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November 02, 2017

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

Every year an exorbitant amount of new talent arrives on the work floor wanting to gain their place within the organisation – young people with their own expectations and working methods. Research by PwC (Millennials at work: Reshaping the workplace) shows that by 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 accustomed 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 gap between millennials and the previous generations is not that large. I still hold this belief, but a nuance would be appropriate. Millennials most certainly have significantly different expectations, which distinguish them from other generations. This is largely because they grew up in a different era, with consistently changing habits and technologies.

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

In the CBRE study conducted among some 13,000 millennials, 'How Millennials Live, Work and Play', it transpires that 78 percent actually find the working environment to be important when choosing an employer. In fact, 69 percent of the respondents are prepared to trade-off other advantages, like a short commuting distance, an attractive location or working for a large organization, 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. Also, where only 10 percent of the respondents regard a varied work environment as the ideal situation, that percentage is no less than 40 percent for those who already have access to that. 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

Organizations 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 percent of those asked thought the presence of a wellness or relaxation area is important, while only 14 percent of organizations 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 fearful that consequently their workplace will become sterile and impersonal. They feel the workplace should be a cozy place where they feel at ease. By offering more than just a place to work when setting up the workplace, organizations take these concerns seriously.

There are many prejudices about millennials, characterizing them as lazy and being disloyal, therefore resulting in an employer that won’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 this new generation a promising and fulfilling future.

Geert-Jan Blom
Business Consultant Planon Netherlands