Millennials Want More Than An "Instagrammable" Office

Photographed by Ingalls Photo.
By 2025, millennials will make up 75% of the workforce — which is leaving Gen X'ers and Baby Boomers scratching their heads while they figure out what that means for the workplace. At a panel discussion in New York City on the topic this week, Miguel McKelvey, co-founder of WeWork, said millennials are looking for an “Instagrammable” office, while Gawker founder Nick Denton spoke of the importance of a walk-up entrance to the building. Maybe millennials are looking for a little more than that? We dug into some research and spoke to some experts to find out what millennials are really looking for at work.

Office Culture
Maybe they’re not sending out résumés based on whether the offices are “Instagrammable,” but millennials are largely looking for a different kind of work culture, according to a survey of recent college graduates by Accenture. Of college graduates surveyed in the class of 2015, just 15% said they would prefer to work for a large, corporate company. And, the recent grads who are already in the workforce? 69% of respondents from the classes of 2013 and 2014 said they prioritized a positive social atmosphere over salary. 

Compensation
Of course, salary and benefits are still important. “This is the most in debt generation,” says Ashley Stahl, a millennial career coach and consultant. “Employers need to give real raises that reflect the real value of those employees or they won’t retain millennial workers.” According to Stahl, that includes “intangible” benefits like paid vacation time and workplace flexibility, which make a difference in employees’ lives and help them feel respected by their employers. Traditional benefit packages are also of more interest to millennials these days, as the economy has stabilized. Last year, 64% more employees between the ages of 18 and 34 with Bank of America Merrill Lynch 401(k) retirement plans contributed to them, compared to the year prior, according to an analysis by the bank.

Growth

Another biggie for millennials is being able to see a future for themselves. That could be why almost eight out of 10 millennials prefer a boss who acts as more of a coach or mentor, according to research by The Intelligence Group, as told to Forbes. “It’s so important as a manager to connect with millennials about the opportunities they have for growth,” says Stahl. “Even if you have an administrative assistant, if she’s a millennial with a degree and this is her first job, she probably doesn’t want to be an administrative assistant forever.”

Flexibility
Then, there’s the question of work-life balance, which is markedly different for millennials than previous generations, since they’re already used to all of their worlds blending into one through mobile technology and social media. They know they could work anywhere, so a flexible schedule is important to almost three-quarters of millennials, according to The Intelligence Group. And, this doesn’t just mean paid time off or the ability to work from home, says Stahl. “Millennials believe in results, they don’t believe it matters how many hours we sit at our desks. If they can get a project done in half the time, they believe they should be able to ditch the unnecessary office face time,” she says.

As managers experiment to figure out what works for this new crop of employees, most workplaces will begin to change ingrained business practices — some think for the better. “Trying different management techniques, thinking about work differently, is what’s important about what millennials are driving organizations to do,” Business Talent Group CEO Jody Miller told the Wall Street Journal’s Tanya Rivero. “And, I think all of us are going to benefit.” 
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