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What Millennials Want, We All Need

Cornerstone Editors

In advance of our big Cornerstone Convergence client and partner conference in June, we will be talking about some of the issues facing organizations today as they try to find ways to Reimagine Work in our multi-generational, multi-geographical, multi-cultural, and location- and device-agnostic world. We hope you’ll join the conversation about working and managing smarter.

Have Millennials influenced the current world of work, or did environmental factors shape the way Millennials function in the workplace?

As Baby Boomers begin to retire and Gen X begins to gray, it's easy to assume that it must be the millions of 20-somethings who are re-setting expectations around work-life balance, communication, and technology. And yet -- the very trends today tied to Millennials -- a demand for more feedback, training and guidance, more flexible working hours, access to social networking and collaboration tools -- aren't necessarily unique to those born between 1980 and 2000. Turns out many of these "millennial traits" are just human traits that span the generations in the modern workforce, according to Dan Schawbel, CEO of Millennial Branding and author of the upcoming book Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success.

"The 9-to-5 workday isn't for everyone," Schawbel explains. "You should be able to work on your own terms as long as you deliver value to the company. You should be able to work wherever, whenever you want as long as you get the job done and meet expectations. It's all about how you get work done best." So if it's not just the Millennials, what other factors are driving changes in talent management?

Redefining Productivity

Today's workforce includes legions of working mothers, international workers of every ethnic background, and people who've never even met face to face. There's no one-size-fits-all model, says Schawbel. Women aren't just secretaries, teachers and nurses. The workday is no longer confined to the hours between 9 and 5. When work ends in one time zone, it picks up in another. For all these reasons, and many more, choice and flexibility are essential. Companies are placing less of an emphasis on the office and company-issued devices, while focusing more on the tools and feedback that 21st-century workers needs to get the job done. Adds Schawbel: "Even though Millennials may be the ones pushing companies to do this, everyone is benefiting from it."

Redefining Space and Place

Now that employees have the tools that allow them to collaborate as easily and instantly with colleagues across an ocean as they would with a co-worker in the next cube, the physical space where productivity happens matters less and less. Take Aetna, the insurance giant where nearly half its 35,000 employees work from home -- as David Wessel put it recently in the Wall Street Journal, "We aren't talking about checking email after dinner or working from home on Fridays. We're talking staying home every day: no desk, no cubicle, no computer in an office somewhere."

Unlike their generational predecessors, Millennials might be more vocal (and social) about expressing their desire to have a more balanced lifestyle. But it's not unique to their generation -- just amplified by what social and mobile technology now enables. "I couldn't imagine being forced to go into an office every day," says Schawbel, who, as a Millennial himself at the age 29, holds some generational bias. "It's the number one reason I wouldn't want to go back to working for a company."

The War for Talent Doesn't Discriminate

The transparency of the digital age has turned the power dynamics of recruiting upside down. Companies are the ones vying to prove their worth to prospects as much as the other way around -- and that applies to Boomers as much as it does a new college grad. "We live in a global economy with a global talent pool," Schawbel says. "Employers simply want to hire the best talent from around the world."

Now that the tables have turned and employees are asking companies "what can you do for me" -- rather than the other way around -- accommodating top talent has shaped the way companies do business. "We have to be more accepting now and embracing of true talent," Schawbel explains. "Otherwise, they'll just go to your competitor."

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