How COVID-19 has impacted millennials in the workplace
Working from home, career path and company communication are the highlights of this survey
Millennial workers have long been known for seeking employers that provide flexibility, a positive workforce culture and opportunities for growth. And more than other generations, millennials have had a habit of jumping ship if their employers didn’t deliver. In a survey taken by Gallup last year, millennials were 10 times more likely than their older counterparts to say that they’ve changed jobs in the past year.
Of course, that was before the arrival of the coronavirus, which has dramatically altered the way employers operate. I was curious to find out if the pandemic had also changed the way millennials view their work and whether their priorities had shifted in response.
So, I asked Northstar’s younger employees to weigh in on how COVID-19 had changed their perspective on their careers and work. Some of the responses I expected, others took me completely by surprise. As we navigate these difficult times ahead, I thought it might be helpful to share what I found, in case it proves helpful for other employers facing the same issues we are today.
Work/Life Balance Still Highly Valued
Universally, our employees said that the silver lining of the pandemic has been working from home, which has made them more productive professionally and personally. Working remotely, they said, has given them more time with family, helped them better manage their days and improved their emotional well-being. By and large, they also felt they were accomplishing as much as they were in the office without the distractions or hassle of a commute. Not surprisingly, all reported liking their jobs more since moving to a work from home arrangement.
On the flip side, when asked about the worst thing about the pandemic, several mentioned the lack of personal interaction in addition to the pain, suffering and uncertainty caused by the virus. There was also the acknowledgement that some tasks require collaboration that is easier to achieve when working together, face-to-face.
Once life returns to “normal,” the challenge for my partners and I will be to figure out how to satisfy the need for in-person collaboration with the desire to work remotely. One employee noted that the traditional office-based, 40-hour work week now seemed excessive. We don’t know what the office of the future will look like, but it’s clear that the pandemic has convinced millennials that flexibility is a benefit worth retaining.
Virus Provides Career Clarity
For the majority of our employees, the virus seems to have cemented their decision to pursue a career in finance. While a few are taking a broader view and trying to understand how both their roles and the industry might change in the future, they continue to study for financial exams and remain invested in contributing to our firm. I am guessing this might not be the case if we were in the airline or retail industry, but the good news for us is that the pandemic has provided employees with a renewed gratitude for and interest in our field.
The Role of Mentorship
More than 70% of Fortune 500 companies now have formal mentorship programs, according to mentoring software provider Chronus Corporation. This comes in response to countless surveys that show millennials consider mentorship crucial to career growth. As a Baby Boomer who prefers in-person meetings to phone calls, I find myself questioning how valuable mentorship can be if it is only delivered virtually.
Our employees, however, appeared to disagree. They not only ranked mentorship as a key ingredient in advancing their careers, but suggested that mentorship via Zoom or another online platform could still serve a valuable purpose. To my surprise, they also said that employers alone aren’t responsible for providing guidance and career advice; mentorship could come from other colleagues in the industry, through networking opportunities, as well as industry conferences.
A Pat on The Back
Our employees also gave us credit for adapting so quickly to the crisis and providing them with the tools needed to do their jobs effectively. We began working remotely before the statewide stay-at-home order went into place and the majority of our staff continues to work from home to protect their safety and well-being.
Our millennial staffers have also appreciated our increased communication–to both clients and the staff as a whole. The entire firm gathers via Zoom every morning to catch up, which means we are meeting more frequently as a group than we did when we were in the office. Said one employee: “Seeing people’s faces, talking, reminding ourselves of our duties and schedules has been key for accountability.”
This increased communication has allowed us to build a new level of trust with employees, according to a few respondents. And at least one mentioned how the strong foundation we have built has allowed us to operate efficiently and serve clients well even during all the uncertainty and global chaos.
I am heartened to hear that we have established the kind of workforce culture that millennials crave. While it is still too early to say what our operations might look like even six months from now, I am confident that if we stay open to new ideas and continue to keep the conversation going – with all of our employees – they will remain engaged and committed to our mission.
Fred Taylor co-founded Northstar Investment Advisors, LLC in 1995. The firm specializes in managing personalized investment portfolios for individuals, families, and retirees with a focus on income generation. He is a member of the Colorado Forum and also served as an economic advisor to Colorado Governor Bill Ritter from 2008 to 2010.