Millennials in the Workplace: Managing a New Generation of Knowledge Worker

Access to infinite amounts of information has created a new breed of employee.

Millennials grew up in a digital era with countless resources at their fingertips. This access to infinite amounts of information has created a new breed of employee – one possessing a strong entrepreneurial mindset, a thirst for knowledge, and a desire for personal growth.

However, millennials also bring with them new perceptions of work-life structure – and plans for how long they will stick around at your company. According to PWC, millennials have seen that corporate loyalty does not necessarily bring reward or even long-term security in today’s economic environment. It’s clear that they want to experience more things – this includes new places of employment, roles, and opportunities to climb the ladder. Due to this drive to learn and grow, the average tenure of millennial employees is two years.  This is quite a difference compared to their predecessors. The average tenure for Gen X employees is five years and seven years for baby boomers.

In the span of a professional career, two years isn’t long, but it’s enough time to gather high-value knowledge, relationships, and work experience. It is predicted that the millennial generation will represent the majority of the workforce within a few decades. As more millennials enter the workforce, organizations must work harder to understand this generation and appeal to their needs and interests. Further, they must prepare for the rate of millennial churn and reevaluate the way knowledge is managed in the organization.

The world of a millennial is digital, from the way they communicate to the way they ask and answer questions. For this reason, it isn’t surprising that millennials have high expectations for enterprise technology at the office. Millennials embrace the power of open and will not thrive in siloed organizations where knowledge is trapped on people’s desktops and in their inboxes. According to Wired Magazine’s Enterprise Information Landscape study, many 18-24 years olds are frustrated by wasting time searching for documents at work and cite figuring out who has specific information about a project or task as a top complaint.

These issues can easily be solved with effective technology and a strong knowledge management program. Millennials proactively seek out answers and a knowledge base or online community will allow them to quickly and easily access information at the moment of need. Millennials also live and breathe technology, so unlike their predecessors, they are often more willing to share their knowledge with others. Use this to your advantage. Position the knowledge base or online community as a safe place for workers to document their knowledge and show off expertise. That way, valuable knowledge is captured and easily transferrable should a millennial worker leave the company. This allows others to benefit from their experience and know-how and prevents the costly consequences of knowledge loss.

Also, clearly communicate how knowledge sharing in the workplace aligns with the goals of millennial employees. Learning from one another opens new opportunities for personal growth, success and innovative fresh perspectives. Communities are the perfect place for employees to communicate with others, share ideas, collaborate, and offer feedback. They are given a voice and the reassurance that the work they do matters.

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