Millennials at Work: Gen Ys and Teamwork

Millennials love group fitness classessThe infamous traits of the Millennial generation have been studied, discussed and debated far and wide: they’re always connected, they’re ambitious, they’re approval-oriented and more. In this series of blog posts, “Millennials at Work,” I’m diving into each of these stereotypes and discussing how they impact this generation and those of us who work with them.

Thanks to the increasing number of group projects at school, the push to participate in team sports at a young age and the widespread use of social media, the Millennial generation (a.k.a. Generation Y) has had exposure to teamwork early and often. As they rise into young adulthood and enter the workplace, they bring with them the idea that collaboration is the most effective way to get a job done. According to a Millennial Inc. study, “What your company will look like when Millennials call the shots,” over half of Millennials polled said they prefer to make decisions by consensus in the workplace.

What does this mean for the future of work?

Millennials want a voice, and not only as the boss

This generation’s ambition is often noted for being off the charts compared to those who came before them (see also: my post on Gen Y and ambition). But Millennials aren’t only interested in being the boss. They really want the opportunity to be heard. In their experience, open dialogue among a group has been the quickest path to success.

Penelope Trunk notes in her blog post on teamwork that effective teams are competency-based, where everyone has a unique skill to contribute. I agree. In the constantly-iterating workplace we have developed today, a less-seasoned yet tech-savvy Millennial worker may offer valuable insight to a product or project.

Environments conducive to teams and collaboration will win

Here’s more evidence that Gen Y prefers teamwork: a 2011 Sporting Goods Manufacturer Association (SGMA) report demonstrated why you’re seeing so many group fitness classes pop up in your area. Millennials are the most active generation in sports participation and heavily favor working out together. President and CEO of SGMA, Tom Cove, put it best: “For ‘Generation Y,’ it’s as much about the socialization as it is the perspiration.”

Cultures and environments that promote collaborative work are going to become the norm as Millennials continue to rise into adulthood. For a generation that likes to be together, creating a physical environment that allows for open communication is essential.  The Society for Human Resources Management blog, WeKnowNext, shared great tips on this, including the suggestion to not build high walls that block employees from each other.

It also dispels the common myth that flexibility-hungry Millennials all want to work from home. Not true. While Millennials do want the ability to work from home occasionally, they generally enjoy the social nature of offices and wouldn’t want to give that up.

What is your take on Gen Y and teamwork? Please share!

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