicle-dwelling populations.

What the data and feedback point to a generation primed to give their all, but calling for meaning, mentorship and meritocracy in a workplace that can channel what they bring to the table.

Raised by “peer-ents” who encouraged them to constantly learn, grow and self actualize, the quest for meaningful work that makes adifference has become a core Millennial trait. Multiply that by a pressure-cooker educational experience and empowering technology — and you have a newly minted high octane workforce in the wings.

What could be misinterpreted as “career pickiness” is an expression of a need to connect deeply with the work…

-“Loving what I do” outranked salary and a big bonus. (This is reflected in Pew’s recent study, indicating a job that benefits society outranks high salary.)

-89% agree “it’s important to be constantly learning at my job”

-Half of Millennials would “rather have no job than a job they

-95% are“motivated to work harder when I know where my work is

What could be misinterpreted as “self importance” is a deeper sense of having many new ideas and wanting to contribute, as well as a desire to have their tech skills and savvy tapped by senior managers.

-76% believe “my boss could learn a lot from me”

-65% say “I should be mentoring older coworkers when it comes to tech and getting things done”

This doesn’t mean they don’t think they have a lot to learn from a boss. It’s a sense that learning is a two-way street, regardless of seniority, an “ideocracy” if you will. And from our own experience, when we leverage generational creativity it’s a win-win for the company, the workforce and the consumer.

A small window into intergenerational views of work, and how different they can be: In the study we had Boomers and Millennials send us anonymous postcards in which they explained what it would take for a company to get them to do the best work possible. A typical Boomer response: “Give me my objectives and get out of my way.” A typical Millennial response: “I need flexibility, respect…and snacks.”

Whether you lean toward generational fan or critic, it’s clear that Millennials are destined to be a highly transformative force in the workplace. The following findings from MTV’s study can help guide corporations toward creating an environment where M’s thrive, and so their power can be harnessed into a real competitive advantage.

Workplace 2.0 is a life-work “Smoothie”

-Nearly 9 in 10 Millennials want their workplace to be social and

-93% want a job where they can be themselves.

-A full 70% of Millennials say they need “me time” at work versus just 39% of Boomers.

-71% want their coworkers to be like a second family

Think of all the distinctions you can between work life and nonwork life…from the clothes you wear, to the behaviors you exhibit, to themind-set you bring to it. Now put all that into a blender. That’s the work-life smoothie. The boxes and all turned into one big box, called living.

In “No Collar Workers,” we had Millennials and Boomers draw pictures of their dress code at work and “at play.” Our Boomers depicted their work self to be formal and nonrevealing of personal interests and style, a full-blown outfit shift after work. Our Millennials drew almost the exact same image of themselves at work and play…they just added bangles and hairspray to the outfit to get it ready for nightlife!

Career 2.0 is about first inventing a job, then doing it….

– 66% of Millennials agree they want to invent their own position at their jobs.

-60% of Millennials agree “if I can’t find a job I like, I will try and figure out a way to create my own job.”

-83% of Millennials are “looking for a job where my creativity is valued”

How would you describe the team of Millennials that your director of social media gathers together to pick their brains on how their peers are using social media? How do you describe the responsibilities of the youngest employees who are frequently called into brainstorms with the C-suite to help imagine the company’s future products?

The job description of the future is a co-creation with the employee, an ongoing innovation in itself that responds to the shifting needs of the game and the passions of the players. Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn has described this as a state of ‘permanent Beta’, a state that’s native to Millennials.

Leadership 2.0 is Yoda-ship

-75% of Millennials want a mentor

Or as one participant in our study said “I don’t so much want a boss, more of a Yoda.” Raised in a very different nonhierarchical parenting paradigm, where Boomers see “The Man” and Xers see“authority hurdles,” Milennials see friends, life coaches and guides.

Training 2.0 is listening

– Nine out of 10 Millennials want senior people in their company to listen to their ideas and opinions.

The new organization is the listening organization. Listening to social media, listening to their customers, and listening to the next generation. Really listening, then responding. Listening, it has been said, is the purest form of inquiry.

In generational theory, Millennials conform to the ‘hero’ archetype (versus say loner, magician or rebel). Heroes go on journeys to places never before visited, to discover new truths, to prove there is another way. In many ways, this generation is uniquely equipped to see around corners and over the horizon — and that’s just the kind of foresight that is worth its weight in silicon.

Nick Shore is Senior Vice President of Strategic Consumer Insights and Research for MTV.

For more research and insights from MTV, follow @MTVInsights or visit http://www.mtvpress.com/company/research/.

This op-ed first appeared in Mediapost.

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