Can millennials foster a better workplace?

Millennials, who comprise nearly two-thirds of our employees across our Americas Area, are eager to learn from other generations represented at EY, while simultaneously challenging traditional views about what’s important.

Work/life integration and professional development are two key aspects of our firm’s culture that have been enriched by the lessons we can take away from millennials. But don’t feel discouraged — there is still plenty we can to teach millennials.

Work/life integration

Work/life integration has always been a hot topic for millennials. In fact, our EY generations survey, “Global Generations: A Global Study on Work-life Challenges Across Generations,” found that millennials are more likely to have made sacrifices, or say they would be willing to do so, to better manage work/life integration.

To make this integration more seamless, many companies have ramped up efforts to provide additional flexibility options.

Flexibility is something EY offers everyone, regardless of his or her generation or season in life. It’s intended to help people “work smarter” by enabling them to better integrate their work and personal life, without compromising outcomes (e.g., meeting deadlines, producing high-quality work).

We offer day-to-day flexibility so that our professionals may start their workday early if they leave early for a volunteer event, for example, and more formal flexible work arrangements that include compressed workweeks, reduced schedules and telecommuting.

While millennials may be at the forefront of seeking more freedom in when and where they work in order to balance increased responsibility at the office and with family life, all of our people are the beneficiaries.

For example, working flexibly for a mother with three young children looks different than the flexibility sought by someone training for a triathlon — but both people find a way to make it work for their situation.

It’s important to be intentional about sharing “quality of life goals,” priorities outside of work that each team member wants to accomplish. Share them as a team and then map out work plans to consider each person’s goal.

This helps to better streamline workloads and creates a flexible environment, while still maintaining high quality and performance. Respecting these goals helps support team members and builds better, more trusting relationships. It’s nice to have a teammate remember that you wanted to leave early to catch a basketball game and be thoughtful to schedule a meeting that accommodates it.

Career growth, professional development

Millennials also value the opportunity to contribute to their business in a meaningful way. These are the future leaders of our firm and our clients’ organizations, so it’s critical for us to invest in their career development.

Sponsor relationships with senior leaders are something I recommend for any millennial looking to grow professionally and personally.

These relationships are essential to career progression and can be transformational, especially when the relationship goes beyond the traditional scope of mentoring. Sponsors help advance their junior colleagues by providing guidance around career opportunities and sharing access to their networks.

The biggest benefit of the sponsor relationships created at EY is that they are mutually beneficial. As much as I enjoy sharing my own experiences and fielding career “how-to” questions from millennials, I find that their responses to my questions give me a new perspective.

This is particularly true in their willingness to embrace a global mindset. While the rest of us finish up our cultural awareness training, they wonder what all the fuss is about. Millennials are a truly inclusive group that doesn’t hesitate to identify and leverage the strengths of those on their teams, and they view global experiences as an essential part of professional development.

So, back to my original point: Yes, millennials are making our workplace better. Whether it’s through successfully integrating work and home life or rethinking professional development, we can thank millennials for the positive impact they’re making in the workplace and be confident that we can all learn from each other.

Kim Simios is the managing partner of Ernst & Young LLP’s Chicago office, where she supports more than 3,100 professionals.

The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ernst & Young LLP.