Millennials, those born after 1980 and before 2000 and representing well over 35% of the world’s population, are a largely talented and versatile group. For many companies with rigid structures and systems, this generation can be incredibly frustrating, illusive and highly challenging. In terms of employing millennials, the best are hard to find and even more difficult to keep. The finest of them are already in high demand and employers that meet their expectations will be able to take their pick of this generation’s giftedness. There seems to be a huge gap, however, between what millennials want and expect from their employers and careers and their experience of the same in the workplace. PWC, in their “Millennials at Work” research, “Reshaping the workplace”, note: “Superficial changes that are intended to connect with younger workers, such as unconvincing social media outreach programmes, ‘greenwashed’ corporate values and diversity tokenism will not work. Before long, this generation will form the majority of the workforce and they will look for employers who are truly acting on their promises”.

It seems to be undeniable that younger generations, particularly the millennials, see the world of work in fundamentally new and different ways that the older generations simply cannot understand. Millennials are unhindered by bias and past experiences. They are having their experiences now – in the moment – and this inherently changes their point of view. In order for the cultural environments in companies to accommodate members of this workforce, motivate and retain them, the following millennial characteristics need to be taken into consideration:

  1. Acceleration of career progress – moving up the career ladder with speed seems to be one of the strongest motivators when this generation considers attraction to a potential employer (52%), coming ahead of competitive salaries in second place (44%) – PWC Research.
  2. Development and work/life balance – millennials are committed to their personal development and this remains their first choice benefit from employers. Companies need to ensure professional development opportunities and give space for the merging of work and personal priorities during the course of any day.
  3. Flexibility – of work hours, location, method and resources. They grew up digitally, are married to technology, know how to multitask and they expect their location at any moment to matter less than what they are accomplishing.
  4. Doing work that really matters – by providing this generation with a compelling vision and a purpose for what they are doing, by showing them how their respective acts of contribution fit into the broader team mission and by instilling a sense of ownership in their work. Transparency, asking their opinions and connectedness seem to be key components of soliciting their willing involvement.
  5. Autonomy – empowerment, with authentic trust, not micro-management, seems to be the key for setting millennials free to give of their best. Treating them with dignity and displaying genuine respect for their capabilities and competencies are foundational.
  6. Innovation – millennials are attracted to innovative companies (78% according to a Deloitte survey). Businesses need to develop areas and forums for creative expression that build and stretch the expertise of these employees.
  7. Collaboration – a collaborative work culture (preferably globally) is an important factor for the millennial when choosing an employer. Millennials will typically leverage their genius in social networking to gain the necessary collateral to do well in their respective roles.

Unlike current (and common) perception that millennials are “lazy, disconnected, unmotivated and that they want a trophy for every little thing that they do” (as quoted by Alex Charfen), millennials have huge amounts to offer the prevailing business environment. Their “new” genius needs to be tapped and utilised for the acceleration of worthwhile business pursuits.

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