The Millennial employee is here. Who are Millennials? Millennials are people born between 1980 and 2000. They are young and ambitious, and more and more of them are joining the workforce every day. Hundreds of articles are published each month discussing the impact of Millennials on the workforce, but why? What is it about Millennials ? Are they really so unique a phenomenon? The answer is no—they aren’t something new under the sun, but they are different from previous generations, and learning what they value will allow you to prepare for the future.
Understanding what sets Millennials apart from other generations and how to attract Millennials into your company—and retain them—is essential. It is estimated that Millennials will account for 50% of the global workforce in a few years. Companies will have to compete fiercely to acquire the most talented Millennial employees and to find enough of them to replace the talents of the retiring Boomer generation. Therefore, understanding this generation, their ambitions, characteristics, and aspirations is crucial for organizations looking to stay afloat in a graying economy.
Millennials are best defined by their affinity for the digital world and their comfort in using technology. Since they have grown up in a world of technological advances, often with computers in the home from birth, they feel at home with having interactions of all kinds supported or mediated by technology. This tech-intensive approach to communication and work, along with the attitudes they have developed in a world of constantly evolving mediated contact makes them a little different from other generations, and they need to be handled differently, but with considerate leadership they can be as productive as any other generation. Here are a few tips for making your organization a Millennial-friendly place.
Developing an Engagement and Retention Strategy is Crucial
Millennials are generally considered by their elders as being privileged and having grown up with a great many amenities not available to earlier generations. Whether Millennials are privileged by nature or not, they do, however, place a greater emphasis on personal needs over the needs of the organization they work for. Most Millennials are ambitious and want rapid career progression. They are willing to move out of an organization that does not meet their needs. Employers that offer opportunities for progression are attractive to Millennials, but employers must ensure they can manage the expectations of their Millennial workers. Although most Millennials expect to reach the top fairly soon, it’s not always possible for every Millennial’s ambitions to be satisfied. As such, employers must identify talented employees they wish to retain and develop and reward them accordingly.
A Work Culture of Flexibility and Innovation is Key
Most Millennial employees feel constrained in rigid corporate structures that constrain information and knowledge in certain departments and with individual employees; they view this as an impervious barrier to communication. Millennials prefer an organizational environment where information flows freely, something that older employees may not always be comfortable with. Also, many Millennials want to be “the person willing to ask the difficult questions” or to change up the way the department or group they are in is run, seeking to innovate wherever they go. Of course, some of their ideas are good, some bad, as with any would-be innovators, but organizations that have a flexible management style, an innovative culture and a flexible approach to recruitment and retention are more likely to attract Millennials.
Provide Regular Feedback and Opportunities for Advancement
Even though Millennials want the freedom to work in the way that suits them best, most Millennials nevertheless want regular feedback and encouragement from employers. Companies that are successful at managing Millennials are those that understand the importance of setting clear targets and objectives and providing regular and structured feedback. Beyond clear goals for individual projects or positions, Millennials are also attracted to goals in the form of promotions and career advancement: in a study by PwC, most Millennials said they prefer employers who offer them opportunities for career progression – competitive wages and other financial incentives came in second.
Invest in Employee Training and Development Opportunities
Millennials, accustomed to the vast amount of information available on the Internet, seek a varied and interesting career with the opportunity to develop their skills in a number of areas. Employers that provide training and development opportunities and a flexible working style are appealing to Millennial employees. As a result, employers must focus on non-financial rewards, on interdepartmental skill building and sharing, and on improving employee engagement and retention. Employers can develop mentoring programs to improve learning and as a way to relieve tensions between various generations. Training for Millennials can focus on digital learning and methods of delivery, as well as online learning modules, webinars and interactive gameplay. Good training programs mix classroom instruction, coaching, self-directed study, and group learning. Reverse mentoring is a useful tool for coaching senior executives in IT, social media etc. and to transfer corporate knowledge from older executives to Millennials who will be future leaders.
Build a Strong Corporate Reputation with CSR at the Heart
An important factor for Millennials when selecting an employer is the corporate reputation of the organization. Millennials often show a preference or even loyalty to employers whom they value as consumer brands. Most Millennials respect employers that give importance to their environmental and social record. Millennials have also been found to prefer employers who share their corporate social responsibility (CSR) values. However, even though Millennials stress greater importance on corporate values and reputation, these only gain importance after basic conditions like pay, wages and working conditions are satisfied. Most Millennials are keen on working abroad and international employers can take active steps to meet this need.
In the future, with retiring baby boomers, Millennials may be in charge of older workers and managing an increasingly multigenerational workforce. They will require strong leadership, transparent performance management systems and open company cultures in order to hold it all together successfully. All in all, employers must understand Millennials and learn to be attractive to Millennial workers in order to retain top talent and manage the inevitable multigenerational conflict that arises as more Millennials join the workforce.
For more detailed information, we would recommend Carol Hacker’s webinar “On-Boarding Millennials into a Multi-Generational Workforce“ for an expert opinion. Carol discusses how to use on-boarding and employee orientation to effectively install Millennials in the workforce and culture of your organization.