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How different is the millennial mindset?

JLL sat down with millennials to discuss their career goals and found these young professionals are perfect to become the next generation of facility managers.

By Rebecca Taylor and Richard Kadzis | RebeccaM.Taylor@am.jll.com | @BeccaTaylorPR

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The business world is abuzz with talk about the so-called millennial generation. In fact, there's rarely a day that goes by without a news story about the challenges of hiring and managing these 20- and 30-something workers. If you're reading those stories there's a good chance you have some pretty strong impressions of millennials. You might believe they're technology obsessed, needy and entitled. You might assume that they only want to work for high-tech, Google-like employers, and that they prefer to change jobs every year or so.

Those assumptions are common, according to a recent survey by Scout Exchange and Oracle HCM users group they asked 20,000 human relations professionals about their perceptions of millennials. Not surprisingly, the HR folks said they consider millennials to be entitled, lazy and lacking in face-to-face communications skills.

But how many of those folks, or their employers, have taken the time to sit down with actual millennials to discuss their career goals and work preferences? We asked ourselves that question because we, like many U.S. companies, know we'll be hiring millennials, and lots of them—especially in our facility management business, which faces a huge wave of retirements as the baby boom generations cycles out of the workforce. So JLL set out to find what millennials really want at work—by actually talking to them (gasp!).

JLL surveyed more than 200 young professionals and students in North America, and the results may upend your thinking about the millennial generation, born between 1980 and 1998.

  • 67 percent earn more than $51,000 annually, challenging the label of a debt-laden and financially-challenged generation, as profiled by Pew Demographics in a 2014 study of millennials.
  • Respondents with jobs work for a surprisingly large proportion of big, multi-national (20 percent) and national (32 percent) corporations, refuting the widely-held perception of millennial distrust for institutions and large organizations.
  • 71 percent are open to different career paths and demonstrate a sense of direction and urgency in finding their jobs.

Connecting the Dots (and Millennials) to Facility Management

The report, "The Future of Facility Management: Attracting Millennial Talent," is helping to inform an issue facing many large employers: the baby boom retirement wave and resulting gap in talent. The situation is particularly acute in industries perceived as unglamorous. That certainly describes facility management, the business of managing office buildings, workplaces, plants, R&D operations, data centers and other properties.

We were as surprised as anybody to learn that facility management offers the things millennials are looking for in a career: constant learning opportunities, a clear career path and ample use of technology.

"A well-designed facility management career path is consistent with millennials' desire to have a voice and to inform, influence, collaborate, innovate and ultimately make a difference,"

Chris Pesek, Director of JLL's Integrated Facilities Management (IFM) group

"I get to move around all day—I don't have to sit at a desk," says Matt Larson, 30, Vice President, Integrated Program Management at JLL. "I get to travel to other facilities and meet tenants and other people in the building every day."

While Larson has found a budding career in facilities management, he's part of the 57 percent of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors who were unaware of the industry during college, according to the JLL study.

"I knew very little about facility management when I was in school," he says. "I had an understanding of what property management was from renting apartments in college, but it wasn't until I had a full-time position that I learned all the different technical expertise and skill sets required to manage a facility and keep it running every day."

The good news for millennials in the workforce is that they can transition from an unrelated career to facility management as long as they have the appropriate skill sets.

Jinny Taylor, 31, a Property Operations Manager for JLL who holds a communications degree from the University of Illinois, was lured to facilities management from sports marketing for its career growth opportunities.

"Sports marketing was initially a great opportunity, but I maxed out on my growth potential pretty quickly," Taylor says. "I needed to find an industry that allowed for career growth."

In facility management, she finds satisfaction in being considered an expert and a key asset to her team.

"I work with clients who have expertise in banking, healthcare or manufacturing, and I'm regarded as the real estate expert on the team," she says. "My opinions and insights are valued every day."

JLL leadership was both relieved and excited by the survey results.

"A well-designed facility management career path is consistent with millennials' desire to have a voice and to inform, influence, collaborate, innovate and ultimately make a difference," says Chris Pesek, Director of JLL's Integrated Facilities Management (IFM) group.

For facility management service providers and companies alike, tapping the millennial talent pool is essential for long-term operational sustainability. It's up to today's facility managers to help educate the millennial generation on this little-known but enriching career path.

Infographic: Three essentials for understanding the millennial employee, retaining the next workforce generation

Click the infographic (or here) to see a larger version, download or embed this infographic.