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02 November 2017

How do real estate and facility managers create the best possible Workplace Experience for millennials?

Every year lots of new talent arrives in the workplace wanting to gain a place within the organisation – young people with their own expectations and working methods. Research by PwC (Millennials at work: Reshaping the workplace) shows that from 2020, half of all employees will be millennials (roughly speaking, those born between 1985 and 2000). The workplace expectations of these new talents would appear to differ from those which organisations have been used to so far. What should a facility manager take into account now that the number of millennials preparing to enter the workforce is growing?

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The millennial is in the majority

In an earlier blog I wrote that the gulf between millennials and the previous generations is not that large. I still believe that, but a nuance would be appropriate. They do certainly have significantly different expectations, which distinguish them from other age groups. This is largely because they grew up in a different era, with other habits and technologies.

The majority of employees will thus consist of millennials within the foreseeable future. So should facility managers set up the workplace differently as a result? This issue appears to be a source of inspiration for many research bodies, either wanting to interpret this or being curious as to what it will actually mean for attracting and retaining this new influx of talent. The looming War on Talent requires organisations to attract talent and to retain it, irrespective of age of course. However in this blog I’d like to give more consideration to the new intake, simply because they will soon be in the majority.

In the CBRE study conducted among some 13,000 millennials, 'How Millennials Live, Work and Play', it transpires that 78 per cent actually find the working environment to be important when choosing an employer. In fact 69 per cent of the respondents are prepared to trade-off other advantages, like a short commuting distance, an attractive location or working for a large organisation, for a better-quality workplace. It’s often thought that a millennial prefers to work in a large open-plan office, but this survey actually shows the opposite to be true. In it, two-thirds of all those asked preferred their own or a limited-sharing office space, while only a third of the respondents preferred a large open-plan office.

Familiarity appears crucial in preference

However, most of the results appear to be influenced by familiarity. Thus only 27 per cent of those surveyed who are already used to a varied work environment in practice, expressed a need for their own office space. And where only 10 per cent of the respondents regard a varied work environment as the ideal situation, that percentage is no less than 40 per cent for those who already have access to it. So we can conclude that the millennial is open to a flexible working environment, but that it depends partly on the way of working with which he or she is already familiar. If you give millennials their own workplace from day one, there’s a significant chance they would like to retain it.

The workplace is more than a place to work

Organisations which only offer flexible workplaces thus need to devote some thought to other methods of making millennials happy in the workplace. This might be done by offering supplementary facilities; for instance, 36 per cent of those asked thought the presence of a wellness or relaxation area is important, while only 14 per cent of organisations actually offer this. Other issues which millennials consider to be important include an eating facility, a coffee-bar, a sleep/rest area and the provision of greenery.

These observations are supported by recent research by Deloitte (the 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey). This survey concludes that millennials are open to flexible workplaces, but are however fearful that their workplace will become sterile and impersonal as a consequence. They feel the workplace should be a cosy place where they feel at ease. By offering more than just a place to work when setting up the workplace, organisations take these concerns seriously.

There are many prejudices about millennials, characterising them as lazy and being anything but loyal, so that as an employer you can’t count on them. However, all the surveys above show that they do in fact attach considerable value to the employer and to the workplace where they build up their careers. By creating an attractive working environment you have more influence on attracting, developing and retaining new talent. It’s the real estate and facility managers working with their HR and IT colleagues who can create this environment offering the new generation a fine future.

Geert-Jan Blom
Business Consultant Planon Netherlands