“Millennials Work Hard, But Approach Jobs With New Ideas And Attitudes” Baltimore Business Journal

April 13, 2012 Written by  Comments Print

Jason Jannati, Brad Eisenberg and Matej Harangozo of greeNEWit are among those in their 20s who see a job as a means for working toward a better world.

Millennials don’t just look different from the rest of the adult workforce. Beyond the tattoos, and the piercings in places other than earlobes, this generation born since the early ’80s boasts characteristics that stand out in the workplace.

The good news is this: They’re not all bad; they’re just not what their elders are used to.

“I definitely think they’re [20-somethings] going to transform the workplace. The way they work is much different than prior generations,” said 63-year-old Bill Psillas, director of administration at the law firm Miles & Stockbridge.

The large majority of 20-somethings are tech-savvy, multitasking, forward-thinking workers who demand flexibility and perceive workplace loyalty differently than did their parents, or certainly their grandparents. So say employers who work with millennials, and research conducted by national staffing company Spherion. And companies that embrace what this new generation brings to the workforce may find themselves at an advantage in today’s competitive marketplace. Here’s how:

Embrace multitasking

It’s not unusual for 20-somethings to flip between several tasks simultaneously, especially those involving technology.

Lisa Robinson, head of human resources for Hunt Valley-based Breakaway Games, applies a permissive attitude to 20-somethings’ multitasking — even when the “tasks” don’t include strictly work-related behaviors. For instance, the company doesn’t frown upon employees casting a glance or two at Facebook or some other non-job website during the workday.

“They’re so productive, how can I tell them they can’t get on Facebook for a minute?” said Robinson, 46, who recognizes technology-based multitasking is an inherent part of this generation’s core fabric. “We get more work out of them [20-somethings] than others who don’t ever go on Facebook,” she said.

Tap their technology skills

“There’s a unanimous consensus that they understand and see things with a high degree of technical skill. I don’t know if we’ve tapped them in this area for leadership as well as we could,” Psillas said.

Miles & Stockbridge strives to utilize its tech-savvy 20-something workforce. Two 20-something IT employees led the firm’s design and launch of a new electronic portal for internal communication. Recently, the firm included 20-something employees in strategic planning sessions on how the firm can further its use of social media, according to Psillas.

Change your perception of employee loyalty

Most 20-somethings possess a starkly different philosophy regarding company loyalty than their older colleagues. In a survey by staffing company Spherion, fewer than 19 percent of 20-somethings agreed that frequent job changes hurt your career, compared to more than 70 percent of older workers polled.

The video gaming industry is a prime example. “People hop from company to company,” said Robinson, of Breakaway Games. The company began employing workers on a project basis after two major layoffs.

That suits the 20-something Breakaway employees just fine, Robinson says. She said they’re not wed to a single company, but rather to a given type of work.

“While they’re here, they’re here to impress and do the work to the best of their ability. You’d never know their loyalty wasn’t with us because they give 100 percent,” Robinson said.

Darah Okeke, 29, an associate at Miles & Stockbridge who specializes in labor and employment law, offers her take on workplace loyalty: “I would argue that millennials have redefined what loyalty means. It’s not just the number of years or hours spent on a job. It’s more about the depth of contribution to a company.”

Allow flexibility

Just as they’re not wed to a given employer, neither have 20-somethings bought into the 9-to-5 work schedule.

“You have to be open to the way this generation works. They’re demanding more flexibility,” Breakaway’s Robinson said. Breakaway instituted core hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Beyond that, employees make up their own schedule. Most opt for hours that begin and end later than the traditional 9-to-5.

“It’s not a concern, because we know we’re going to get our eight hours out of them,” Robinson said of 20-somethings.

Some envision that this flexibility, as pushed by 20-somethings, will continue to extend beyond the office walls. “There will probably be increasingly dramatic changes in the ways offices are structured: greater mobility, less need for people to come to work daily or even mostly,” Psillas said. They can use video conferencing, social media, and other technology to be in touch.

When millennials are in charge

Millennials, especially those entering the workforce during the Great Recession, have met with dismal employment opportunities. A 2010 Pew Research study reported the unemployment rate among 18- to 29-year-olds as 37 percent. Those without a college degree have the most trouble. But there are exceptions.

Three years ago, Jason Jannati and former Oakland Mills High School classmates Josh Notes and Matej Harangozo founded greeNEWit, an energy solutions company based in Howard County. They were 22, 24, and 25, respectively.

The youthfulness of these entrepreneurs, whose company now has 22 employees and is on track to make $6 million this year, may have something to do with their success. Each seems to possess an abundance of two traits that characterize 20-somethings: frustration over the typical pace of career advancement and an inherent desire to make a difference, according to McDaniel College President Roger Neal Casey, who has been examining generational issues and social media with a focus on their impact on higher education.

Jannati, who earned his real estate license after completing high school, spent two years at a small private college before concluding he was wasting time and money. In 2007, he began selling real estate full time; but then came the housing market bust.

He and his co-founders started bouncing around the idea for their own business. Notes, now chief financial officer, earned a business degree from the University of Maryland, College Park. Harangozo, chief innovation officer, studied mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

“We felt pretty unfulfilled. We wanted to do something with more meaning. We figured if we could get in the business of helping people save money, we could be relevant,” said Jannati, chief communications officer of greeNEWit. The company helps build sustainable communities and better economies through energy efficiency and conserving natural resources.

“We didn’t do this to make money. We were all making money in real estate. The younger generation is working on issues we care about,” Jannati said.

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