In today’s world of fast advancing technology and changing needs and expectations of various communities, corporations need to shape their vision of target groups with a future focused strategic approach. The future target groups that corporations will encounter can be ordered as this: 1. Employees of the future, 2. Investors of the future, 3. Leaders of the future, 4. Customers of the future. Within this context, first let us discuss the employees of the future.
The “Millennials at work: Perspectives of a new generation” report was published in 2008 and highlighted the characteristics of the newest generation of workers. The report aims to provide some insight into the minds of new graduates from around the world entering the workforce for the first time. While CEOs are becoming increasingly concerned that they will soon be unable to find the talent that they search for, the businesses are in a race to replace the soon to be retired workforce. With time, this need of talent and workforce will be met from the new generation.
As they begin their working lives, what are the hopes and expectations of this generation? And most importantly, do business leaders and HR teams need to revise their current strategies accordingly? To answer these questions PwC commissioned Opinium Research to carry out an online survey of 4,364 graduates across 75 countries between 31 August and 7 October 2011.
WHY MILLENNIALS MATTER?
The millennial generation, also named the Y generation, born between 1980 and 2000 now entering employment in vast numbers, will shape the world of work for years to come. 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 25% of the workforce in the US and account for over half of the population in India. By 2020, millennials will form 50% 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. But what is the exact difference of millennials?
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, smart phones, 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 the computers, a key business tool.
It’s more than just the way millennials use technology that makes today’s youth different, they behave differently too. Their thoughts are shaped by their experience of the global economic crisis and this generation place much more emphasis on their personal needs than on those of the organization. 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.
The Y generation wants 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 recognized. The companies like Google and Apple that have already been successful in attracting talented millennials are naturally innovative employers who are never restrained by ‘how things used to be done’. 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.
- Loyalty-lite: The downturn has had a significant impact on the loyalty millennials feel towards their employers. In 2008, 75% expected to have between two and five employers in their lifetime but in this survey the proportion has fallen to 54%.
- A time of compromise: 72% of the of the graduates feel they made some sort of trade-off to get into work. Voluntary turnover is almost certain to increase as economic conditions improve. 38% of millennials who are currently working said they were actively looking for a different role.
- Development and work/life balance are more important than financial reward: This generation is committed to their personal learning and development and this remains their first choice benefit from employers. In second place, they want flexible working hours. Cash bonuses come in third place.
- Work/life balance and diversity promises are not being kept: 28% said that the work/life balance was worse than they had expected before joining and the employers did not keep the balance and diversity promises.
- A techno generation that avoids face time: 41% of the millennials say they prefer to communicate electronically at work than face-to-face or even over the telephone. Millennials reported that technology makes them more efficient at work and they feel held back by rigid or outdated working styles.
- Moving up the ladder faster: Career progression is the top priority for millennials who expect to rise rapidly through the organization. 52% said this was the main attraction in an employer.
- The power of employer brands and the waning importance of corporate responsibility: The Y generation is attracted to employer brands that they admire as consumers.
- Wanderlust: The Y generation has strong appetite for working overseas and 71% expect and want to do an overseas assignment during their career. This can be considered an opportunity for many employers looking for global growth.
- Generational tensions: Millennials say they are comfortable working with older generations and value mentors in particular. But there are signs of tensions, with 38% saying that older senior management do not relate to younger workers.
If the corporations want to attract and retain the millennials’ skills, they have to work on understanding and satisfying the needs of the new generation. They also need to consider the low levels of loyalty millennials feel towards their corporations.
The digital world of the millennials has an inevitable effect on the way they communicate. Millennials expect the technology to drive communication and innovation in the workplace. In response to this, some employers are already adapting their IT policy to appeal more directly to millennials. This relationship with technology can be the catalyst for conflict between generations at the workplace. More than two in five of those questioned said they felt that their use of technology was not always understood, and some felt held back by outdated and rigid work styles. Millennials in Africa were the most likely to feel this way with a percentage of 75% versus 65% worldwide.
Millennials are expecting a technology ecosystem that includes social networking, instant messaging, video-on-demand, blogs and wikis.
Which characteristics make a corporate an attractive employer? The unique characteristics of millennials demand a different strategic approach to the recruitment and retention of employees. Millennials are looking for more in life than “just a job” or status. They want to do something that feels worthwhile, they take into account the values of a company when considering a job, and they can be motivated by much more than money.
A Time of Compromise
72% of the millennials say they had made some form of compromise in order to get into work during the economic downturn. The risk for employers in this context is that as the economic conditions improve, other opportunities may arise elsewhere and many millennials can switch positions.
A Question of Reward
When asked which benefits they would most value from an employer, respondents named training and development and flexible working opportunities over financial benefits.
The corporations that can successfully answer the tricky question “Why do I want to work here?” are the employers that appeal the most to this generation. The brands that appeal to young people as consumers and the brands that stress their environmental and social record are the brands that appeal to them as employers.
Many millennials respond well to mentoring by older employees, but also generally prefer to learn by doing rather than by being told what to do.
For the Y generation the most valued learning opportunity was the chance to work with knowledgeable coaches and mentors. Millennials relish the opportunity to engage, interact and learn from senior management. Mentoring programs can be particularly effective and also help to relieve tensions between generations.
However, for all their expertise in technology and collaboration, many HR leaders have found that millennials often require training in fundamental workplace behavior and culture.
There are also differences to consider when managing millennials. Their extensive use of technology means that the line between work and home has become increasingly blurred. The new generation feels constrained by what they see as outdated traditional working practices.
Employees could be rewarded by results rather than the number of hours or where they work, while offices will become meeting spaces rather than a fixed location for the working day.
A millennial-friendly environment should be fully digital, comfortable and creative. Millennials expect to work hard, but they don’t want to sit in a bland cubicle all day. They will be drawn to organizations that offer an engaging, comfortable, and stimulating atmosphere that creatively blends work and life.
Intergenerational tension has always been a hard to manage problem for corporations. The tension between highly experienced Baby Boomers and the technologically savvy and millennials is an unavoidable fact. But the intergenerational tensions that do appear and can often be explained by a lack of understanding between generations.
Bringing generations together should be a priority task for HR. Employers face two primary risks with a multi-generational workforce. The first is the willingness of millennials to move on quickly when they feel that their needs are no longer being met. It’s likely that employees will work longer and retire later, blocking the path for many millennials. This will cause the millennials to begin searching for other opportunities.
The second risk is that over the coming years, millennials will find themselves managing older workers. This can elevate the tension between generations. Managing a multi-generational workforce demands strong leadership, and a transparent performance management system.
Many organizations are pairing top management with younger employees in programs of “reverse mentoring” in an effort to help managers to put themselves in younger employees’ shoes and to coach senior executives in IT, social media and the latest workplace trends. Another benefit is reduced turnover among younger employees, by establishing a direct contact with the upper management. These programs also help to transfer corporate knowledge to the new generation.
WHAT ARE THE RESULTS OBTAINED FROM THIS RESEARCH?
What can employers do?
- Understand the new generation
- Get the “deal” right
- Help millennials grow
- Feedback, feedback and more feedback: Unlike the past where people received annual reviews, millennials want to know how they’re doing much more regularly.
- Set them free: Y generation needs flexibility. They work well with clear instructions and concrete targets. When the work and its deadline are defined, the questions of how and where will lose relevance.
- Encourage learning: The new generation wants to experience as much training as possible. Assigning different projects and responsibilities to younger employees will advance their learning.
- Allow faster advancement
- Expect millennials to go: It is a fact that millennials change jobs faster than their predecessors. This has to be implemented in the strategic plans of a corporation.