A glimpse at a current book project I've been working on, looking into the Millennial Generation and, more importantly, how to attract, engage and retain them... An initial draft from an opening chapter...
"By the year 2020 it’s predicted that half of the workforce will be made up of Millennials.
Whatever you wish to call this generation, Gen Y, Millennials, those born between the early 80s and the early 00s. They think differently, act differently, and ultimately react differently in a working environment. They have different ambitions and views on work than those that came before them.
The workplace has grown used to the traits and characteristics of the baby boomers. In fairness, they have ruled the roost for so long and organisations have adapted to their needs and behaviours. So much has been said and written about the baby boomers. The cohort of society that has had such a large impact on just about every area of what we do with our lives. As the baby boomer generation heads towards retirement, employers are being forced to think about who will replace them. The baby boomers were brought up after the war in a world that had yet to see colour television, let alone the internet.
As Millennials have entered the work arena, much has been said about their ability to fit into the existing work arrangements. They have been characterised as lazy, entitled, and even narcissistic. This stereotype seems to have stuck! But, being children of the internet age, the average millennial brings different skills to the table, they know how to use technology better to find solutions and to get ahead. This means that they can produce work efficiently. Since when has being able to find the fastest route to a solution been classified as lazy? There almost seems to be a vested interest from those in positions of power to keep out these ambitious newcomers, but the Millennials are not all that the negative press has made them out to be.
Alongside bringing a different skill set into the workplace than that of those that went before them, they also bring a different mind-set too. This is where the main issues have arisen. Adapting (or often the lack of adapting) to the needs of this generation. It is important for an employer to move with the times, embrace change and ensure that they can accommodate the best talent to progress their company. In order to do this, they must understand the needs of this generation and know what they consider as important.
Also, as an organisation’s customer base changes, they need like-minded individuals to grow the business towards that new customer base. Of course, over the next ten to twenty years this is going to be dominated by the Millennials.
Employers, as a whole, have had to start to adapt their working practices, their training programmes and their motivational techniques to appeal to whatever workforce they have on their books. The fact that university education has become more accessible over the last 30 years has meant that millennials are generally well educated. They are well grounded in technology as they grew up around it and making use of it in their daily lives, increasing their ability to carry out more than one task at a time. They hunt in packs and find that they can bounce ideas off each other to create solutions for workplace problems. This is a very different outlook to the lone wolf typical worker from the baby boomer cohort. There is a large emphasis on the balance between their life at work and the precious time spent outside of work, so flexible working conditions and the ability to work from home are of high importance to the millennials. They feel as though they should be making a contribution to society and that their work should make lives better for people.
Even the structure of a company may have to change in relation to getting and then keeping the top employees from the millennial generation. This group thrives on feedback; they want to know how they are doing and how to get ahead. This puts a pressure on the management structure that may not have existed before now. Employers need to improve in this area to promote a set of working practices that will appeal to their team. If not, they will up sticks and move to a competitor that appeals to their style. The ability to come up with creative solutions within an existing framework is another important aspect of work life to the millennial. For too long big employers have wanted to constrain their employees with structure, lines of reporting and rules of conduct. The type of company that appeals to millennials has a much looser structure that encourages collaboration between different departments and the use of different techniques to solve the problems that they face.
Because of their views on their employment and the working life they wish to have, the Millennials are looking for an employer that mirrors their own ambitions. The ability to progress quickly by hard work and problem solving is an important facet in an employer. An employer that is socially and environmentally responsible is also high on the tick list because the millennials wants to be seen to be doing positive work to their peers. This means that the landscape has changed, and is constantly changing, significantly for employers who want to attract and retain the best talent for their company for their future prosperity.
But none of this is going to be easy. And it can’t happen overnight. It will be a bedding-in process where the employers of today gradually evolve into the employer of the near future. I say the near future, because the millennials are already out there. They are already in the workforce, in big business, in their own business and they are looking to the future. As the influence of the baby boomer generation starts to fade in terms of the employment structure of the country, a new force is emerging. It is starting to influence and dictate the way that they want to work, the way that they want to be managed, be motivated and to be influenced themselves. The winning employers are those that are aware of this phenomenon and are starting to put plans in place to make the most of this. The losing employers are those that expect every new generation to fit into the old way of working.