A couple of weeks ago, Haworth in collaboration with Workcollectiv held a session with a group of Millennials in the design industry, which aimed at uncovering the general attitudes of this generation in the workplace. The round table discussion opened with defining the Millennial generation as any individual born between 1980 and 2000. This group will make up 50% of the workforce by 2020 making this case study extremely important. The findings from the session will form part of a white paper that will be circulated within the design industry to encapsulate what this generation expect from their work, employer, work life and how this generation differs from preceding generations.
Expectations of the Workplace / Why We Differ from Previous Generations The main defining factor between Millennials and other generations is what we expect in our workplace and line of work. We are the generation who have experienced the evolution of modern technology, the accessibility of travel, the importance of health and the impacts of choice (styles of learning, university degrees, career options etc). We are more empowered and in a way enjoy greater freedom when it comes to choice of work, location of work and how we define our own work life. From the outset, schools and universities encourage agile learning, allowing students to have the ability to choose how and where they work. This background influences what we expect from the workplace. Furthermore, studies in health and wellbeing, especially surrounding day to day life (which encapsulates an individual’s work day) highlight the importance of movement (eg. variety of setting, sit-to stand) along with the importance of social connection. Moreover, we are a generation that fosters movement as we have a greater opportunity to do so – physically from country to country, state to state or movement from industry to industry and profession to profession.
How Does the Workplace Foster Innovative Thinking ‘Innovation’ was a term that was used a lot during our session. We were asked what we believed innovation was – whether it was work style, variety of settings in workplace, technology impacts, company structure etc. The question was also posed as to whether our workplaces ‘practice what they preach’, for example Activity Based Working, and how the workplace can foster innovative thinking. Our view was that this was dependent on the type of work undertaken, the variation in workplace settings, leadership structure, technology capabilities & how a company compares to its competitors (locally and internationally).
Technology and it’s Impacts We were asked the question “would technology be a main driver for you to work in a workplace?”. Surprisingly no-one in the focus group said this would be a main driver when seeking out employment. Factors such as career progression, salary, movement, opportunity, workplace, clients, work and relationships at work are a larger driver compared to technology.
Work Life Balance One of the main findings from the session was the value Millennials place on work-life balance. This covered the importance of flexible hours and the ability to work from wherever, whenever. The social nature of the workplace was also an important part of what Millennials value, alongside wellness and employer incentives surrounding this. Most in the study group said they wished they had greater choice in hours – i.e. starting earlier or later, or working from home or collaboration spaces and so on. Ironically, when we were asked “if one company had a great work-life balance and the salary was less than another company that had no work-life balance and a greater salary which one would you pick?” The majority of the group chose the greater salary.
Relationship Between Employer and Employee This was an important factor to everyone in the focus group. We highlighted the importance of having an accessible relationship with our employer. Most emphasised the importance of a relationship based on mutual respect and working with someone who you believe is a leader. Most stated that a good employer was someone who was easily accessible, and who would be able to provide feedback / criticism / critique / compliments.
Career Progression & Growth This was one of the main points that was covered by the group and the importance of career progression in your workplace or in your field of work. The conversation highlighted that we are more likely to change jobs and career paths throughout our career as better and different opportunities become more accessible both globally and locally. We all spoke about our intention to move overseas to travel and work in the design industry within the next couple of years. Quite a few people mentioned that they did not see themselves in their current role for the rest of their work career. Many people said they would chop and change within the design industry (e.g. from interior designer, to exhibition designer etc.), or move out of the industry all together. Collectively we all believed that there was greater opportunity to do this compared to previous generations.
Overall it was an incredibly informative session that bought to light many corresponding ideas that are held by the Millennial generation.

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