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6 ways millennials are reshaping the project delivery workplace

Telstra Careers Advice

Posted on April 26, 2018

2 min read

Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, are now entering the workforce in large numbers. By 2020, millennials will form 50 per cent of the workforce. Why is this significant? Because millennials have the numbers and the right collection of new skills that will shape the way projects are managed and run for years to come.

Consider this: Millennials have grown up with fast broadband, smartphones, and social media as the norm and expect instant access to information. They will enter the workplace with a better grasp of a key business tool than more senior workers.

Saying that we don’t understand or know what millennials want is becoming increasingly irrelevant as there is a 50 per cent chance that the person sitting next to you is a millennial. Project organisations have to understand this in order to be able to attract and retain the right talent in what will be a highly competitive market for millennial talent.

Attracting the best of these millennials will be crucial to project delivery and strategic success. I have observed a number of changes on our larger projects to suggest their influences are already shaping the workplace and mainly for the better.

So, how do leaders attract and retain the best and brightest millennials so that they can work on strategic projects required to drive business forward?

  • 1. Create a flatter project team structure

    A flatter team structure facilitates a greater level of communication between project team members and the project leaders. This helps to build an innovation-friendly team with an inspiring culture that empowers its team members to bring out their best. Millennials do not see the benefit of multiple layers of command in order to communicate with their leaders and so they work best when they can approach and communicate with their leader directly.

  • 2. Have fewer information silos across the project

    Millennials tend to be uncomfortable with rigid corporate structure and turned off by information silos. They expect varied and interesting work on projects, variation in project types and constant feedback. They want to work in a culture that is entrepreneurial and proactive about moving forward, not one that gets bogged down in information rigidity.

  • 3. Get the team closer to the customer

    Millennials will be more natural at embracing agile delivery methods and concepts such as Dojos, due to their inherent need to understand the customer and their issues. Millennials are actually very effective at putting the customer first and wanting to talk to customers rather than just document their needs then validate it later. Use millennials at the early stage of project exploration and incubation to gather effective customer feedback and to have turned into features that customers will love. 

  • 4. Give constant feedback

    Whether it is a learned behaviour from social media, or just a need for reassurance, millennials require more regular feedback in order to calibrate their performance expectations. Where you could get by giving more senior people in the project team feedback once a month or fortnight, millennial team members will require feedback a couple of times a week in order to stay motivated and feel that they are performing to your expectations. It can be small or even sometimes insignificant to the leader, but the millennial team members will embrace it and take it on board quite seriously. Expect millennials to be very responsive to direct and proactive about adjusting their behaviours after they receive feedback.

  • 5. Make sure the team are learning, not just doing

    Millennials are an optimistic generation who aspire to create a ‘portfolio career’. Most will have up to five careers in their lifetime and are not afraid to travel and experience different cultures and projects to get it. Many millennials joining projects don’t mind what they are building as long they get to work on fun and exciting work, be with interesting people and learn something new. Millennials have a more acute learning mindset, driven by their exposure to large amounts of digital information and a learned behaviour to process multiple sources of information at once. They strongly value learning, especially learning on the job, so project leaders that can offer a learning environment will see reduced job-hopping and lower turnover during a project as a result.

  • 6. Provide a flexible working approach

    Flexible work is more than just hot desking and allowing work from home. This is about the philosophy and values shared by the project leader regarding trusting people to deliver, providing people with autonomy to perform at their best and measuring the output rather than the input. Millennials value flexibility because life is not just about work. They may be learning through further study or volunteering at a local charity or community organisation. If you show respect through trust and flexibility, they will repay you with dedication, high productivity and excellent output. Millennials know how to be effective in different styles of work, so locking them down into a rigid, traditional workplace supervisory style will affect their morale and productivity. They are used to different communication modes and different technologies and use them all very effectively. It is often the project leaders who need to learn different methods and to bring these methods into their projects.