Hourglass: Making the Most of Your People
Millennials at Work: Reshaping the Workplace
The millennial generation, now entering into employment, will reshape the world of work. Are you ready?
The millennial generation, born between 1980 and 2000 now entering employment in vast numbers, will shape the world of work for years to come. Attracting the best of these millennial workers is critical to the future of your business. Their career aspirations, attitudes about work, and knowledge of new technologies will define the culture of the 21st-century workplace.
Millennials matter because they are not only different from those that have gone before, they are also more numerous than any since the soon-to-retire Baby Boomer generation – millennials already form 25pc of the workforce in the US and account for more than half of the population in India. By 2020, millennials and will form 50pc of the global workforce.
But although they will soon outnumber their Generation X predecessors, they remain in short supply, particularly in parts of the world where birth rates have been lower. They will also be more valuable – this generation will work to support a significantly larger older generation as life expectancy increases. CEOs tell us that attracting and keeping younger workers is one of their biggest talent challenges.
It’s clear that millennials will be a powerful generation of workers and that those with the right skills will be in high demand. They may be able to command not only creative reward packages by today’s standards, but also influence the way they work and where and how they operate in the workplace. They may also represent one of the biggest challenges that many organisations will face.
Are millennials really any different to past generations? It’s true to say that some of the behaviour and attributes of millennials can be explained by their age and relative lack of responsibilities. Our behaviour and priorities change and adapt as we age, but to dismiss the issues entirely on that basis would be a mistake.
Millennials’ use of technology clearly sets them apart. One of the defining characteristics of the millennial generation is their affinity with the digital world. They have grown up with broadband, smartphones, laptops and social media being the norm and expect instant access to information. This is the first generation to enter the workplace with a better grasp of a key business tool than more senior workers.
It’s more than just the way millennials use technology that makes today’s youth different – they behave differently, too. Their behaviour is coloured by their experience of the global economic crisis and this generation place much more emphasis on their personal needs than on those of the organisation. And employers should be wary – nearly three-quarters of millennials in our survey said they had compromised to get into work – something we believe will be set right as soon as economic conditions improve.
Millennials tend to be uncomfortable with rigid corporate structures and turned off by information silos. They expect rapid progression, a varied and interesting career and constant feedback. In other words, millennials want a management style and corporate culture that is markedly different from anything that has gone before – one that meets their needs.
The particular characteristics of millennials – such as their ambition and desire to keep learning and move quickly upwards through an organisation, as well as their willingness to move on quickly if they’re expectations are not being met – requires a focused response from employers. Millennials want a flexible approach to work, but very regular feedback and encouragement. They want to feel their work is worthwhile and that their efforts are being recognised. And they value similar things in an employer brand as they do in a consumer brand. These are all characteristics that employers can actively address.
The companies that have already been the most successful in attracting talented millennials – Google and Apple among them – are naturally innovative employers who are never restrained by ‘how things used to be done’. These companies are not specifically targeting millennials, but their culture, management style and approach to recruitment and retention naturally appeal to the millennial generation. And because of that, they are able to take their pick of the best younger talent around.
Irrespective of the long-term aims and ambitions of an individual company, the ability to attract and retain millennial talent will be a vital step to achieving it.